Jul 29

SeaWorld San Diego Vets Team Up With Human Doctors To Save Dolphin’s Life

by Staff

SeaWorld San Diego veterinarians went to extraordinary lengths to save the life of one of the park's dolphins. Dottie, a 23-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, went into kidney failure due complications from kidney stones, but thanks to a team of highly-skilled “human” doctors from the University of California at San Diego Medical Center, her life was saved through medical procedures never before performed on a dolphin.

In late January, SeaWorld trainers observed that Dottie had stopped eating. Analysis of a blood sample from Dottie showed that she was in acute renal (kidney) failure. An ultrasound determined that kidney stones were obstructing Dottie's ureters, the narrow duct that conveys urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Dr. Todd Schmitt, SeaWorld's senior veterinarian, knew that aggressive treatment would be needed if Dottie's life was to be saved. He contacted UC San Diego Medical Center seeking assistance from its nephrology and urology staff. Dr. David Ward, UCSD chief of nephrology, aided the park's vets in performing the first successful dialysis on a dolphin to stabilize Dottie's clinical condition and later, Dr. Roger Sur, director of the UCSD Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center, performed the first ever endoscopic laser lithotripsy procedure on a dolphin to break up Dottie's kidney stones.

Dottie's recovery took several months, during which time she was on a regiment of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal medication. She has also regained the nearly 40 pounds that she lost during her illness. Dottie continues to be monitored through ultrasound, urinalysis and blood samples. Follow-up exams have determined that Dottie has additional kidney stones. She continues to undergo alkalnization therapy to help slowly dissolve the stones still present in the kidney. Dottie has fully recovered and was recently returned to the interaction pools at Rocky Point Preserve. SeaWorld vets report that Dottie's kidneys are functioning very well, that she is glad to be back in her social group of dolphins and trainers, and is once again interacting with park guests. SeaWorld vets seek to advance the field of marine mammal medicine and provide the best medical care possible to all its animals.