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Illness and Poor Hygiene

In the wild, elephants take daily baths and rub against trees, sand, and rocks to remove dead skin. In captivity, caretakers should wash elephants daily to maintain healthy skin. Elephants in circuses may show an excessive accumulation of necrotic skin as a result of poor husbandry and infrequent baths. Some circuses apply petroleum-based Vaseline around the elephant’s eyes to prevent a buildup of tears that hardens when dry and becomes difficult to remove without ripping the sensitive skin. Bathing elephants daily eliminates the need for this practice. 

Temporal glands are located midway between the eye and ear. Slight, clear secretions are normal. Swelling or a discharge of pus may indicate a temporal gland disorder and should be examined by a veterinarian.

Pressure wounds are similar to bed sores in humans. They are painful skin ulcers caused by lying on unnaturally hard surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt, or hard, compressed dirt. These can become abscessed and require veterinary treatment. Older female Asian elephants in captivity frequently develop leiomyomas, or fibroid tumors, of the genital tract. This condition is abnormal. There should be records indicating that a veterinarian has examined the tumors.

Pressure wound.

Leiomyoma protruding externally from a female Asian elephant.

Normal temporal secretion.