LAJAM 6(2): 185-187, December 2007 ISSN 1676-7497
VETERINARY TREATMENT OF AN INJURED WILD FRANCISCANA DOLPHIN CALF
(PONTOPORIA BLAINVILLEI, GERVAIS & D‘ORBIGNY, 1844)
PAULA BALDASSIN1,2; MAX RONDON WERNECK2,3; CARLA BEATRIZ BARBOSA1,2;
BERENICE MARIA GOMES GALLO2,3; HUGO GALLO1,2 AND MICHAEL WALSH4
The Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) is a small
handling but returned to normal shortly after release.
cetacean endemic to the western South Atlantic Ocean,
The animal was alert but exhibited some abnormal
ranging from Espírito Santo, Brazil (18°25’S) to Golfo
swimming posture and appeared to be uncomfortable
Nuevo, Península Valdés, Argentina (42°35’S) (Kinas,
as evidenced by abdominal flexing and shivering. The
2002). It appears to inhabit a narrow strip of coastal
water temperature was subsequently increased to 28ºC
waters between the surf line and the 30-m isobath. Its
and the animal began swimming normally.
conservation is of particular concern because of its
Prophylactic anti-microbial therapy was initiated with
restricted distribution and vulnerability to incidental
a daily intramuscular injection of 5mg/kg amikacin
capture in fishing gear (Reeves et al., 2003). Between 1997
sulfate twice a day (Stoskopf, 1990). A milk replacer
and 2001, 109 stranded animals, among which 28 living
used at Sea World California and other marine parks
calves that could not be rescued, were observed in the
was prepared and the animal was fed every 1.5 h
coastal region of São Paulo, Brazil (Santos et al., 2002).
(Table 1) by bottle. The feeding frequency followed
Located in the north of São Paulo State, Brazil, the
the natural patterns known for dolphins, which
Ubatuba Aquarium and Argonaut Institute for Costal
include nursing intervals between 30 min and 2 hours
and Marine Conservation have worked in the
with a 20-sec duration for each session (Jones et al.,
rehabilitation of marine animals since 1996. Four other
19885; Sweeney, 1990). The rostrum lesions were
franciscana dolphin calves, including two males and two
treated with a combination of Cicatrilex®, a
females, were treated in Ubatuba. One of these calves
waterproof ointment, and Quadriderm® (Gentamicin,
Betamethasone, Tolnaftate and Iodoclorohidroxiquina).
This case report describes the husbandry and medical
Three blood samples were collected from the central tail
management of an injured orphan female Pontoporia
vein, with a 19 gauge butterfly and a 3-cc syringe (Table 2).
blainvillei calf entangled in a fishing net, and rescued bya diver in the shallow waters of São Sebastião, São Paulostate (23°21’20’’S) on 9 January 2006. Physical examination
Table 1. Milk formula administered to the franciscana dolphin from
and blood glucose test were performed on site by the
this study, adapted from formula used at Sea World California(Young and Dalton, 1994*) but modified based on the oil available.
rescue team. Blood glucose level was 86 mg/dl and therespiratory rate was 5 breathes per minute. The animal
was transported to the Ubatuba Aquarium (23°26’13’’S)by car on foam transported dry and wet down with sea
water for evaluation and rehabilitation. It was maintained
in a 1,000-L pool filled with sea water at 25oC and 35ppm
salinity, which was all changed after each feeding. The
calf measured 76cm, weighed 5kg and had a body
temperature of 36.4ºC. It presented with several abrasionson the rostrum. The umbilical cord was already detached
with no signs of fetal folds. Teeth were partially erupted
and no hair was observed on the rostrum. These
observations suggest that the calf was about three months
old. The teeth development indicated that it was alreadyable to consume small amounts of fish. Feces were green
550ml filtered tap water/milk without lactose
Heart rate and respiratory frequency were measured
* Young, W. G. and Dalton, L. M. (1994) Treatment of a live
every 30 minutes. The heart rate ranged from 99 to 139
stranded young Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) Page 140
per minute and the respiratory rate from 5 to 9 per
in Abstracts, International Association of Aquatic Animal
minute. Respiration frequency increased initially after
Medicine Annual Conference. 11-14 May. Vallejo, CA, USA.
1Aquario de Ubatuba. Rua Guarani, 859. Ubatuba, São Paulo, Brazil. E-mail: [email protected]. 2 Instituto Argonauta para a Conservação Costeira e Marinha. Rua Guarani, 835. Ubatuba, São Paulo, Brazil. 3 Fundação Pró-Tamar, Base Ubatuba. Rua Antonio Athanásio da Silva, 273. Ubatuba, São Paulo, Brazil. 4Aquatic Animal Health Program, University of Florida, 2015 SW 16th Ave, Gainesville FL, 32610, USA. 5 Jones, M.H., Otten, T., Smith, R. and Houck, J. (1988) Neonatal care of a stranded harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena. Pages 165-169 in
Abstracts, International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine Annual Conference. 23-26 May. Orlando, FL, USA.
