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Sea turtle exams may include the use of radiographs so our animal care staff can check for plastic debris in the digestive system, among other things.

We're Strengthening the Heart of Our Animal Care

By Dr. Mike Murray, Director of Veterinary Services

Animal health care, both preventive and responding to illness, is one of the most important responsibilities for all of us who work with animals. Providing this doctorly care is just like going to the physician or taking your pet to the vet—only different. The basic concepts are still the same: obtain the animal's history, perform a physical examination, do some diagnostic tests, make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. Sounds pretty straightforward, and while some of it is, much is not.

As the Aquarium's veterinarian, I have the distinct fortune to work with some of the most dedicated, passionate and observant professionals in animal care. They know their animals: how they behave, react to food, interact with their roommates and respond to changes in their worlds. As a result, I get a great head start when it comes to keeping our animals healthy.

After that, things can get a little more interesting and complicated. Some of my patients are quite compliant. Rey the penguin will just walk down the hall, come into the vet lab and, with a bit of a boost, jump up onto the exam table. Some of the other air breathers, like the sea otters, need a bit more persuasion or even some sedation for their and our safety. Water breathers like the fish and invertebrates (yes, we treat them, too) may be small enough to come to the lab in a tank or bucket. I make "house calls," or perhaps more accurately, "exhibit calls," for the larger fish, sharks and turtles.

Veterinary medicine has come a long way since the Aquarium first opened. My ability to diagnose and treat illness in animals here has improved dramatically as we've learned more about these amazing creatures. But, the spectrum of birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates under our care has grown dramatically over the years, and the veterinary program needs to grow with it.

We're embarking on an exciting expansion of the Animal Care Center behind the scenes at the Aquarium. By doing so, we can continue to provide the state-of–the-art medical care that our animals deserve. This $7.3 million expansion will nearly triple our existing space. A larger clinical laboratory will allow us to take advantage of the enhanced diagnostic tools now available. Specialized incubators and hospitalization areas will provide the support we need to continue to care for our ever-expanding group of birds, including threatened snowy plovers.

The Aquarium's veterinary care team has always been involved in sharing our experiences with others, both professionally and with our visitors.

As we expand the physical facility, we'll be able to increase our role as an educator and a leader in conservation medicine. This year we'll host our first veterinary fellow from the University of California at Davis' School of Veterinary Medicine.

We're excited that we'll finally be able to expand our reach, share our experiences and inspire another generation of animal care professionals.

Left: Dr. Mike Murray greets Rey, an African penguin, during a regular health check. Middle: We put numbered and colored bands on snowy plover chicks so we can track their progress after we release them into the wild. Right: Aquarists give a bat ray a freshwater bath as a precaution against parasites.

Please join us in this critical work by making a gift to support our Animal Care Center. Your gift will help us save ocean animals and provide them with the best veterinary care possible. Thank you.
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