Knowledge about the normal metabolism and involvement of vitamin D in elephant calcium homeostasis is essential to understanding the possible role of vitamin D in Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) health, as well as to informing accurate diet formulation. This study provides an evaluation of analytes involved in vitamin D metabolism, in conjunction with dietary intake and ultraviolet light (UV) exposure, in Asian elephants managed in a northern temperate climate. Once monthly, for a total of 12 mo, serum from six adult Asian elephants was analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [24,25(OH)2D], 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D], parathyroid hormone (PTH), total calcium (Ca), ionized calcium (iCa), phosphorus (P), and magnesium (Mg). The diet was analyzed monthly for vitamin D, Ca, and P. Monthly average vitamin D–weighted UV daily sums were determined to gauge average UV light exposure within the vitamin D action spectrum. No serum or diet parameters were affected by time or season. Average serum 25(OH)D2 was 7.02 ± 0.85 ng/ml. 25(OH)D3 levels were nondetectable in all samples despite supplementation of the diet with recommended levels of vitamin D3, and UV exposure was at sufficient levels for cutaneous vitamin D synthesis for 6 mo of the year. Levels of 24,25(OH)2D averaged 31.7% higher than 25(OH)D, and average 1,25(OH)2D2 was 11.24 ± 1.04 pg/ml. Values for PTH, Ca, iCa, P, and Mg were within expected ranges for Asian elephants. The information gained from this research expands the knowledge base for these analytes, evaluates 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D for the first time, and provides new information regarding vitamin D metabolism and test interpretation in the Asian elephant.
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