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Case Description—3 adult (24- to 43-year-old) Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) with chronic episodic malaise and inappetence associated with high serum aminotransferase (alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase) activities, high serum iron concentration, and serum transferrin saturation > 80% were evaluated.

Clinical Findings—Results of histologic examination of liver biopsy specimens revealed hemosiderosis in all 3 dolphins. Except for chronic lymphocytosis in 1 dolphin, results of extensive diagnostic testing revealed no other abnormalities. For each dolphin, a diagnosis of iron overload of unknown origin was made.

Treatment and Outcome—Phlebotomy treatment was implemented to reduce body stores of iron. Each phlebotomy procedure removed 7% to 17% (1 to 3 L) of estimated blood volume. Treatment consisted of an induction phase of weekly phlebotomy procedures for 22 to 30 weeks, which was complete when serum iron concentration and aminotransferase activities were within reference ranges and serum transferrin saturation was ≤ 20% or Hct was ≤ 30%. Total amount of iron removed from each dolphin was 53 to 111 mg/kg (24.1 to 50.5 mg/lb) of body weight. One dolphin required maintenance procedures at 8- to 12-week intervals when high serum iron concentration was detected.

Clinical Relevance—Although the cause of the iron overload and high serum aminotransferase activities remained unknown, phlebotomy treatment successfully resolved the clinicopathologic abnormalities, supporting a role of iron overload in the hepatopathy of the 3 dolphins.

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association



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


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


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


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.


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