Tick Could Have Caused Hippo's Death At OKC Zoo

Tuesday, July 17th 2018, 5:30 pm

Zoo veterinarians are looking into if a tick may have led to the death of a pygmy hippopotamus at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

The zoo got back the pathology report a couple days ago and it revealed Francesca died of a rare immune disorder typically found in domestic dogs. 

Francesca, 26, arrived in December at the Oklahoma City Zoo and zoo veterinarians said she was healthy until just about a week before she died.

“She was normal and basically a week later she died, so it was very, very quick and this disease does typically work quickly,” said Jennifer D'Agostino, veterinary services director at Oklahoma City Zoo.

Caretakers originally noticed something was wrong when Franny didn't eat all her food. Zoo vets began treating her but her blood levels began to drop and she just kept getting sicker and sicker. 

The recent pathology report revealed her immune system was destroying red blood cells and platelets. 

“We think she died of a disease called immune mediated hemolytic anemia and this is a disorder we typically see in domestic dogs, it’s uncommon in other species,” said D’Agostino. 

D'Agostino said a tick bite has led to the disorder in other animals although it's never been known to happen in hippos, and they have never seen a tick on a hippopotamus.

D'Agostino said the illness is not contagious, so their other pigmy hippo Wooly is not in danger.

However, they are doing further testing and if they find more information on the tick panel they will monitor him more closely. 

“If it does happen to be one of those parasites from a tick we can know that information and move forward and look for that in our other animals,” she said. 

D'Agostino said if the disorder wasn't caused by a tick, they likely won't know what led to the disorder.