Table 2. CBC results for the Franciscana dolphin during rehabilitation.
Whole blood glucose was measured three times a day
(morning, pre-feeding, afternoon and night), with
Accu-Chek Advantage®. These ranged from 42 to
complicated with clinical parameters changing very
82mg/dl and weren’t consistently maintained. Blood
rapidly. Immune compromise and exposure to new
glucose values showed large variation during the
bacterial flora in the environment requires an increase
treatment and in periods of low glycemia the animal
in surveillance for current and developing pathogens
showed apathymild depression and slight trembling
during the rehabilitation process. Additional
which may also be related to the lower water
diagnostic tests may include aerobic and anaerobic
bacterial cultures, as well as yeast and fungal cultures
subsequently increased and the blood glucose levels
from the respiratory system, gastric and rectum.
stabilized. The increasing hematocrit and hemoglobin
Cytology from these systems is also recommended.
levels indicated that the dolphins deteriorating
Whenever possible, cultures and antibiotic sensitivity
hydration status. The level of eosinophils was initially
patterns should be used to guide antibiotic choice and
low. A decrease in the frequency of eosinophils has
the route of administration. Cytology may also help
been observed in stressed cetaceans or when anti-
to determine the site of involvement and help in the
inflammatory medications were given (Bossart and
choice of oral and parenteral antibiotics.
Dierauf, 1990). The dolphin developed a leucopeniaindicative of a severe bacterial or viral infection and
While initial CBC results indicated issues with
died six days after rescue. Gross necropsy revealed a
dehydration as evidenced by an increasing hematocrit
friable liver of light pink color and hyperemic lungs
(Table 2) there is little published information on the
that had diffusely scattered areas of emphysema in
normal ranges for these parameters of this species in
the dorsal region. Histologically, the liver had mild
to severe diffuse micro- and macro-vacuolization of
According to the IUCN (Cetacean Specialist Group,
the hepatocytes, indicative of diffuse vacuolar
1996), francicana dolphins are listed as “Data
hepatopathy which can be related with nutritional
Deficient”, meaning there is inadequate information
disturb. The lungs showed mild congestion, edema
to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of
and hemorrhagic points, and thickened alveolar septa.
extinction based on its distribution and/or population
There were numerous macrophages in the alveolar
status. The current lack of information on Pontoporia
lumen and heterophils in the capillaries, indicating
blainvillei emphasizes the need to improve veterinary
acute interstitial pneumonia. Histological results
health care, gather additional baseline information,
suggest an infection process due to the association of
and to implement and develop healthcare protocols
the degenerative hepatic process with the lung and
VETERINARY TREATMENT OF AN INJURED WILD FRANCISCANA DOLPHIN CALF 187
nets on the Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) insouthern Brazil. Bulletin of Marine Science 70(2): 409-421.
The authors express their gratitude to Leonardo Teixeirafrom IBAMA - Caraguatatuba, Shirley Pacheco de Souza
REEVES, R.R., SMITH, B.D., CRESPO, E.A. AND DI SCIARA, N.G.
from Instituto Terra & Mar, Fernando Alvarenga and
(2003) Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises: 2002-2010
trainees from Ubatuba Aquarium and Projeto Tamar –
Conservation Action Plan for the World’s Cetaceans. IUCN/
IBAMA Base Ubatuba. We also thank Dr. Charles
SSC Cetacean Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland,
Manire and Dr. Marie-Françoise van Bressem for their
Switzerland and Cambridge, United Kingdom.
SANTOS, M.C.O., VICENTE, A.F.C., ZAMPIROLLI, E.,ALVARENGA, F.S. AND SOUZA, S.P. (2002) Records of
Franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) from the coastalwaters of São Paulo State, southeastern Brazil. The Latin
BOSSART, G.D. AND DIERAUF, L.A. (1990) Marine mammal
American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 1(1): 169-174.
Clinical Laboratory medicine. Pages 1-52 in DIERAUF, L.
STOSKOPF, M.K. (1990) Marine Mammal Pharmacology.
A. (Ed.) Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine, Health,
Pages 139-162 in DIERAUF, L.A. (Ed.) Handbook of Marine
Disease and Rehabilitation. Volume 2. CRC Press. Boca
Mammal Medicine, Health, Disease and Rehabilitation.
Volume 2. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.
CETACEAN SPECIALIST GROUP. (1996) Pontoporia blainvillei.
SWEENEY, J.C. (1990) Marine mammal behavioral
In: IUCN 2006 Red List of Threatened Species.
diagnostics. Pages 53-72 in DIERAUF, L.A. (Ed.) Handbook
<www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 05 June 2007.
of Marine Mammal Medicine, Health, Disease and
KINAS, P.G. (2002) The impact of incidental kills by gill
Rehabilitation. Volume 2. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.
Received 2 July 2007. Accepted 30 November 2007.
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