Objective and Behavioral Results Following Cataract Removal in 80 Pinnipeds
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

C.M.H. Colitz1, DVM, PhD, DACVO; C. Grubb2; K. Razner2

1Aquatic Animal Eye Care, LLC, Jupiter, FL, USA; 2Kansas City Zoo, Kansas City, MO, USA


Lens diseases are common in pinnipeds, affecting half of all pinnipeds under human care. Postoperative results and behavioral changes were evaluated following cataract removal. Eighty-one pinnipeds (n=148 eyes) underwent unilateral (n=12) or bilateral (n=69) lensectomy between 2003 and April 2012. Questionnaires evaluating behavioral changes were sent to 12 California sea lion trainers. All but one animal were under human care. There were 38 females and 43 males. The average age was 20.3 years (range 7 months to 35 years); 45 Zalophus californianus, 16 Phoca vitulina, 1 Arctocephalus townsendi, 1 Mirounga angustirostris, 2 Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, 7 Neophoca cinerea, 4 Arctocephalus australis, 3 Arctocephalus forsteri, and 1 Halichoerus grypus. Eyes with pre-existing anterior lens luxations (n=41) had persistent corneal fibrosis (otariids) or corneal edema (phocids). Hyphema developed intraoperatively (n=4) or postoperatively (n=2). Postoperative complications include infected corneal ulcers or chronic corneal opacities OU (n=3 animals due to water quality imbalances), endophthalmitis and retinal detachments (n=1 animal), and intermittent corneal stromal abscesses (n=3 eyes). Vision improved in all but six eyes; pain was resolved in all but two eyes of two animals. Behavioral changes from 12 California sea lions included increased self-confidence and motivation to train, and a stronger relationship with trainers. All animals went from using tactile, verbal, and/or auditory cues to visual cues alone, indicating improved sight. Overall, lensectomies in pinnipeds have proven successful in terms of sight, improved behavior and motivation to train, and stronger human-animal bond.


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C.M.H. Colitz, DVM, PhD, DACVO
Aquatic Animal Eye Care, LLC
Jupiter, FL, USA

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