The objective of this study was to evaluate infrared thermography as a noninvasive screening tool for detection of pododermatitis during the developing and active stages of disease in three species of penguins: king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), and rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome). In total, 67 penguins were examined every 3 mo over a 15-mo period. At each exam, bumblefoot lesions were characterized and measured, and a timed series of thermal images were collected over a 4-min period. Three different methods were compared for analysis of thermograms. Feet with active lesions that compromise the surface of the foot were compared to feet with inactive lesions and no lesions. The hypothesis was that feet with active lesions would have warmer surface temperatures than the other conditions. Analysis of the data showed that although feet with active bumblefoot lesions are warmer than feet with inactive or no lesions, the variability seen in each individual penguin from one exam day to the next and the overlap seen between temperatures from each condition made thermal imaging an unreliable tool for detection of bumblefoot in the species studied.
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