Lady’s Ongoing Foot Problems and Treatment Updates

Many of you know of Lady’s foot troubles, but for those who don’t, we thought it would be helpful to share some information about what she faces daily and a little bit about some of the treatments we currently use to ease her discomfort. 

In the wild, elephants are constantly on the move and can walk up to 18 hours per day. That means that their foot pads experience organic wear because they come into contact with the earth, grasses, rocks, and other natural surfaces. 

Captive elephants don’t have the same advantage of contact with natural surfaces; lack of exercise and constant standing on hard, unnatural, unsanitary flooring can cause severe infections and arthritis – which is still one of the leading causes of death in captive elephants. They sometimes stand in their own urine and feces, creating an endless cycle of infection, pad growth on top of infection, more infection, and on and on. Some estimate that foot problems  and arthritis play a factor in about 50% of captive elephant deaths. 

When Lady came to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, we saw significant swelling and infection that originated years ago. We were aware of the issue before her arrival and believed that sanctuary was the best option for her to receive proper care for her feet. They will never be fully healed, as she most likely suffers from osteomyelitis and has internal infections that expose themselves with normal pad wear. We don’t know how deep they are and she has had “blowouts” of infection that her feet cannot contain. We try to find the right balance between opening up infected areas to air and exposing so much that she can’t put weight on her feet. Some facilities have sedated elephants and attempted to treat foot infections using more invasive techniques. This is generally not successful and has led to elephants being euthanized.

On most days, Lady still gets her daily foot soaks and treatments; she is generally good about getting them, but occasionally has other plans. Until now, she has only experienced significant problems primarily in her right front foot, but recently her left front foot has flared up and needs additional attention. Due to discomfort in both front feet, we have started her on the same pain medication that Mara gets for her gastrointestinal issues. Right now, we are monitoring her closely to see how she responds to it because, just like with humans, pain medication can have a range of side effects on elephants. It is a gentle medication and she is on a low dose at the moment, which can be increased if needed. Lady is a stoic individual who doesn’t let her physical limitations  control her life, but we have to acknowledge and address the impact they do have on her.


  1. REPLY
    Barb says

    She could never receive better care for her foot problems. Thank you for keeping us updated.

  2. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman-Eaton says

    Our sweet Lady. You do not deserve this ongoing pain and discomfort. It is not right that you still suffer, and all brought on by humans that did you wrong in your previous life. Thank goodness you are at GSE and receiving the best of care. Although I understand your feet cannot be completely healed, I hope with all my heart they do not decline. I imagine they are a constant pain and discomfort we can only imagine, with the heavy weight you must carry. I wonder if this is not the reason you prefer to be alone. We all know that constant pain weighs heavily on us all, elephants and humans alike.

  3. REPLY
    Wim says

    Doesn’t sound all that hopefully. It’s a shame she must carry her unwanted heavy load. Hope you’ve got some additional strength somewhere wonderful LADY. ??❤️

  4. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    I’m so glad she’s at sanctuary. Sad that she endured decades of not getting the proper care and freedom but she couldn’t be in better hands now.

  5. REPLY
    Christine Strickling says

    I can see that Lady is getting loving care at GSE and that she is in the best of hands. I pray that she can enjoy a long life at the sanctuary.

  6. REPLY
    Tammy says

    I sure hope real soon all captive Elephants are released to Sanctuary life that’s the least humans can do for causing such horrendous suffering on so many levels. I dont think many people truly understand or know all the long lasting implications that captive life can have but thankfully I see more people are fighting to save these gentle giants. Thank you everyone for all your hard work and long hours of loving compassionate care for these beautiful ladies we sure do appreciate you all so very much! ?? ?

  7. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    Sore feet and sore teeth – the worst! I’m so sorry Lady is going thru all this and having more issues. I so want the very best for her! However, I am thankful every day that she is at GSE and under your compassionate , thoughtful and balanced care. Thank you for the update. ❤️

  8. REPLY
    bo says

    hope everything you do and try might help to make it less painful, less uncomfortable for Lady, trunks crossed!
    being in the sanctuary, the environment and all the humans do there for her, and for all the other elephants&other animals, already helps.
    mentally, the distraction, the food, i am sure that helps more than we can imagine or hope for!

    it is probably the angle of the photo but Kat looks so tiny and Lady so huge 🙂

  9. REPLY
    Suzanne Eaton says

    Sweet Lady Bug holding Kat’s loving hand while getting treatment. You are in good hands at GSE. Sorry you have to suffer from human neglect. ❤️?

  10. REPLY
    Sallie says

    Thank you all for what you do for all your amazing elephants, especially the extra attention to precious Lady, who is so very special. I join others who say how thankful and grateful they are, that Lady came to your incredible sanctuary. She hit the jackpot of care and caring! There is nothing like hands-on devotion . . .

  11. REPLY
    Audrey says

    I never understood, who in their right mind, would think concrete was conducive to wild animals in captivity. There is nothing natural about it. Where was the grass, the earth, which they had grown to love.
    So glad you understand, what Lady went through, when she was held captivity and know how to treat her foot problem. I’m sure she enjoys the treatment. ? ? ?

  12. REPLY
    Carey says

    Thanks for the update about brave Lady, the blowouts sound horrible and painful and I hope she responds well to the pain killer.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      So far, she is doing well. She’s definitely a trooper.

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