Beyond Equine – AONA Leader Dr. Al Ruggles Helps Newborn Giraffe with Her First Steps in Life

AO North America Board of Directors Member Dr. Al Ruggles aids a giraffe calf's fracture.

22 May 2019

Early April was an exciting time for the Memphis Zoo as they celebrated the birth of their newest giraffe. As with all newborns, this female calf, who was later named Ali, remained under close supervision. Ali’s progress seemed natural as she demonstrated successful bonding with her mother and received healthy results from her initial exams. However, the alert team at the Memphis Zoo started to see signs of trouble, including a limp that Ali had developed.

Veterinarians at the zoo diagnosed newborn Ali with a fracture above her front right fetlock. Taking immediate action, the Memphis Zoo team reached out to their network and was referred to Alan J. Ruggles, DVM, DACVS, AO North America Board of Directors member, AOVET North America faculty member, and expert in equine orthopedic surgery. Dr. Ruggles and his team were the best option for Ali. Members of the Memphis Zoo staff escorted Ali from Memphis, Tennessee to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky for immediate surgery.

Ali - Pre-operative dorsal palmar view of comminuted transverse fracture of metacarpals III & IV

Ali - Pre-operative lateral view of comminuted transverse fracture of metacarpals III & IV

At 6:30am on Monday morning, Dr. Ruggles, along with 9 other doctors and technicians, worked together to give Ali the best chance to return to normal function. To repair Ali’s fracture, Dr. Ruggles and his team used a 12-hole large fragment 4.5 /5.0 mm broad locking compression plate and the 6-hole 4.5 /5.0 6-hole equine t–locking compression plate along with a combination of 4.5 mm cortex and 5.0 mm locking head screws. Surgery went well and Ali was able to use the limb the evening of surgery. She was discharged 4 days after surgery and returned to the Memphis Zoo.

Ali - Second day post-operative dorsal palmar view

Ali - Second day post-operative lateral view

Since the procedure, Ali’s development has been positive. Her recovery has been closely monitored and she has shown signs of appropriate improvement. The calf was also given the name Ali by the Memphis Zoo in honor of three members of the Rood and Riddle team – Dr. Alan Ruggles, Dr. Ali Fromme, and technician Alex Arnold.

Team Ali - Ali leaving Lexington for Memphis with the Giraffe Team of the Memphis Zoo.

We hope for a steady recovery for Ali the giraffe and thank Dr. Ruggles for his leadership and commitment to improving patient outcomes no matter the species. You can join Dr. Ruggles as he Co-Chairs our Principles in Equine Fracture Management course in Columbus, Ohio in April 2020.

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