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Shedd Aquarium Veterinarians Examine a Blackspotted Puffer

The Exam Gave a Glimpse into the Science of Aquatic Medicine Ahead of World Veterinary Day – Saturday, April 27

April 30, 2019

Dr. Caryn Poll performs an ultrasound on a blackspotted puffer.

A radiograph, or x-ray image, of a blackspotted puffer fish.

Shedd Aquarium shared a behind-the-scenes look at an exam of a blackspotted puffer (Arothon nigropuncatus) late last week to give the public a better look at aquatic veterinary care ahead of World Veterinary Day – Saturday, April 27. The exam took place at Shedd’s onsite animal hospital, the A. Watson Armour III Center for Aquatic Animal Health and Welfare, that allows the aquarium to conduct regular, preventative care and examinations as well as step in and provide immediate medical attention if an animal should need it.

Since the animals at the aquarium can’t tell the vet team what might be ailing them, veterinarians rely on caretakers to identify when an animal might be feeling out of sorts. For the blackspotted puffer, that meant a decreased appetite, which an aquarist noticed and booked an appointment with the veterinary team to see what could be going on.

“Veterinary care at Shedd Aquarium truly is a group effort, because no one knows the animals better than the caretakers who see and interact with them every day,” said Dr. Caryn Poll, senior staff veterinarian. “As for our team – our days are never the same – we always have something new to examine, which is really what makes being a veterinarian fun...we deal with the whole animal from head to tail.”

During the exam, for safety and comfort, the blackspotted puffer was sedated with a dissolved anesthetic it breathed in through its gills. Once sedated, radiographs, ultrasound, and endoscopy – a minimally invasive flexible fiberoptic camera used to look internally – were performed to examine internal structures for any abnormalities. The diagnostics ruled out anything abnormal inside the gastrointestinal tract. The fish recovered well from anesthesia after the procedure and was safely returned to its habitat. The team will now discuss next steps for further diagnostics or treatments with the animal care staff.

The Facebook Live recording of this procedure, which the Animal Health team hosted on Shedd’s Facebook channel, can be viewed here.

BACKGROUND: The blackspotted puffer is native to Indo-Pacific regions and can be found munching on a mix of foods including squid, krill, clams, algae and hard-shelled shrimp that help wear down its constantly growing teeth.

A solitary animal, the blackspotted puffer spends its time swimming along reef crests or resting on top of sponges and corals. If threatened the puffer will inhale water or air to enlarge itself to deter predators.

VISUALS: See below for a link with downloadable visuals from the Animal Health team’s exam of the blackspotted puffer.

PHOTOS: High resolution photos and videos are available for download:
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez