Re:Swollen Tail

Pete Giwojna

Dear Scubagal:

I’m sorry to hear that the first aid treatments you have been trying have not relieved the egg binding. As I said, the Epsom salt baths are the only possible treatment I know of for this condition, and although they appear to work well for freshwater fish that are egg bound, I don’t know if they will have the same result on a marine fish. You’re really entering uncharted territory, so I have no idea how long it would take for the blockage to be cleared if the Epsom salt baths are going to be helpful.

I’m not surprised that the prolapsed tissue protruding from her vent is getting worse. The longer the female is egg bound, the greater the pressure will build up within her coelomic cavity, and the more internal pressure there is, the more tissue will become everted.

In seahorses, prolapses are most common among the stallions and typically involve the lining of the pouch.
A prolapse or a partial prolapse of the pouch occurs when part of the lining of the marsupium becomes everted and protrudes through the mouth of the pouch. Prolapses in males can thus occur during or shortly after parturition as a result of the birth spasms during a strenuous delivery, or when courting males are performing their vigorous pouch displays and pumping water in and out of the pouch, or as a complication of recurring pouch emphysema. .

Treatment involves anesthetizing the seahorse, reinserted the prolapsed tissue with a blunt probe, and follow-up treatment with antibiotics as a precaution against secondary infections, as described by Tracy Warland below:

"Treatment was a little tricky – anesthesia, I use Benzocaine 1ml per litre of sea water (in a separate bucket obviously – and glove up as this is likely to soak through to your skin) a soluble aesthetic you could use clove oil and get similar results. You will need to work quickly once horse is under, take about 1 minute at most, work with horse under the water, with a blunt probe (sterilized of course) push distended pouch lining back into pouch opening and then massage pouch in downwards direction gently and hopefully it will fall back into place. An isolation recovery tank to revive him, perhaps with some soluble oxytetracycline or similar broad spectrum antibiotic, he should awake within a minute or so and be ready to eat almost immediately. Keep isolated if possible for a few days, changing water and perhaps adding some stress coat or similar product, keep away from females for about a week or so, just in case he gets the urge to display and ruin your handiwork (Tracy Warland, pers. com.)."

Of course, in females, prolapses typically occur as a result of egg binding, and the prolapsed tissue protrudes from the seahorse’s vent rather than the pouch. You could attempt the same sort of treatment as explained above for stallions with prolapsed pouches, but I don’t believe that would be helpful since you would be merely treating the symptom (the prolapsed tissue) and not the cause of the problem (egg binding). So I don’t believe performing a procedure to try to repair the prolapse would be beneficial in your case, scubagal.

You might possibly consider inducing your female to ingest two drops of cod liver oil or a single grain of Epsom salt, which are commonly used remedies for constipation in fishes, in the hope that this might help unclog her plumbing and help relieve the blockage. This is typically accomplished by placing two drops of cod liver oil directly in the fish’s mouth so that it is swallowed.

Other than that, the only other thing I could suggest would be to try administering a regimen of Diamox in your hospital tank, if you happen to have the medication on hand. Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide) has some mild diuretic properties which could possibly help reduce the swelling in her abdomen and relieve some of the resulting pressure. But I have never tried using Diamox on an egg bound seahorse, and I have no idea if it would actually be helpful. I’m really just grasping at straws here, but at this point, you probably don’t have anything to lose by trying it.

Best of luck inducing your female to release her eggs and clear the blockage, scubagal.

Pete Giwojna

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