Ringed Seal with Presumptive Congenital Herniated Diaphragm

Hello from the top of of the world!  I am most sorry for the rapid decline in the number of posts.  Once the ice went out, seal hunting really took off-I have already conducted post-mortem examinations on 11 nachiqs (ringed seals) and 23 ugruks (bearded seals).  No aivuqs (walruses) yet.  There were 4 days in a row where I worked from 8 am until 3 or 4 am the following morning.  I feel obligated to work round the clock because the sooner I can get these tissues in formalin, the less opportunity there is for post-mortem change.

Yes, this is a photo of me driving the 4 wheeler back to the lab with a seal in tow!  This particular hunting trip was not a productive one for my friend, as both seals that he shot were not deemed fit for him to eat!  Although my friend felt bad about shooting seals that would not be suitable for consumption, I assured him that he had ended their suffering.

In the background you can see a ringed seal.  This one allowed us to get exceptionally close before Billy took it.  Once we approached its haulout site, it was obvious this animal had been hauled out for some time based upon the depth of its imprint in the snow and the fact that it had been lying in its own feces.

On sight, I found this animal to be very thin!  I did a very thorough exam on this animal and this is what I found:

A male ringed seal (Phoca hispida) is presented for postmortem examination by subsistence hunter Billy Adams.  The seal was taken on the afternoon of 6/24/2010 south of Barrow near the gravel pit.  The ventral body length is 134 cm and the dorsal body length is 130 cm.  Axillary girth is 88 cm and sternal blubber thickness is 2 cm.  Involution of the thymus.  No stomach contents are present.   Sarcocysts are visible in the diaphragm, similar to those grossly appreciated in 2009RS4.  Note the gas-filled structure proximal to the rib cage.

In the second photo, proximal to the esophageal hiatus is the presence of two holes in the diaphragm.  The smooth edges suggest to me that this is a congenital diaphragmatic hernia.  The kidneys and adrenal glands also appear grossly abnormal.   This should be an interesting case  for me to read with my mentor, Terry Spraker when I return to CSU.

More importantly, I realize that I am a neophyte when it comes to pathology and that I need to always overcome the urge to rush to judgement and misinterpret findings that may be “normal” for these animals.  I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful support and mentoring that I receive from our pathology faculty and to the people of the North Slope who have made significant contributions to my veterinary education!

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