Experimental cholecalciferol supplement a herd of managed asian elephants

To evaluate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on serum vitamin D metabolites and other analytes of Ca homeostasis in Asian elephants.

Vitamin D supplementation may pose a significant health risk in species where levels of deficiency, sufficiency, and toxicity have not been clearly established, and species-specific research on vitamin D supplementation should be performed. This study documented the effect of vitamin D supplementation on serum vitamin D metabolites and other analytes of Ca homeostasis in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). 

Six adult Asian elephants received PO supplementation with cholecalciferol at 300 IU/kg of body weight (BW) once a week for 24 wk. Serum was analyzed every 4 wk for 25-hydroxyvitamin D2/D3 [25(OH)D]; 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D2/D3 [24,25(OH)2D]; 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D]; parathyroid hormone (PTH); total Ca; ionized Ca (iCa); P; and Mg. After the supplement was discontinued, serum 25(OH)D2/D3 was measured every 4 wk until levels returned to baseline. 

At the start of the study, the average serum 25(OH)D3 was nondetectable (<1.5 ng/ml). With cholecalciferol supplementation, 25(OH)D3 increased at an average rate of 2.26 ng/ml per month and reached an average concentration of 12.9 ± 3.46 ng/ml at 24 wk. Both 24,25(OH)2D3 and 1,25(OH)2D increased over time with supplementation from an average of <1.5 to 12.9 ng/ml and from 9.67 to 36.4 pg/ml, respectively. PTH, iCa, Ca, P, and Mg remained within reported normal ranges throughout supplementation. After the supplement was discontinued, serum 25(OH)D3 demonstrated a slow decline to baseline, taking an average of 48 wk. Elephants demonstrated significant individual variation in response to supplementation and subsequent return to baseline. 

In conclusion, supplementation of Asian elephants with a weekly dose of 300 IU/kg BW cholecalciferol for 24 wk appears to be effective and safe. Additional clinical studies would be necessary to investigate the safety of other routes of administration, dosages, and duration of vitamin D supplementation, as well as associated health benefits.

“EXPERIMENTAL CHOLECALCIFEROL SUPPLEMENTATION IN A HERD OF MANAGED ASIAN ELEPHANTS” Sara E Childs-Sanford, et al. J Zoo Wildl Med. 2023 Jul;54(2):219-230. doi: 10.1638/2022-0024.

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