Case Report: Management of Severe Injuries in a Bottlenose Dolphin Calf Due to Ischemic Necrosis from Crab Trap Entanglement
IAAAM Archive
Janine M. Cianciolo, DVM
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater, FL, USA


A female bottlenose dolphin, (Tursiops truncatus), approximately 2 months old was discovered entangled in a blue crab trap line in the Mosquito Lagoon on the east coast of Florida on December 10, 2005. Hubbs-Sea World and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute responded to the stranding and transported the calf to Clearwater Marine Aquarium that evening.

On presentation the calf appeared dehydrated and slightly thin. An obvious demarcation from the trap line was visible mid-peduncle and tissue distally exhibited signs of circulatory compromise such as, discoloration, change in tissue consistency and epithelial sloughing. Lacerations were present on the dorsal and ventral peduncle proximal to the constriction and ventrally on both pectoral fins. Additionally, deep lacerations were located at the commissure of the mouth and across the tongue. Ulcerated abrasions were present on the roof of the mouth and corneal ulcerations were present OU.

Stabilization of the calf was the immediate treatment goal by re-establishing hydration (Pedialyte with 5% Dextrose added PO q 3hrs), preventing further infection (Cephalexin 750mg PO TID, Amikacin 238.6mg IM BID and wound cleaning with Nolvasan surgical scrub) and offering in-water swimming support.

Antibiotic choice was later changed to Ceftazidime 750mg IM BID and all wounds were debrided daily and topical medications were applied (Gentocin spray, Neopredf, Granulex, and Nitrofurazone). The calf was fed a dolphin milk replacement formula by bottle every 3 hours and steady weight gain occurred. Due to ischemic necrosis sloughing of the tail and then peduncle continued until January 18, 2006, at which time the distal end of the remaining peduncle began closing through second intention healing.

The calf began swimming on her own within 24 hrs. of arrival and now dives , rolls, plays and exhibits typical captive bottlenose dolphin calf behavior. A team consisting of veterinarians, physicians, bioengineers and prosthetic companies is being assembled to develop a prosthetic peduncle and fluke.

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Janine Cianciolo

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