Perforation of the Gastrointestinal Tract in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
IAAAM Archive
William Van Bonn
U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, SPAWARSYSCEN, San Diego, CA, USA


A retrospective study was conducted to determine and compare clinical features, treatments and necropsy findings of dolphins with fatal perforations of the gastrointestinal tract. Medical records were reviewed, and information on signalment, clinical presentation, clinicopathologic abnormalities, treatments received, microbiological isolates and findings at necropsy was obtained. The anatomical site of perforation in all cases was the connecting channel between the second and third compartments of the multi-chambered stomach. Three animals were males and one was female. All animals were mature adults. Enteric flora was isolated from the abdomen in all cases. In one case abdominocentesis 7 days prior to death yielded cultures of an Enterococcus species. All animals had received multiple broad spectrum antimicrobials during treatment. All had received oral or parenteral glucocorticoids and three had received non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ante mortem evidence of suspected motility disturbance was noted in all four. The mean length of treatment before death was 62 days. Results suggest a predisposition of ill dolphins to perforations of the connecting channel that may be fatal. Further study is required to describe the anatomy, pathophysiology, identify risk factors and direct treatment plans.


The author wishes to thank Drs. Cynthia Smith, Eric Jensen, Sam Ridgway and Rene Meisner for constructive reviews. This is a work of the U.S. Government and therefore is not copyrighted (17 USC 105).

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William G. Van Bonn, DVM
Upstream Associates
San Diego, CA, USA

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