A new perspective on the pathogenesis of chronic renal disease in captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)

30 Sep 2019

The sustainability of captive cheetah populations is limited by high mortality due to chronic renal disease. This necropsy study, conducted on 243 captive cheetahs from one institution, investigated the relationships between focal palatine erosions, gastritis, enterocolitis, glomerulosclerosis, chronic renal infarcts, renal cortical and medullary fibrosis, and renal medullary amyloidosis at death. Associations between the individual renal lesions and death due to chronic renal disease and comparisons of lesion prevalence between captive bred and wild born and between normal and king coated cheetahs were also assessed. All lesions were significantly positively correlated with age at death. Renal medullary fibrosis was the only lesion associated with the likelihood of death being due to chronic renal disease, and cheetahs with this lesion were younger, on average, than cheetahs with other renal lesions. Alimentary tract lesions were not associated with amyloidosis. All lesions, except for palatine erosions, were more common in wild born than in captive bred cheetahs; the former were older at death than the latter. Having a king coat had no clear effect on disease prevalence. These results suggest that age and renal medullary fibrosis are the primary factors influencing the pathogenesis of chronic renal disease in captive cheetahs. Apart from amyloidosis, these findings are analogous to those described in chronic renal disease in domestic cats, which is postulated to result primarily from repetitive hypoxic injury of renal tubules, mediated by age and stress. Cheetahs may be particularly susceptible to acute renal tubular injury due to their propensity for stress and their extended life span in captivity, as well as their adaptation for fecundity (rather than longevity) and adrenaline-mediated high speed prey chases. The presence of chronic renal disease in subadult cheetahs suggests that prevention, identification and mitigation of stress are critical to the successful prevention of chronic renal disease in captive cheetahs.