Texas A&M restoring penguin eyesight

Veterinarians are working toward becoming experts in the field of penguin cataract surgery

Texas A&M University veterinarians are striving to become national experts on penguin cataract surgery.

Their potential patients aren’t thousands of miles away in Antarctica but at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas.

The life expectancy of penguins is 15 to 20 years, but the longer they live—especially in protected places like zoos and aquariums—the greater the chance of developing cataracts.

A Texas A&M team that included six fourth-year students completed two successful cataract surgeries. Other Moody penguins could be operated on later this year.

Of 30 Moody penguins screened by Texas A&M veterinary ophthalmologists Lucien Vallone, DVM, Dipl. ACVO, and Erin Scott, VMD, Dipl. ACVO, six were identified as potentially benefiting from cataract surgery.

Surgery could become routine for almost all elderly penguins nationwide, said Sharman Hoppes, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, a zoological veterinarian and leader of the school’s newly formed ophthalmology team.

“Cataract surgery is the one surgery I would do … at any age because it improves their life so much,” Dr. Hoppes said. “To have [a penguin] that’s lost its vision and have [its] vision back is huge.

“These are very social [animals] … and when they’ve lost their vision they become more isolated and less social.”

Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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