Focal palatine erosion in captive and free-living cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and other felid Species


Correspondence to: Martýn Zordan, Nuestra sra. del Rosario 165, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile.


We examined 1,092 skulls of captive and free-living individuals, representing 33 felid species, to determine the prevalence of focal palatine erosion (FPE). FPE was detected in 3.2% of cats evaluated, including cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and 14 other felid species. The prevalence of FPE between cheetah (9.4%; n = 64) and non-cheetah species (2.8%; n = 1,028) (χ2 test; P = 0.004) and between captive (5.7%; n = 246) and free-living (2.4%; n = 824) individuals (χ2 test; P = 0.010) were significantly different, with prevalence between captive (19%; n = 21) and free-living (2.9%; n = 34) cheetahs approaching significance (Fisher's exact test; P = 0.064). FPE was diagnosed with equal prevalence in skulls from individuals in which the lower molars did not meet the palatine bone (60.6%) and individuals in which it did (39.4%; n = 33) (χ2 test; P = 0.139). In cheetahs with FPE, one was a captive animal in Germany, one a free-living cheetah from Mali, one captive cheetah from Kenya, and three captive cheetahs of unknown origin. Additionally, we evaluated the medical records of 49 captive cheetahs in Namibia. Of these cheetahs, 48 (98.0%) had clinical signs consistent with FPE, although only 16 of these 48 (39.6%) had perforation of the palatine bone. Based on physical examinations, FPE was diagnosed in two caracals (Caracal caracal) and one fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) from a North American Zoo. Results from this study confirm FPE in cheetahs outside of Namibia, in a minimum of 15 felid species, and a higher FPE prevalence in captive individuals than free-living ones. Clinical implications of these findings and recommendations for future studies are provided. Zoo Biol 31: 181–188, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.