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Abstract

Objective—To determine risk factors for lens luxation and cataracts in captive pinnipeds in the United States and the Bahamas.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—111 pinnipeds (99 California sea lions [Zalophus californianus], 10 harbor seals [Phoca vitulina], and 2 walruses [Odobenus rosmarus]) from 9 facilities.

Procedures—Eyes of each pinniped were examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for the presence of cataracts or lens luxations and photographed. Information detailing husbandry practices, history, and facilities was collected with a questionnaire, and descriptive statistical analyses were performed for continuous and categorical variables. Odds ratios and associated 95% confidence intervals were estimated from the final model.

Results—Risk factors for lens luxation, cataracts, or both included age ≥ 15 years, history of fighting, history of ocular disease, and insufficient access to shade.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Diseases of the lens commonly affect captive pinnipeds. Access to UV-protective shade, early identification and medical management of ocular diseases, and prevention of fighting can limit the frequency or severity of lens-related disease in this population. An extended life span may result from captivity, but this also allows development of pathological changes associated with aging, including cataracts.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association