Posts Tagged 'Animal Health'

Turtle Tuesday: An MRI Scan For Blade

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

Participating in the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. As you probably already know, the National Aquarium is part of a stranding response network that encompasses the North East region of the United States. Many of the turtles we handle initially are found as “cold stunned” along Cape Cod beaches in Massachusetts.

New England Aquarium stabilizes animals and rehabilitates many, but often reaches out to partner organizations such as us for assistance. This was the case for one of the animals currently in our care, Blade, who came to us last December.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Blade initially had a large fracture of the upper and lower shell (carapace and plastron) that healed nicely over the first two months of rehabilitation. After initially improving, Blade started to decline significantly in mid-February. Diagnostics showed he was septic (systemic bacterial infection) with a resistant strain of Enterococcus bacteria.

His front flipper digit joints began to swell and it appeared he had bacterial infections developing in them and he stopped using his front limbs. This is very rare in sea turtles; normally digit infections don’t impact their swimming ability.

Radiographs and a CT scan showed the shoulder joints were infected as well. Biopsy and cultures confirmed the joint infection was due to the same bacteria found in the blood.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

After aggressive antibiotic therapy and general supportive care, we were able to resolve the sepsis and distal limb infections and he showed some improvement in strength, but remained unusually quiet and weak and refused to use the front limbs. A physical therapy program was started to improve limb motion.

In order to check for bacterial abscesses in his organs and brain, we took Blade for an MRI scan at Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake. There were was no evidence of organ or brain abscesses found on MRI, although the shoulder joints were abnormal, as expected.

**Photos courtesy of Red Leash Photography

In the last month, Blade has continued to improve clinically and we are planning to do an arthroscopy to remove abnormal and potentially infected tissue from the shoulder joints. Our ultimate goal is to get Blade to a point where we can be released.

Stay tuned for more updates on Blade as his rehabilitation continues!

national aquarium Leigh Clayton

Animal Health Update: Margaret’s Annual Exam

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

This Spring, I’ve been able to work with our Animal Programs staff and an amazing hyacinth macaw, Margaret, on some great voluntary behaviors.

Margaret has a strong history of working closely with her caretakers on what we call “husbandry” behaviors such as nail trims, stepping on and off items, showing the underside of her wings, and allowing us to listen to her heartbeat with a stethoscope. These husbandry behaviors make routine visits from our Vet staff easier, stress-free experiences for both the animal and our team.

Hycanith macaw Margaret

Training a complex voluntary behavior, like laying down for a blood draw, is done by breaking the final behavior down into smaller steps, in a process known as shaping.

We started with a behavior Margaret already knew how to do, referred to by our team as the “lay back,” where she lays her back down on a towel. Over the course of a few months, we worked with her hold her wing down flat and still and to let us touch around her vein, as well as put pressure on her wing over the vein and remain still for up to five minutes. Wing veins can bleed easily and we wanted to make sure she’d let us hold it off so a hematoma didn’t form.

She did well with the sessions and within a few months we were ready for her first blood draw. It went perfectly. A few short weeks later, we put it all together for her annual exam – a physical exam, listening to her heart, and getting a blood sample.

The video below gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what this shaping process with Margaret looked like:

[youtube http://youtu.be/H6Hjvxs8LOA]

I’m happy to report that our hard work paid off and Margaret passed her annual exam with flying colors!

national aquarium Leigh Clayton

Animal Health Update: Bat Procedure Going Spook-tacularly Well!

national aquarium animal expert update

Common images evoked during this spooky time of year include pumpkins, black cats, and – of course – bats!

national aquarium flying fox

The species of bats native to North America are small, quick flying, highly maneuverable and typically eat insects. These are the types of bats the use echolocation to hunt their food and are the ones generally portrayed in these spooky images.

However, in many other parts of the world, bat species are large, slow-flying frugivores (fruit-eaters). These bats do not use echolocation to find food. And these are the types of bats we have here at the Aquarium. We have grey-headed flying foxes (so called because of their triangular, fox-like faces). This is the largest bat species in Australia. They can weigh up to 2 pounds and have wing spans that are as wide as 3 feet.

We are currently treating one of the bats for a small abscess on his face. Right now keepers are “hot-packing” it daily and it’s definitely improving.

national aquarium bat procedure

To positively reinforce him for staying still while they apply the hot-pack, my team provides him juice or a bit of baby food. This type of reinforcement training is integral to our care of the animals.

Did you know that you can train your pets to voluntarily participate in their care (such as nail trimming, vaccines, blood draws) and even look forward to it? I’d love to have you share your stories about what husbandry behaviors you and your pets are doing.

Blog-Header-LeighClayton

Animal Rescue Update: Two Hooks Successfully Released From Loggerhead Patient!

