Reconditioning "Emma": A Case Report of the Use of Therapy to Help a Dolphin Regain Strength and Endurance
The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) responds to calls of sick and injured dolphins and whales that strand on Texas beaches. Often injury and illness have significantly affected these animals to the point where they are unable to support themselves in the water or swim independently. After careful veterinary examination of these animals, it becomes increasingly apparent that therapeutic intervention is needed to assist the animal in the recovery process. The TMMSN has utilized the expertise of therapists on staff and at local hospitals to assess each animal in rehabilitation and determine if therapy is indicated.
This poster will discuss the case history of a stranded female, bottlenose dolphin, named "Emma", who stranded on November 13, 2003 in Corpus Christi, TX. Upon arrival, it was noted that Emma was severely emaciated, underweight, weak, and deconditioned. She had a large area of bruising on the left side of her torso, suggesting a possible boat strike. When placed in the rehabilitation pool, it was observed that she was unable to swim independently and required full support from volunteers. Emma was later transferred to the primary rehabilitation facilities in Galveston, TX, where she was evaluated by the TMMSN veterinarian and therapists. Emma presented with very low gross muscle strength and muscle tone. She was unable to support herself in the water in order to take a breath. Whereas experience had shown that other animals in rehabilitation at the TMMSN had been swimming by the first week of rehabilitation, by week two Emma was making no attempts to initiate movement. It was determined that Emma would benefit from therapy to help her rebuild strength and endurance, develop muscle tone, and prevent contractures of muscles from disuse. This poster will discuss the treatments and techniques used to help Emma "relearn" how to swim.