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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To demonstrate the efficacy of potassium chloride (KCl) for low-residue euthanasia of anesthetized pinnipeds in field settings for which carcass retrieval for disposal is not feasible.

ANIMALS

Stranded, free-ranging California sea lions (CSLs; Zalophus californianus; n = 17) and northern elephant seals (NESs; Mirounga angustirostris; 6) with life-threatening injury or disease between May and August 2020.

PROCEDURES

Each animal was anesthetized and then received a lethal dose of KCl solution administered by IV or intracardiac injection. The effective KCl dose; durations to cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, and pupil dilation; and presence or absence of agonal breaths, muscle fasciculations, or skeletal movements were recorded.

RESULTS

Mean effective dose of KCl was 207.4 mg/kg (94.3 mg/lb) for the 17 CSLs and 209.1 mg/kg (95.0 mg/lb) for 5 of 6 NESs (1 outlier NES was excluded). The range in duration from the beginning of KCl injection to cardiac arrest was 0 to 6 minutes, to pupil dilation was 0 to 5 minutes, and to respiratory arrest was 0 to 5 minutes. Muscle fasciculations, skeletal movements, and agonal breaths were observed in both species during and after KCl administration.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

The use of KCl provides an effective, low-residue method of euthanasia in anesthetized CSLs and NESs. Our recommended dose for these species is 250 mg KCl/kg (113.6 mg KCl/lb) delivered by intracardiac injection. Compared with euthanasia by barbiturate overdose, the use of KCl reduces the potential for secondary intoxication of scavengers and is appropriate in field scenarios in which the carcass cannot be retrieved for disposal. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;259:197–201)

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To describe clinical signs, treatment, and outcome for California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) with Sarcocystis-associated polyphasic rhabdomyositis.

ANIMALS

38 free-ranging juvenile to adult California sea lions examined at a rehabilitation center in California between September 2015 and December 2017.

PROCEDURES

Medical records at The Marine Mammal Center were reviewed to identify sea lions in which sarcocystosis had been diagnosed.

RESULTS

Clinical signs were highly variable and associated with polyphasic rhabdomyositis attributed to Sarcocystis neurona infection. Generalized severe muscle wasting, respiratory compromise, and regurgitation secondary to megaesophagus were the most profound clinical findings. Respiratory compromise and megaesophagus were associated with a poor prognosis. Eight of the 38 sea lions were treated and released to the wild, and 2 subsequently restranded and were euthanized. Two additional animals received no targeted treatment and were released. The remaining 28 animals were either euthanized or died during treatment.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results suggested that unlike other marine mammals, which typically develop encephalitis, California sea lions with sarcocystosis often have polyphasic rhabdomyositis with highly variable clinical signs and that extensive diagnostic testing may be required to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment with an antiprotozoal drug in combination with corticosteroids may resolve clinical disease, but the prognosis is guarded.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To compare serum cardiac troponin I (cTnI) concentrations between sea otters with and without cardiomyopathy and describe 2 cases of cardiomyopathy with different etiologies.

ANIMALS

25 free-ranging southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) with (n = 14; cases) and without (11; controls) cardiomyopathy and 17 healthy managed southern sea otters from aquariums or rehabilitation centers (controls).

PROCEDURES

Serum cTnI concentration was measured in live sea otters. Histopathologic and gross necropsy findings were used to classify cardiomyopathy status in free-ranging otters; physical examination and echocardiography were used to assess health status of managed otters. Two otters received extensive medical evaluations under managed care, including diagnostic imaging, serial cTnI concentration measurement, and necropsy.

RESULTS

A significant difference in cTnI concentrations was observed between cases and both control groups, with median values of 0.279 ng/mL for cases and < 0.006 ng/mL for free-ranging and managed controls. A cutoff value of ≥ 0.037 ng/mL yielded respective sensitivity and specificity estimates for detection of cardiomyopathy of 64.3% and 90.9% for free-ranging cases versus free-ranging controls and 64.3% and 94.1% for free-ranging cases versus managed controls.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Cardiomyopathy is a common cause of sea otter death that has been associated with domoic acid exposure and protozoal infection. Antemortem diagnostic tests are needed to identify cardiac damage. Results suggested that serum cTnI concentration has promise as a biomarker for detection of cardiomyopathy in sea otters. Serial cTnI concentration measurements and diagnostic imaging are recommended to improve heart disease diagnosis in managed care settings.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research