Retrospective Study of Surgical Treatment of Osteomyelitis and Infectious Arthritis in the Flippers of Wild Seals in the Netherlands
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Anna Salazar-Casals1, DVM; Ana Rubio-Garcia1, DVM; Tijmen de Jong2, MD; James Collins3, MD radiologist; Joost Dorgelo3, MD radiologist; Pier Prins1, DVM; Klaas Marck2, MD, PhD
1Sealcentre Pieterburen, Hoofdstraat, Pieterburen, The Netherlands; 2Department of Plastic Surgery, Medisch Centrum Leeuwarden, The Netherlands; 3Department of Radiology, Medisch Centrum Leeuwarden, The Netherlands


The Sealcentre Pieterburen (the Netherlands) has rehabilitated harbour (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) since 1971. Wounds and swelling of extremities are often seen at admission of the animals, which is frequently related to the presence of fractures, osteomyelitis, and infectious arthritis.1,3 The main indication for amputation surgery in seals is osteomyelitis or arthritis in a flipper.2 Since 2011, 32 amputation procedures in 30 seals have been performed. In this retrospective study, the outcome of this type of surgery describing three different procedures is reported; a case with a chronic osteomyelitis with a sequestrum is presented; and a suggestion for an operative technique to cover a bone stump with a periosteal flap is made. In 139 animals, radiographs of flippers were made in order to assess possible bone and joint disorders. Radiological abnormalities were seen in the flippers of 44 seals, of which, 37 seals were examined to determine if surgery was feasible or not. Thirty animals underwent an amputation procedure and seven animals were euthanized after the exploration. In two cases, a chronic osteomyelitis with a sequestrum (Totenlade phenomenon) was observed. Partial or complete digital amputations and complete flipper amputations have been performed. All operated animals were successfully released back into the wild but no post-release monitoring was performed; only opportunistic sightings of operated seals have been reported. The results of this retrospective study show that amputation surgery in wild seals admitted into rehabilitation is feasible, safe, and adequate.


We thank John O’Connor for the clinical pictures, and the staff and volunteers of the Sealcentre Pieterburen for their help during the procedures. The surgical procedures and medical expenses related to this publication were funded by the Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen.

Literature Cited

1.  Griffiths GL, Bellenger CR. A retrospective study of osteomyelitis in dogs and cats. Austr Vet Journ. 1979;55:587–591.

2.  Rubio-Garcia A, Contreras GJ, Acosta CJ, Lacave G, Prins P, Marck K. Surgical treatment of osteoarthritis in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina). J Zoo Wildl Med. 2015;46:553–559.

3.  Stead AC. Osteomyelitis in the dog and cat. J Small Anim Pract. 1984;25:1–13.


Speaker Information
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Anna Salazar-Casals, DVM
Sealcentre Pieterburen
Hoofdstraat, Pieterburen, The Netherlands

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