Re:bloated seahorse

#4043
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Lynn:

Yes, that’s correct — the aperture is the mouth of the pouch where the babies are expelled by the birth spasms when a pregnant male delivers his brood of young. If you can carefully insert a small catheter or cannula or tiny blunt pipette into the slitlike opening of the pouch where the babies come out, as previously described, and massage the pouch gently working from the bottom up towards the aperture at the top, you will find that this will allow the trapped gas to escape easily through the catheter or pipette. Releasing the gas that has built up within the pouch this way should provide the seahorse with temporary relief from the positive buoyancy that is causing him to float.

You can obtain a suitable small catheter or cannula for this purpose from the following vendor:

http://www.seahorsesource.com/cgi-bin/shop/search.cgi?&category=Medications

If the aperture to the pouch is too tight to insert a small catheter or tiny pipette, then the next easiest way to release the gas is by performing a needle aspiration, which should always be done by inserting the needle horizontally through the side of the pouch rather than trying to insert the hypodermic needle vertically through the opening at the top of the pouch. (You never want to try to force a needle through the aperture of the pouch where the babies are released.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, many times it’s relatively easy to aspirate air from a bloated pouch using a small hypodermic needle and a syringe. The pouch can easily be penetrated from side and is not harmed by the entrance of the needle. It causes the seahorse surprisingly little discomfort and is often less traumatic that massaging the pouch and other methods for evacuating gas. It is a quick and effective technique and is often easier on the seahorse keeper and his patient than other approaches.

But you don’t want to perform needle aspirations repeatedly or they can become a source of irritation to the delicate pouch membrane. The skin or integument of the pouch is of course its first line of defense against disease. It contains mucus glands, and the slime covering the skin acts as a barrier to ectoparasites and infection. The protective slime may even contain antibodies and antibacterial substances (Evans, 1998). Marine fish are always in danger of dehydration because the seawater they live in is saltier than their blood and internal body fluids (Kollman, 1998). As a result, they are constantly losing water by diffusion through their gills and the surface of their skin, as well as in their urine (Kollman, 1998). The mucus layer also acts as a barrier against this, waterproofing the skin and reducing the amount of water that can diffuse through its surface (Kollman, 1998).

Repeatedly manipulating or massaging the pouch removes this protective barrier, and the shearing pressures that are involved in "burping" the pouch may aggravate the underlying tissue, resulting in secondary infections of the outer marsupium that can further complicate the picture. So it’s important not to rely on repeatedly massaging the pouch to evacuate trapped gas or to perform multiple needle aspirations to remove the gas from the pouch.

Your stallion is suffering from a form of gas bubble syndrome known as chronic pouch emphysema, Lynn. That means that simply releasing the gas from your male’s pouch bloat won’t cure him. It will provide him with some immediate relief from his positive buoyancy, and he will feel at great deal better temporarily, but then they gas will begin to build up within his pouch again and the positive buoyancy will return. The same thing will happen again and again in the days and weeks ahead, requiring you to repeatedly evacuating his pouch.

In order to prevent this from happening and to keep the bloated pouch from recurring over and over, you will need to treat the seahorse with acetazolamide (brand name Diamox) in addition to releasing the gas from his pouch. So don’t neglect to administer Diamox either orally, if the seahorse is still eating, or as a series of baths if he is not. Releasing the gas from his pouch is merely the first step in his treatment regimen — following up with the Diamox is the second step that may resolve the problem once and for all.

Best of luck evacuating the gas from your male’s pouch and restoring him to normal, Lynn!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna


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