Even Fish Need P.T.

We often say that our animals get the best possible veterinary care. This is the kind of stuff that happens behind the scenes.

Physical therapy for a fish?! My thoughts originally, too.

Well, I have to say that this guy is doing much better after the regimen prescribed by our veterinary staff. It all started when we noticed a curve in the spine of our Atlantic needlefish. The vets examined the fish and decided the best course of action would be to plan a trial of physical therapy for vertebral compression. That meant the fish was pulled from the Giant Ocean Tank over a series of treatments and gently massaged.

Each time the fish needed a treatment, the divers would take it behind the scenes and place it in a pool that had been treated with a minor sedative. Charlis Innis, VMD, our head veterinarian, would gently massage its back in a couple spots—as you saw in the video. Between treatments, the fish would rehab in a pen at the top of the Giant Ocean Tank.

The needlefish in its rehab pen.

For a more in-depth understanding of the physical therapy process, I'm sharing parts of some emails from our Aquarium vets:
"Warm up of 15 seconds of dorsal-ventral movement at 3 points on body (due to length of body) and then 15 seconds of lateral movement at 3 points of body as well.  Increased to 30 seconds at each of the 3 points for both dorsal ventral movement and then lateral movement. Focus was then done on area of vertebral compression with 1 minute of dorsal ventral movement, 1 minute of lateral movement, then repeat. Ended with 2 minutes of dorsal ventral movement and 2 minutes of lateral movement. Animal recovered smoothly (was ventilating on own throughout procedure) and was placed in a floating pen in the GOT for holding afterwards."
That's definitely a lot of technical information. But in short—the treatments appear to be working! Today, the fish is looking much straighter. In fact, he's being released from the pen on Sunday, after five sessions. Just another example of the compassionate and top-notch care that our vets provide for all the animals at the Aquarium.

— Chris