Animal Rescue Update

Our team recently admitted two loggerheads from Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. One of the turtles, named Portsmouth, had ingested a recreational fishing hook and had to undergo surgery to remove the hook from his esophagus. We successfully removed the primary hook, but was surprised to find a second hook near the same location. The second hook was older, and more deteriorated, so they could only safely remove a portion of the hook that was visible.

loggerhead sea turtle

Animal Health staff at the National Aquarium performed a full physical exam on Portsmouth when he was transferred to our care, including radiographs (x-rays) to assess the location of the remaining hook. While radiographs are extremely helpful as a diagnostic tool, they can only provide a one-dimensional view. Our veterinary staff determined that a Computed Tomography (CT) scan would be a very helpful diagnostic for Portsmouth’s condition. A CT scan is a medical imaging procedure that essentially x-rays a body (or area of a body) around a central axis and produces a large volume of x-ray image ‘slices’ of the body – similar to slicing a loaf of bread. With the help of computer software, the image ‘slices’ can be compiled and manipulated into 3-dimensional images of structures.

Performing a CT scan on a large sea turtle like Portsmouth can be challenging, but the process is very quick (only a few seconds) and is not invasive. In fact, the most challenging part of the process was convincing Portsmouth to leave his watery world for the short trip. Portsmouth was cooperative during the approximately 30-second imaging process, and our veterinarians were able to consult with the radiologists on site about the possibilities of the hooks positioning.

On August 28, 2013, our veterinarians teamed up with Dr. Adam Gonzales, DVM from the Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine & Oncology for an endoscopy procedure in hopes of extracting the remainder of the second hook as seen on the x-rays and CT scans. While Portsmouth did have to be sedated for this procedure, the hook itself was fairly easy to remove as it was simply lying among the papillae. Papillae are keratinized projections within the throat which point inward towards the stomach. They are presumed to trap food while excess water is expelled prior to swallowing.

In just a few hours, Portsmouth was back to swimming in his pool, and had worked up quite the appetite – blue crabs, watch out!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

New Blacktip Reef Resident is Fully Recovered From Surgery!

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

Our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, is finally up and running! For the last month or so, my team has been hard at work transporting animals from our off-site Animal Care Center and introducing them to the new exhibit. The animals moved so far are acclimating well to their new environment. I’m happy to report that a certain animal in particular is thriving after an operation we performed on its side.

In March, the Animal Health team identified and surgically removed a 1.5 x 1.5 cm mass in a large orbiculate batfish. The operation went smoothly and this animal is now on exhibit!

orbiculate batfish

The surgery site has actually healed so well it’s now impossible for us to distinguish which of the individuals in the school was our patient. What we do know is that the orbiculate batfish is enjoying its new home.

Next time you visit the Aquarium, make sure to look for this species in Blacktip Reef!

Blog-Header-LeighClayton

Loggerhead Rooney Undergoes Surgery for a Chronic Abscess

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

Over the last several months, our veterinary team has been monitoring and caring for a chronic abscess that Rooney, a loggerhead sea turtle, has had since his arrival last December.

rooney, loggerhead sea turtle

Rooney came to our Animal Rescue team as a cold-stunned turtle, and suffered several cuts and wounds while he was stunned – these usually occur as the turtles are tossed in the surf and against rock jetties/sandy beaches. Most of these wounds healed well, with the exception of one very deep abscess behind his right front flipper.

Our veterinarians managed the abscess with frequent cleaning and antibiotic therapy and even used a unique item to help combat the infection – honey. Honey has bacteriostatic properties, meaning it stops bacteria from reproducing, and can be purchased as a medical treatment in several different forms – including gauze and wound dressings. While honey is used in many species to help heal wounds, Rooney required a little more than what the bees could provide.

After several weeks of cleaning and only minimal improvement, it was decided to enlist the help of Dr. Minihan, a soft tissue and orthopedic surgeon with Chesapeake Veterinary Surgical Specialists. Her training and experience allowed her to remove the abscess surgically in order to help Rooney heal.

rooney abcess removal

On June 27, Rooney was sedated under general anesthesia for a full removal of the pocket of unhealthy tissue. Our veterinary staff, Dr. Minihan, and Rooney did a wonderful job throughout the procedure which lasted 3 hours, and ended with several stitches. While waking up from his surgical adventure, Rooney also received his PIT tag (a microchip identifier like dogs can get just under the skin) and his flipper tags in preparation for a future release later this summer!

We are now monitoring the stitches and wound site to ensure proper healing of the affected area and we are also providing oral antibiotics and medications to prevent pain to Rooney during this time of healing. Rooney is getting plenty of sleep and food during his recovery, and we will continue to keep you updated on his rehabilitation.

Thanks to Veterinary Intern Katie Seeley and Animal Rescue Aide Amber White for contributing content to this post! 

Blog-Header-LeighClayton

Behind the Scenes: Whip Ray Physicals

In keeping with our motto to provide professional and excellent care to our animal collection, the staff of the National Aquarium Biological Programs Department Animal Planet Australia and Animal Health jointly carried out annual physical exams on our pair of fresh water whip rays this morning!

The Whip rays (Himantura dalyensis) are 9 years old and measure about 1 meter across. These stingrays are from the Daly River in Northern Territory Australia from which they got  their species name.

You can check out the Whip Rays and other interesting species in our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit in Baltimore!


Sign up for AquaMail

Like us on Facebook!

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 263 other followers