Giraffe Heart Defect Surgery Fails At Oklahoma Zoo

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The Oklahoma City Zoo this week sadly announced that one of its young giraffes has died. The animal was undergoing heart surgery to repair a defect that veterinarians at the zoo believed to be a persistent right aortic arch (PRAA).

Named Kyah, the giraffe was a six-month-old female giraffe that had been born at the Oklahoma City Zoo on September 26, 2013.

Though the zoo admits that the surgery was "risky," officials believed that it was also necessary. Kyah's heart condition involved a blood vessel from the heart that was constricting her esophagus. This left her unable to eat solid foods. As the giraffe's mother began weaning her the surgery became vital.

“The surgery was risky but critical because her mother, Ellie, was trying to wean her and she wouldn't have thrived without the ability to eat solid foods,” said Jennifer D’Agostino, director of veterinary services for the Oklahoma City Zoo. "Although there were many risks, the surgery was her only chance to survive."

According to the zoo, this is the first known case of a giraffe with PRAA. The condition is most commonly seen in other mammals such as cats and dogs.

The surgery was performed on April 8 at Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. An OSU veterinary surgeon who had corrected PRAA is smaller animals (including a cougar) performed the surgery.

The procedure involved opening up Kyah's chest and correcting the issue. The surgery lasted for nearly four hours but the surgeon, assisted by a five-person veterinary team from the Oklahoma City Zoo, was unable to repair Kyah's heart defect. According to the zoo the giraffe was "humanely euthanized" and a routine necropsy will be performed.

"The Zoo family is grateful to our colleagues at OSU's Veterinary Medical Hospital for their expertise and hard work," said D'Agostino. "We knew going into this procedure that Kyah's chances were extremely low and we felt we gave her every chance possible to thrive. Collaborations such as these also allow us to learn more about the species in our care."

Image via Thinkstock

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