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For deep diving species like seals, ear infections can be a serious condition that requires intensive treatment and attentive medical care. Since posting an initial update on Pippi's health in early May, we have moved forward with a treatment regimen that has involved several procedures and a CT scan, with the primary goal of understanding the extent of her infection.
This proved to be a more difficult task than usual: Access to advanced diagnostic procedures was temporarily unavailable due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we were treating Pippi's infection, the resources needed to further develop a diagnosis did not become available to us for several weeks.
The first step in treating Pippi's ear infection was taking a culture swab of her ear canal, which provided us with knowledge of what germs were causing the infection. Then, we worked with a pharmacy to create custom antibiotic eardrops for Pippi.
Pet owners might be familiar with this course of treatment—these eardrops are similar to those used to treat ear infections in dogs! The drops are applied as a liquid and thicken up upon application to allow for a longer period of contact.
With a preliminary course of treatment underway, Pippi was then sedated to undergo a procedure led by our Animal Health and Animal Rescue teams. Contrast dye—a substance used by medical professionals to improve the quality of medical images—was introduced to her ear canal, and radiographs were taken to assess the anatomical condition of her right ear.
Pippi recovered well from this procedure, and we were able to diagnose a rupture and blockage within her right ear. When it became clear that a CT scan would provide us with even more detailed imaging to work with, the team at Veterinary Neurology and Imaging of the Chesapeake in Annapolis, Maryland, graciously donated their time and resources to us and organized the procedure.
Upon arriving at the off-site facility, Pippi was anesthetized, intubated and transferred to the CT suite. We are happy to report that she was stable throughout the procedure and recovered quickly!
Following the CT scan, we learned that Pippi's right tympanic membrane—her eardrum—is compromised, and that the middle of her ear is infected. Thankfully, there is no sign of infection in her left ear, and that eardrum is intact.
We are awaiting the full radiology report and CT images while consulting with specialists before determining future treatment plans. The advanced images will allow us to determine the best course of treatment moving forward.
Throughout treatment for her ear infection, Pippi has continued to engage in daily enrichment activities and is steadily gaining weight—at her most recent weigh-in, she was recorded at 83 pounds!
We will continue to share news about Pippi's health across our social media channels—follow us on Facebook to stay updated!