Reports of free-ranging Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) with abnormal hooves and lameness increased significantly in southwestern Washington, USA, during winter 2008. In March 2009 we examined five severely affected elk with clinical lameness from this region to characterize hoof lesions, examine the general health of affected elk, and potentially identify etiologies causing hoof disease. Three clinically normal elk from an adjacent but unaffected region were also collected as normal controls. Grossly, affected elk had deformed hooves that were asymmetrical, markedly elongated, and curved or broken, as well as hooves with sloughed horn. Most affected elk had severe sole ulcers with extensive laminar necrosis and pedal osteomyelitis. Histopathology of normal and abnormal hooves identified acute and chronic laminitis in all affected elk and one control elk. Hepatic copper and selenium levels in all affected and control elk were also deficient, and hoof keratin copper levels were low. No significant underlying systemic or musculoskeletal disease was detected in the affected elk, and attempts to isolate bacterial and viral pathogens were unsuccessful. A primary cause of hoof deformity was not definitively identified in this chronically affected group. Studies to identify infectious hoof disease and to characterize acute and subacute lesions are underway.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2