Last update: Tuesday 5th November , 2002
Pinnipeds are inclined to suffer from eye diseases. Several authors found 20% of the examined animals to be affected. Furthermore ophthalmic affections in pinnipeds tend to be extremely persistent and resistant to therapy. These conclusions are in favour of a special interest in the ophthalmic problems of these animals. Not a subspeciality, but an area of special veterinary and scientific interest.
Pinnipeds have mammalian eyes with characteristics that make them well suited for seeing in water. What are the typical anatomical landmarks of the pinniped eye and in what way do they differ from the terrestrial mammalian eye and the cetacean eye? The pinniped visual physiology is still unclear for the greater part. There are however several nice theories and models to play with or to fantasize on.
It is not always easy to examine the eyes of pinnipeds. In case we deal with captive animals good medical behaviour is of tremendous help. Wild animals have to be restraint. Observing the animal and listening to the trainer or the nurse should be the base of an ocular examination.
Making a diagnosis is an art, finding an etiology sometimes an impossible task. To treat an eye condition in an intelligent way one needs to know what is going on. In this field confusion is often the rule and real understanding the exception in pinniped ophthalmology so far.
Treating ocular diseases in pinnipeds often is a quite disappointing exercise. In a lot of cases one has the impression that not any therapeutical measure does influence the pathological process what so ever. Often the method of choice should be a surgical one.
There should be a difference in attitude concerning pinnipeds living in the wild and captive animals. With wild animals we should keep our activities to a minimum, the captive pinnipeds should be treated as all animals (and humans) which are in our care. Morally we are obliged to increase our knowledge on etiology and pathology. A lot of work still has to be done.
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