Posts Tagged 'leigh clayton'

Turtle Tuesday: An MRI Scan For Blade

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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

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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

Go Behind-the-Scenes with Aquarium Vets!

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Ever wondered how we care for the 17,000+ animals that call the Aquarium home?

I’m excited to share the news that we’ve just launched our first-ever Veterinarian Tour, which takes guests behind-the-scenes to learn all about the fascinating world of veterinary medicine!

At the National Aquarium, we currently have a staff of four veterinarians and three vet technicians that are in charge of the medical care for all of our animals.  These animals range in size and species from our rain forest tarantula up to our dolphins, and everything in between.

All of the veterinarians at the Aquarium have gone through specialized training to work with our invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. We are proud to say that two of our veterinarians are board-certified in at least one specialty, and our other two veterinarians are currently working towards their specialty certifications.

What it takes to become a veterinarian:
To become a veterinarian, you first need to get a bachelor’s degree from an undergraduate college.  After that, you need to apply and be accepted to a college of veterinary medicine.  Currently, there are only 29 schools in the United States with a veterinary college. This means that for approximately every 10 to 12 applicants to a veterinary school, only one person will be accepted.

After graduating from four years of veterinary school, you are able to go out and practice on any animal you would like to.  However, in order to become a certified specialist with any group of animals, more training is needed.  There are numerous internships and residencies available to provide this specialized training after graduating from veterinary school.

national aquarium vet tour

The next time you visit the Aquarium, take a moment to think about what it takes to keep our animals happy and healthy.

To learn more and to get a behind-the-scenes look at our line of work, check out an upcoming Veterinary Tour.

national aquarium Leigh Clayton

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

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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.

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DC Update: Animal Transports to National Aquarium, Baltimore

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The most common question we get about the closure of the National Aquarium, Washington, D.C. is “Where are all of the animals going?”.

Of the 2,500 animals that currently call our DC facility home, 1,700 will be transported to our Baltimore facility. The rest will be transported to other accredited aquariums and zoos.

The key to any successful animal move is exceptional planning and great communication between all team members. In fact, we started planning these moves as soon as the closure was announced. Everyone has a role in a big move like this, from husbandry staff to veterinarians.

Today marked the first of our transport trips, which included the move of 38 animals including a giant Pacific octopus, seven plumose anemones, a peacock wolf eel, rockfish and much more! However, on any given day in the next two months, we may be transporting 20 to 400 animals.

Every animal that moves out of the D.C. facility will receive a veterinary exam to confirm it is healthy enough for transport. In some cases, this might be a visual examination (looking at the animal in its habitat). Most fish and invertebrates get visual exams. In other cases, such as for sharks or reptiles, we may do a complete “hands-on” physical examination including evaluating radiographs (x-rays) and blood tests.

But how do you actually move fish? First, the keepers slowly coax the animals into transport nets and then quickly move them into their transport carriers. Fish can be moved in large plastic containers or placed into individual bags, depending on their size and the number of individual fish moving that day. Water from their exhibits is used to fill their transport carriers. During transport, staff monitors temperature and dissolved oxygen levels to ensure the parameters stay where we want them.

Animals coming to Baltimore will make a stop at our Animal Care Center (ACC) before being placed on exhibit. Here they will go through at least a two week observational period to ensure they remain healthy and are eating well. If we have health concerns about an animal post-move, it’s very easy to provide medical care at the ACC. Because the transport is so short and the animals are already acclimated to human care, we expect them to do well at the Animal Care Center and quickly move into our main facility!

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to transition our DC facility! 

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New Blacktip Reef Resident is Fully Recovered From Surgery!

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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!

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Loggerhead Rooney Undergoes Surgery for a Chronic Abscess

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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! 

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