The veterinary team from the Oceanogràfic de la Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències and specialist clinical staff from the Veterinary Hospital of the Catholic University of Valencia (UCV) have collaborated in the diagnosis and treatment of a female sea lion that suffered from respiratory problems due to advanced age. An intervention that has concluded successfully despite the complexity of handling and anaesthetic maintenance of these animals.
The procedure took place on March 30 at the facilities of the marine centre and took place for about two hours, in which they worked together to carry out the treatment in complete safety for both the team and the animal.
Domingo Casamián, graduate-specialist in veterinary cardiology and cardiology of small animals, and professor and head of the Cardiology service at the Veterinary Hospital of the UCV, has reported that the Oceanogràfic veterinary team contacted “on suspicion that Selkie, one of your sea lions, could have a heart or respiratory problem. So, we worked as a team bringing together our expertise as veterinary cardiologists and yours as a marine mammal veterinarian to diagnose and treat Selkie.”
To determine the animal’s problem, the teams carried out an echocardiography of its heart and a chest ultrasound, with which they were able to detect that the problem was located in the lungs, which had a large amount of fluid around them and made it difficult to breathe.
In order to drain the accumulation of fluid, special catheters were used and it was necessary to anesthetize Selkie. “These procedures are routine in dogs and cats -patients that we regularly treat in our hospital- but are very high risk in marine mammals”, stated the head of the Cardiology Service of the UCV Veterinary Hospital.
“We had to adapt – Casamián continued – the procedures that we normally use in dogs because the thickness of the chest wall and the large amount of fat make it impossible to use the same techniques and catheters that we use routinely, but the intervention was successful and we managed to drain all the chest fluid, which allowed Selkie to feel better and breathe more easily.
Lastly, the cardiologist highlighted the Oceanogràfic’s anaesthesia services, which “had a very complex and successful task, since the anaesthetic management and maintenance of these patients is a great challenge and is essential for us to be able to do our job correctly and the animal can survive these interventions”, he concluded.
For her part, Mónica Valls, a veterinarian at the Oceanogràfic, emphasised the “complications when it comes to anesthetising marine mammals due to their adaptation to diving, which is a very important factor to take into account”.
After the operation, Valls explained that “the recovery is being slow, but the whole team, both caregivers and veterinarians, is very dedicated to Selkie and is being monitored to verify that the situation is not getting worse.” Although it is true, it should be remembered that Selkie is an elderly female sea lion and her situation is geriatric.