Diseases of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): Results of the cheetah research council pathology survey, 1989–1992

Linda Munson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Knowledge of the diseases of cheetahs is essential to prevent and treat conditions that can modulate fertility and longevity. Toward this aim, a comprehensive pathology survey was conducted under a directive from the Cheetah Species Survival Plan. To date, 31 adult cheetahs and nine cubs from 16 zoological parks have been evaluated. Also, liver biopsies from 67 female cheetahs from 22 zoological parks were examined. Veno‐occlusive disease (VOD) affected 82% of deceased cheetahs and 51% of live female cheetahs, and was the cause of death in nine cheetahs. Glomerulosclerosis and nephrosclerosis affected 84% and 39% of the population, respectively, and caused renal failure in eight cheetahs. The severity of VOD and glomerulosclerosis increased with age, and was not associated with infertility. Chronic gastritis was noted in 91% of the study population, and 95% of these cases also had spiral bacteria. Feline infectious peritonitis caused the death of two cheetahs. Male cheetahs had testicular degeneration, atrophy, and/or spermatogenic arrest, but these cheetahs also had severe systemic illness. Most females did not have reproductive tract lesions that would cause infertility, including those with parovarian cysts. Ovarian histology suggested that infertile cheetahs were not ovulating. Most cubs died from pneumonia or other systemic infections. The results of this study indicate that serious diseases are prevalent in the North American cheetahs, but these diseases do not appear to be the cause of infertility in the population. However, these diseases do limit the life span and well‐being of cheetahs in captivity. Further research is needed to elucidate the causes of these diseases. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-124
Number of pages20
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • gastritis
  • Gastrospirillum
  • glomerulosclerosis
  • Helicobacter
  • parovarian cysts
  • veno‐occlusive disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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