Re:Gas Bubbles

Pete Giwojna

Dear Kathryn:

Your seahorse is suffering from a condition known as Gas Bubble Disease (GBD) or Gas Bubble Syndrome (GBS). Those gas-filled bubbles on his tail are known as subcutaneous emphysema, and are often referred to as simply "tail bubbles" for obvious reasons.

This form of GBD can be treated quite successfully using carbonic anhydrase inhibitors such as acetazolamide, and seahorse keepers have found that 250 mg tablets of acetazolamide (brand-name Diamox) is the most convenient form of the medication to use.

The following link will take you to a discussion thread on this forum that explains all about external GBD or subcutaneous emphysema in great detail and provides step-by-step instructions on how to treat it. At the end of the thread, there is also a good discussion of how to prevent problems with gas bubble syndrome in the future, so please check out the information as soon as possible:

Click here: – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:Gas bubble disease — p,com_simpleboard/Itemid,/func,view/catid,2/id,123/#123

Unfortunately, Kathryn, the medication you need to treat your seahorse’s affliction is a prescription drug, which can make it hard to come by. Obtaining Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide) can often be a Catch-22 situation for hobbyists. It is a prescription drug often used for treating glaucoma, hydrocephaly, epilepsy, congestive heart failure, and altitude sickness in humans so you have to get it from your Vet or perhaps your family doctor. Unfortunately, Veterinarians are often unfamiliar with Diamox — it’s very much a people med and unless you find a Vet that works with fish regularly, he or she will probably never have heard of gas bubble disease or treating it with carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Many pet owners are on very good terms with their Vets, who are accustomed to prescribing medications for animals, so it’s often best to approach your Vet first about obtaining Diamox despite the fact they may never have heard of it until you brought it to their attention. Your family doctor, of course, will be familiar with such medications and have Diamox on hand but it can sometimes be difficult to get your MD to jump that final hurdle and prescribe it for a pet. Either way, it can be tough to get the medication you need under these circumstances.

However, I would exhaust those possibilities first before I considered an online source for the Diamox. Print out some of the pertinent information on GBD I referred you to that explains about the affliction and how it’s treated using Diamox and present that to your family veterinarian and/or your family practitioner. Bring photographs of your seahorse and be prepared to bring the seahorse in for a visit in and aerated plastic bucket with an airstone, if necessary. (Veterinarians are prohibited by law from prescribing medications to treat an animal they have not personally seen and examined. If you have had a close personal relationship with your vet over a period of years, they are often willing to bend that rule in the case of fish, but you may well have to bring your seahorse in for a quick checkup to get the desired results.)

If not — if neither your Vet or family physician will prescribe Diamox — please let me know right away and we can discuss other options.

Best of luck resolving your stallion’s problems with GBD, Kathryn! Subcutaneous emphysema or tail bubbles are the easiest forms of GBD to cure and respond very well to treatment with Diamox, so if you can obtain the medication, your seahorse should be feeling much better soon.

Pete Giwojna

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