Tooth wear is often suggested as an important factor limiting the life span of free-ranging wildlife. Given the frequent occurrence of poor dental health in captive animals reported in the literature, one would expect tooth health to be a limiting factor in captivity as well. Additionally, it could be assumed that brachydont (browsing) animals are more susceptible to dental health problems than are hypsodont (grazing) animals, given current indications for systematic increased tooth wear in some browsing species. A pilot survey of necropsy reports of adult captive wild ruminants (n = 294, 12 species) in one facility was performed in order to test these hypotheses and to calculate the incidence of irregular tooth wear. The overall incidence of irregular tooth wear was 20%, with a very high proportion of reports that did not mention the teeth at all. In contrast to this study's hypotheses, animals with irregular tooth wear were older than animals that died from other causes, indicating that reaching above-average age was a prerequisite for the development of reported abnormalities in this data set. A grazing species (blackbuck, Antilope cervicapra) was most affected, whereas two browsing species were not affected. Affected species had been regularly fed on sandy soil, whereas browsers had received feeds from racks, indicating that husbandry practices are most important for dental health. There was a high proportion of reported serous fat atrophy in animals with irregular tooth wear, indicating the clinical relevance of the problem. On average, adult individuals of the species investigated reached 41% of the maximum reported life span. Although this number appears low, the lack of comparative data from other facilities does not allow for conclusions on the adequacy of the husbandry practices used.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1