Assisted Feeding of a Commerson's Dolphin (Cephalorhyncus commersonii) Calf
IAAAM Archive
Thomas H. Reidarson; Jim McBain; Judy St. Leger
Sea World of California, San Diego, CA


Sixteen days after the birth of a Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhyncus commersonii) the calf began resting at the surface and separating from the dam for abnormal periods of time. The calf appeared thin on physical examination and blood work revealed malnutrition. The dam appeared normal except for a large scar over the right mammary slit and a deformed mammary gland. Milk from both glands was normal, as was blood work.

It was determined that although the calf was nursing, she was not receiving an adequate amount of milk. A decision was made to supplement the calf with approximately half of her daily caloric requirements, using artificial milk. Three to five times a day the calf was separated from her mother for several minutes and fed with an orogastric tube. Due to the calf s inability to accept a large volume, the milk formula* was made quite viscous at a caloric density of 1.9 Kcal/ml, necessitating a syringe delivery. Eleven days after initiating supplemental feeding, a single individually quick frozen (IQF) herring was force fed after the tubing. Gradually over two months the amount of fish was increased and the amount of formula decreased, until the calf began accepting fish without assistance.

During the first three months the calf gained an average of 180 grams/day (range 90 to 270 grams/day). Presently, at six months of age, the calf is consuming approximately 55% of her caloric need with fish while continuing to nurse.

*Commerson's calf milk formula (4 liters)

 562.5 g herring filets (heads, bones, fins and skin removed)

 225 g Zoologic 33/40 milk matrix

 120 g Zoologic 30/55 milk matrix

 11.25 g dextrose

 6.75 g salt

 5.25 g lecithin

 0.187 g taurine (187 mg)

 3.75 tablets of dicalcium phosphate - must be ground into powder

 37.5 ml menhaden oil

 75 ml heavy whipping cream

 1.15 L freshwater (+/- 50 ml)

Speaker Information
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Thomas H. Reidarson, DVM
Sea World of California
San Diego, CA, USA

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