Methods of contraception are necessary for management of zoo felids; however, the most commonly used contraceptive (melengestrol acetate implant) is associated with serious adverse reactions with long-term use. Porcine zona pellucida (pZP) vaccines are promising as contraceptives, but their safety in zoo felids has not been tested. pZP vaccine was administered to 27 female felids representing 10 species, including African lion (Panthera leo), Asian leopard (P. pardus), jaguar (P. onca), tiger (P. tigris), snow leopard (P. uncia), cougar (Felis concolor), Siberian lynx (F. lynx), Canada lynx (F. canadensis), serval (F. serval), and bobcat (F. rufus), in 15 facilities. Over 6 wk, each animal received three i.m. injections of 65 μg pZP with Freund's complete adjuvant (FCA), Freund's incomplete adjuvant, or carbopol as the adjuvant. Behavioral signs of estrus were seen in 14 of the vaccinated felids. An unacceptably high incidence of adverse reactions was seen including injection site swelling, lameness, limb swelling, or abscessation (or all) in five felids after injection with FCA as the initial adjuvant. Adverse behavioral signs, including increased irritability and aggression, were seen in four felids. Six of the felids were assayed for antibodies against pZP during the 12 mo after vaccination; all showed antibody production. Antibody levels appeared to peak 1–4 mo after vaccination began, although elevated antibody levels persisted in two animals for >12 mo after the first injection. All vaccinated felids were ovariohysterectomized 3–13 mo after vaccination. Folliculogenesis was present in all treated animals, and there was no histopathologic evidence of inflammatory damage to ovaries. Contraceptive efficacy was not specifically evaluated in this study; however, two of the three felids housed with an intact male became pregnant during the study, one of which gave birth to healthy cubs.
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Vol. 35 • No. 3