Following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 347 oiled sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were treated in rehabilitation centers. Of these, 116 died, 94 within 10 days of presentation. Clinical records of 21 otters dying during the first 10 days of rehabilitation were reviewed to define the laboratory abnormalities and clinical syndromes associated with these unexpected deaths. The most common terminal syndrome was shock characterized by hypothermia, lethargy, and often hemorrhagic diarrhea. In heavily and moderately oiled otters, shock developed within 48 hours of initial presentation, whereas in lightly oiled otters shock generally occurred during the second week of captivity. Accompanying laboratory abnormalities included leukopenia with increased numbers of immature neutrophils (degenerative left shift), lymphopenia, anemia, azotemia (primarily prerenal), hyperkalemia, hypoproteinemia/hypoalbuminemia, elevations of serum transaminases, and hypoglycemia. Shock associated with hemorrhagic diarrhea probably occurred either as a direct primary effect of oiling or as an indirect effect secondary to confinement and handling in the rehabilitation centers. Lightly oiled otters were less likely to die from shock than were heavily oiled otters (22% vs. 72%, respectively). Heavily oiled otters developed shock more rapidly and had greater numbers of laboratory abnormalities, suggesting that exposure to oil was an important contributing factor.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Clinical and clinical laboratory correlates in sea otters dying unexpectedly in rehabilitation centers following the Exxon Valdez oil spill|
|Series title||Veterinary Clinical Pathology|
|Contributing office(s)||Alaska Science Center|