Test results show Penny’s conditions is worse than expected

Posted at 7:37 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 21:37:43-04

After being taken to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU, Penny’s condition is causing serious concern for zoo and veterinary staff Monday. 

The decision to bring Penny to CSU was prompted after a recent spike in her white blood cell count. Although she was lively and appeared well in the most recent Facebook update from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, recent test results have proven otherwise. 

According to Bob Chastain, President and CEO of the zoo, a CT scan given Monday morning gave veterinary experts the closest look they’ve had at Penny’s ongoing issues. Unfortunately, what was seen, isn’t good. 

As you may know, Penny had an injury shortly after birth that was being treated as a muscle tear to her rear right leg. After re-injuring that leg, Penny has been constantly monitored and treated for an abscess discovered behind the right hind leg. 

The veterinary staff at the zoo have done multiple x-rays on Penny throughout this process, where no broken bones were discovered. However, the CSU veterinary team revealed Penny has developed a hip dislocation.

The giraffe standing awkwardly for some time now is one of three main reasons for the dislocation, Chastain said. This caused the top of Penny’s femur bone to become malformed in her hip joint. On top of which, her abscess is starting to get worse.

The combination of all these things has caused her hip to dislocate. However, the good news is all these things can be treated. But, the procedures are risky, according to the zoo.

A procedure to cut the head off the femur bone and put a new one on can be performed, but the procedure has only proven successful in ponies and mini horses. But with horses over 400 kilograms (881.85 pounds), only one animal has actually survived the surgery, Chastain said.

The zoo said it doesn’t believe that surgery would be very successful for Penny, as the femur bone in a giraffe is much longer than a horse. Chastain explained in the most recent update Monday, even if the zoo decided to go down the surgery road, they would have to still deal with the abscess first.

While surgically cleaning out the abscess is still an option, it would take Penny 2-4 weeks to heal. Hoping she’d heal normally, the femur bone surgery would then be performed, which CSU experts said could take 1-2 years or more for the joint to fully heal.

The risk is that Penny may never fully heal, which could result in catastrophic injuries, Chastain said. There was also some indication that the abscess in her right hind leg has moved into the hip joint and abdomen, which is extremely serious.

All in all, Penny’s condition is a worry for everyone involved. She is still at CSU and being cared for around the clock. 

Experts at CSU and Penny’s care team are currently in discussions of all the options that would be best of her. In the zoo’s most recent Facebook post, Chastain thanked everyone for their unending support and continues to ask for prayers and positivity. 

More information will be provided as it becomes available. We hope for nothing but the best for Penny! 


Penny the giraffe scheduled for surgery at CSU Monday

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff treating Penny’s current condition as serious

Zoo staff hopeful after Penny receives medical treatment for leg re-injury

Penny shows "great" signs of improvement at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo