Featured Image Credit: Laura Dickinson/The Tribune
We would like to introduce you to Otto, an 8-year-old southern sea otter, who is one lucky and resilient little guy.
Otto was rescued on May 31, 2017, in San Luis Obispo, California. Upon examination by the veterinary staff at the Marine Mammal Center, Otto was diagnosed with domoic acid toxicosis.
We know what you’re thinking, “Domoic toxi-whatie???” We felt the same way too!
Domoic acid is produced by a type of algae. It’s a toxin that accumulates in crabs, clams, and scallops, all of a sea otter’s most favorite snacks. When a sea otter eats one of these toxic shellfish, the domoic acid enters their body and wreaks havoc on their brain. If left untreated, the toxin attacks the brain causing lethargy, disorientation, seizures and even death.
In addition to his treatment for the neurotoxin, Otto was also successfully treated for multiple tooth fractures by the center’s veterinary dental specialist partners at Dentistry for Animals.
Otto spent five months at The Marine Mammal Center’s Sausalito facility and was healthy enough to be recently released into Morro Bay on Friday, Sept. 22. Since then, he has been seen eating, mingling with a female otter, and interacting with another territorial male otter in the bay. Experts say this shows he has the strength and the ability to fend for himself.
These experts with The Marine Mammal Center will be keeping a close watch on Otto’s progress as he is one of the first otters with the condition treated at the facility. Most of the domoic acid poisoning cases the center sees are in sea lions.
Shawn Johnson, the director of veterinary science at The Marine Mammal Center, said it’s not clear whether the Bay Area poisoning case means new algae bloom is cropping up or that toxins from an old one are still infecting marine life, Johnson said.
We’re rooting for you, Otto!