Texas A&M Professor, SeaWorld Perform First Spinal Tap On Bottlenose Dolphin
Posted February 04, 2019
A rescued bottlenose dolphin is doing well at SeaWorld San
Antonio after the first cerebrospinal fluid tap on a live
bottlenose dolphin was performed by a Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) neurology
professor Nick Jeffery.
procedure has now given her a chance at living with other
Rimmy, a sub adult female bottlenose dolphin, was stranded
on Sea Rim State Park, Texas, in September 2017 when she was
approximately 2-3 years old.
She was rescued by the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network
(TMMSN) and treated for 14 months at their Galveston
center for multiple ailments, including pneumonia and nasal
parasites, in collaboration with SeaWorld San Antonio’s animal care
NOAA Fisheries determined that Rimmy could not be released
back to the wild because of her need for continued, long-term
medical treatment. In order to find her a permanent
home a bacterial infection of the central nervous system or
brain needed to be ruled out.
This kind of procedure had never been attempted before on a live
dolphin and, without it, Rimmy’s options for finding a new home
In collaboration with the TMMSN, SeaWorld brought in outside
specialists for this first ever procedure, including Jeffery, who
regularly performs spinal taps in animals, and Dr. James Bailey, of
the Florida-based Innovative Veterinary Medicine, an expert in
cetacean anesthesia who used a ventilator designed specifically for
“It was nice to be able to contribute to this because it meant
that Rimmy could go live a nice life, which she otherwise wouldn't
have been able to do,” Jeffery said.
“We do spinal taps very commonly in dogs, and while I initially
thought it would be very different in dolphins—because of the shape
of the skull and because the relationship of the brain to the
spinal cord is completely different—since I’ve completed the
procedure, I realize that it's really straightforward to do,” he
SeaWorld veterinarians Dr. Jennifer Camilleri, Dr. Steve Osborn,
and Dr. Hendrik Nollens, and SeaWorld’s animal husbandry team
rounded out the team of experts.
During the procedure, samples were also collected to
examine how the anesthetic drug was metabolized,
information that can make future anesthetic procedures
possible at other facilities caring for dolphins and whales.
Rimmy, the rescued bottlenose dolphin. 2019©SeaWorld Parks
Rimmy’s groundbreaking procedure was a success. She recovered
completely from the anesthesia, and the much-needed diagnostic
collected. It was found that she did not have the
infection of her central nervous system that had been
feared and she continues to be cared for at SeaWorld San
Antonio while NOAA Fisheries finds Rimmy a permanent home.
“The expertise and creativity to devise new ways to treat
marine animals is a testament to the extraordinary lengths our
teams will go to preserve the life of every animal,” said Dr. Steve
Osborn, a senior veterinarian at SeaWorld San Antonio. “Working in
collaboration with experts in the fields of neurology and
anesthesia, we were able to successfully extract cerebrospinal
fluid from a live cetacean for the very first time.”
SeaWorld San Antonio’s animal hospital, performing radiography,
endoscopy, ultrasound, as well as small and large animal
anesthesia, has given many rescued animals a second chance at life.
SeaWorld’s rescue team is on call 24/7, benefiting more than 33,000
animals over the past 50 years.
For more information about the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,
please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of
Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org;
979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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