COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) — Penny the giraffe calf is getting stem cell therapy after suffering some “small setbacks,” according to officials at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Penny, born June 4, was found with her legs splayed out underneath her on Wednesday, June 13.

“Since then, the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams have been partnering to provide the best possible decisions for the calf’s well-being,” the zoo website states.

giraffe x ray Giraffe Calf Gets Stem Cell Therapy After Setbacks

(credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

Previous Report: Giraffe Calf Penny Doing Better But ‘Still Not 100 Percent Healthy’

Penny has shown improvement, however, last week she re-injured her back right leg.

She experienced some lameness and swelling in her injured leg and developed a fever, officials said. She was being treated with antibiotics and pain medication

“Her appetite has also decreased, although she is still eating on occasion,” officials said Saturday. “New blood work also shows some concerns, with elevated levels of white blood cells and lactic acid. Because of all of this, she is back on strict stall rest, and her visits with Tamu have been suspended for now.” 

Her fever broke on Sunday, which officials called “encouraging.”

She fell again Monday night but did not splay, officials said. By Tuesday, she was able to get up and down on her own.

On Thursday, officials said Penny was having an “off day.”

“We have seen some small setbacks occur. She hasn’t shown as much interest in laying down or nursing, and her milk intake has lowered,” officials said on Facebook on Thursday.

“In addition to continuing her treatments for pain management and possible infection, the Zoo provided Penny with a treatment trial of stem cell therapy,” officials stated.

“CMZoo has a history of practicing innovation and creative thinking when it comes to the care of animals. For this reason, two veterinarians from Colorado State University were in attendance the night of Penny’s birth, ready to take her placenta back to CSU to begin growing stem cells. This was done with the intention of helping other giraffes in the future, because stem cell therapy has been shown to potentially treat muscle and joint conditions and possibly prevent chronic diseases,” officials explained.

Penny received her placenta’s stem cells intravenously in a procedure that took about five minutes.

Officials don’t know if it will help, but they’ve had positive results with other animals in the past.

“We have previously performed stem cell therapy to improve mobility on an elephant, a giraffe and a mountain lion here,” officials stated. “Each case saw a varying degree of improvement, ranging from minimal to good. Because there are nominal risks involved with the therapy, we felt it was something worth trying with Penny.”

Officials said any potential improvement from the stem cell therapy would be seen “gradually over time.”

“We want to thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers,” zoo officials wrote on Facebook.

giraffe penny 6 17 Giraffe Calf Gets Stem Cell Therapy After Setbacks

(credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

If you would like to contribute to Penny’s veterinary care, please visit cmzoo.org/helppenny.

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