To establish normal values for pre- and post-prandial bile acids and protein C in Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) pups.
45 harbor seals undergoing rehabilitation at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, 0 to 16 weeks, and deemed healthy aside from malnutrition or maternal separation.
Venous blood was collected from the intervertebral extradural sinus in fasted seals and again 2 hours after a fish meal.
The reference interval (90% CL, confidence limit) for pre-prandial (fasting) bile acids was 17.2 μmol/L to 25.4 μmol/L, post-prandial bile acids were 36.9 μmol/L to 46.4 μmol/L, and protein C was 72.3% to 85.4%, across ages. For comparison between developmental ages, pups were grouped into 3 age classes: < 14 days, 5 to 8 weeks, and 10 to 16 weeks. Age affected pre- and post-prandial bile acids; pups < 14 days had significantly higher pre-prandial bile acids (36.0 μmol/L ± 16.5 μmol/L; P < .0001) than other age groups and pups 5 to 8 weeks had significantly higher post-prandial bile acids (50.4 μmol/L ± 21.9 μmol/L; P < .001). Protein C was also affected by age, with seals < 14 days having significantly lower values (mean, 51.8% ± 16.7%; P < .0001).
This study established normal reference intervals for bile acids in harbor seal pups and offered a preliminary investigation into protein C in pinnipeds. The bile acid values from 0- to 16-week-old seal pups were well above established normal ranges for domestic species, highlighting the utility of age- and species-specific reference ranges. The values presented here and the differences across age classes will aid clinicians in accurately diagnosing hepatobiliary disease in harbor seal pups.