A 1-yr-old intact male African lion (Panthera leo) fed only beef muscle meat was evaluated for episodes of hypermetric ataxia, generalized weakness and tonic-clonic front limb movements. A hemogram, biochemical profile, blood lead, electrocardiogram, survey radiographs, and brain computed tomography were normal. Cerebral spinal fluid analyses suggested mild inflammation. Acetylcholine receptor antibody and serologic tests for all infectious agents tested were negative. Clinical signs resolved completely 9 days after instituting oral thiamine (3 mg/kg/day) and a completely nutritional diet. This lion's pretreatment thiamine blood value (11 nmol/L) was markedly lower than that of a healthy lion (191 nmol/L) and a proposed reference range for adult African lions (160–350 nmol/L). The lion remained clinically normal 2 yr later when his blood thiamine value was 340 nmol/L. African lions can develop clinical primary thiamine deficiency and may respond favorably when thiamine treatment and adequate diet are instituted prior to irreversible neuronal necrosis.
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Vol. 36 • No. 3