Reply To: Hyoid bone erosion

Pete Giwojna

Dear BD:

I’m very sorry to hear that another of your tiger tail seahorses (Hippocampus comes) has developed a health problem.

It’s difficult to say what is causing the tissue erosion exposing the hyoid bone “trigger mechanism” that enables seahorses to slurp up frozen Mysis or live foods, resulting in weak snick. But my best bet is that it’s an infection of some sort, either protozoan parasites such as Uronema or a bacterial infection of some sort.

Weak snick and associated treating problems such as sticky trigger or trigger lock are notoriously difficult to treat and resolve because they have many different causes. For example, they can result from protozoan parasites such as Uronema infesting the gills and buccal cavity of the seahorse, including the esophagus, and triggering an inflammatory response and possible secondary bacterial infections.

Or weak snick can be the direct result of bacteria invading the gills, buccal cavity/esophagus and digestive tract of the seahorses, or directly attacking the muscles that operate the musculature that generate the suction when the seahorse is feeding. These bacteria can be the result of either a primary or secondary infection and the irritation and inflammation they cause and the damage they can do to the affected tissues results in the loss of suction (bacterial enteritis and/or branchitis).

Or weak snick can also be the result of a muscular strain or a mechanical injury, which further complicates the picture.

So we customarily address weak snick by performing a freshwater dip or bath followed by treatment with good antiparasitics to address the possibility that it is being caused by protozoan parasites. Hyposalinity or osmotic shock therapy is another way to counter such protozoans.

And to address the possibility that primary or secondary bacterial infections are the culprit, we also treat weak snick using broad-spectrum antibiotics, preferably administered orally if the seahorse is still eating adequately.

One of the keys to treating weak snick successfully is to keep the seahorse eating one way or another so that it can keep its strength up until it can heal up and recover or the attempted treatments can take effect. Providing easy-to-swallow enriched adult brine shrimp is one way to help assure that the affected seahorse is getting adequate nutrition…

Unfortunately, it is frequently not possible to pinpoint a specific cause for a given case of weak snick until the affected seahorse has expired and you can perform a necroscopic examination using multiorgan histopathology.

The following Fish Vet video on YouTube will explain more about the sort of bacterial infections that can cause problems with weak snick, and that may have been responsible for the tissue erosion that cause the hyoid bone to be exposed:

Seahorse with bacterial enteritis and branchitis.

In my experience, it is unlikely the affected seahorse will be able to heal and recover. In order to do so, he would first need to successfully treat the presumed bacterial infection and resulting inflammation that are most likely causing the weak snick in your case, BD.

Best of luck resolving this unfortunate affliction.

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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