A male bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) HC2004003, 210 cm and 80 kg, was found stranded on a beach at July 4th, 2004 and then transported to a rehabilitation pool. No major wound was recorded, only a 5 cm x 3 cm bruise observed under mandible. Thinness, soften muscle, and mild eye reflex were recorded during the physical examination at the first day. He was unable to float by himself and needed 24-hr support. The average value of heart rate and breath rate was 85 per minute and 15 per 5 minutes, respectively. Breath type was normal with small amount of white viscous discharge from his blowhole on occasion. Gastric fluid examination and complete bloodwork were performed every other day. CBC revealed decreased WBC count (lymphopenia, monocytopenia and eosinopenia) and increased PCV and RBC count. Elevated LDH and CK, and decreased cholesterol, triglyceride and Fe2+ were noted in blood chemistry. The Ca2+ was in the normal range or slightly decreased. The gastric fluid was dark red at the first 2 examination, the pH was 1 and 1-2 basal cells/HPF were observed. The tentative diagnoses were: stress, dehydration, emaciation, gastric ulcer and possibly bronchitis/pneumonia. The treatment included: fluid, electrolyte and vitamin supplement, ulceration therapy and mucolytic medicine. Formula tube feeding was performed 4 times a day (4,800 kcal/day). The WBC count elevated slightly but still in the normal range during rehabilitation. The use of antibiotics was held off because of the continued normal WBC count and breath type. He died at Day 6 and necropsy was performed soon. Severe, diffuse pulmonary purulent lesion and mild swelling of mesenteric lymph node were observed. No obvious gross lesions were noted in other organs. Chronic, severe, fibrotic, multifocal hepatitis caused by trematode infestation and moderate, suppurative, focal bronchointerstitial pneumonia with diffuse pulmonary edema was diagnosed under the microscopical examination. Bronchoepithelial cells calcification was noted.
Normal respiratory pattern and WBC count with severe pneumonia under necropsy was unpredictable. The pool was not designed for cetacean rehabilitation. The pool environment is too noisy to stethoscope due to water circulation. The preliminary method, such as evaluating breath rate, breath type and WBC count, was not reliable for diagnosing respiratory diseases in this case. Therefore, the radiological and ultrasound examinations are necessary and should be the routine work for cetacean rehabilitation.
According to the pathological reports, bronchoepithelial cells calcification was observed in over 90% of the stranded cetaceans in the past few years. Dystrophic calcification and metastatic calcification are two major reasons for causing cell calcification in terrestrial mammals. In metastatic calcification, the serum calcium level is usually higher than the normal range caused by hyperparathyroidism or hypervitaminosis D. In dystrophic calcification cases, the serum calcium level is in the normal range and the calcification is usually seen in degenerating or decomposing cells with decreased PCO2 and the calcium salt would deposit in the lesion easily and shortly. Because of the normal serum calcium level and pneumonia in this case, the dystrophic calcification might be the cause of the bronchoepithelial cells calcification. However, the etiology of this symptom in cetaceans is unclear and more research is needed.