Toll Barn Veterinary Centre Limited via Facebook
Toll Barn Veterinary Centre Limited via Facebook

7 Incisive Cases of Fish Surgery

Toll Barn Veterinary Centre Limited via Facebook
Toll Barn Veterinary Centre Limited via Facebook

People find a lot of pleasure in taking care of their pets—including fish. They may not snuggle with us, but fish do interact with their owners. When an injury or illness might require a trip to the vet, many fish owners do what they can to get their fish help—even surgery if need be. It's a delicate task to operate on a patient that requires constant water and a coat of protective slime. Here are seven surgeries in which vets came through for their finned patients.    


A man took his ailing goldfish to Toll Barn Veterinary Centre in North Walsham, Norwich, UK. The goldfish was threatened by a dangerous case of constipation, and the only way to save its life was by surgery to remove the impaction.

At first the owner balked at the £300 cost, but then he changed his mind and decided to go for it. Veterinarian Faye Bethell anesthetized the fish and carefully removed a lump from its rectum, and another from its dorsal fin. The surgery on the three-inch fish took 50 minutes and was completely successful. Bethell had performed the operation once before on a carp, but the goldfish's small size required a more delicate touch. Bethell said the tricky part was the anesthetic. She carefully calculated the amount of anesthetic to add to the fish’s water. Once it took effect, she removed the fish from the water for surgery. During the procedure, water laced with anesthetic was washed through the fish’s mouth and gills.   


Vancouver Aquarium via YouTube

A prosthetic eye for people is usually for cosmetic purposes. Outside of some high-tech experimental gadgetry, a glass eye will not restore sight. So why would you give a fish a prosthetic eye?

A yellowtail rockfish at the Vancouver Aquarium was being bullied by other fish because it has only one eye. The other fish apparently recognized this as a sign of a weakness, because the one-eyed fish wouldn't be able to see an attack coming from that direction. The vet thought a prosthetic eye might trick the other fish into thinking the rockfish had both eyes. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, teamed up with Lesanna Lahner, staff veterinarian of Seattle Aquarium, to stitch a bright yellow fake eye onto the rockfish. You can watch that surgery on YouTube.


Lort Smith Animal Hospital via Facebook

A story about fish surgery was the top story in our 2014 Weird News roundup. Veterinarian Tristan Rich at Lort Smith Animal Hospital in North Melbourne, Australia, performed surgery to remove a tumor from a 10-year-old goldfish named George. The size of the tumor meant that George required four stitches and surgical glue to close up the hole left behind. After the surgery, the fish was placed in a clean bucket of oxygenated water to recover from the anesthetic. He was also given injections of antibiotics and pain reliever. George recovered from the surgery nicely and went home with his owner.


Lort Smith via Facebook

Rich was confronted with another brain tumor in a goldfish in January 2016. The patient was a nine-year-old goldfish named Bubbles. Rich used the same “three bucket” method for administering anesthesia as he had for George: He put the fish in a bucket of water laced with anesthetic, used a second bucket of anesthesia water to wash the gills during surgery, and then placed the fish in a third bucket of water with no anesthetic to recover. The brain tumor was successfully extracted, and Bubbles’ owners were relieved and happy.  


Inglis Vets via Facebook

Inglis Veterinary Hospital in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, had a client with two goldfish suffering from cancer. Star had one eye that was massively swelled with a tumor. Exotic animal expert Brigitte Lord removed the eye with the assistance of a vet and an animal nurse. The other goldfish, named Nemo, had a cancerous lump removed on the same day, so the two fish were able to recover in the same tub of water. Janie Gordon, who keeps the fish together in her kitchen, paid £500 for the double surgery and was glad to take both fish home.


A goldfish named Mr. Hot Wing was born without a lower jaw. This meant he couldn’t keep his mouth constantly open like a normal goldfish, and he struggled to breathe and eat. He was taken to Lehigh Valley Veterinary Dermatology in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for help. Brian Palmeiro, known as “the fish doctor,” figured he could make some sort of prosthetic to help Mr. Hot Wing. He fashioned a tiny plastic brace out of an old credit card and stitched the brace to the bottom of the goldfish’s mouth. It wasn’t the first time Palmeiro used credit card plastic to help a fish; he’s previously fashioned both splints and prosthetics from them for fish patients.

7 Fast Facts About Animal Farting

Anyone who’s had a pet can testify that dogs and cats occasionally get gassy, letting rip noxious farts and then innocently looking up as if to say “Who, me?” You may not have considered the full breadth of animal life passing gas in the world, though—and not just mammals. In a new book, ecologist Nick Caruso and zoologist Dani Rabaiotti detail the farting habits (or lack thereof) of 80 different animals. Here are seven weird animal farting facts we learned from Does It Fart?.


A black-and-white illustration of a fish floating upside down on the surface of the water
Ethan Kocak

The diet of the Bolson pupfish, a freshwater fish found in northern Mexico, can lead to dangerous levels of gas. The pupfish feeds on algae, and it can inadvertently eat the gas bubbles that algae produces in warm temperatures. The air inflates the fish’s intestines and distends its belly, messing with its equilibrium and making it difficult to swim. Even if it tries to bury itself in sediment at the bottom of a pool, as Bolson pupfish are wont to do, the air causes the fish to rise to the surface, where it’s at risk of being eaten by a bird. If the fish doesn’t fart, it will likely die, either from predation or because its intestines rupture under the pressure of the trapped gas.


The Bolson pupfish isn't the only animal that needs healthy farts to maneuver underwater. Buoyancy is vital for swimming manatees, and they rely on digestive gas to keep them afloat. The West Indian manatee has pouches in its intestines where it can store farty gasses. When they have a lot of gas stored up, they’re naturally more buoyant, floating to the surface of the water. When they fart out that gas, they sink. Unfortunately, that means that a manatee’s ability to fart is vital to its well-being. When a manatee is constipated and can’t pass gas properly, it can lose the ability to swim properly and end up floating around with its tail above its head.


A black-and-white illustration of a termite farting
Ethan Kocak

They’re not as bad as cars or cows, but termites fart a lot, and because they are so numerous, that results in a lot of methane. Each termite only lets rip about half a microgram of methane gas a day, but every termite colony is made up of millions of individuals, and termites live all over the world. All told, the insects produce somewhere between 5 and 19 percent of global methane emissions per year.


Ferrets are quite the fart machines. They not only let ‘em rip while pooping—which they do every few hours on a normal day—but they get particularly gassy when they’re stressed. The pungent smells are often news to their creators, though. According to the book, “owners often report a confused look on their pet’s face in the direction of their backside after they audibly pass gas.” And you don't want your ferret to get really scared: Their fear response involves screaming, puffing up, and simultaneous farting and pooping.


A black-and-white illustration of a beaded lacewing standing triumphantly over a prone termite
Ethan Kocak

A winged insect known as the beaded lacewing carries a powerful weapon within its butt, what Caruso and Rabaiotti call “one of the very few genuinely fatal farts known to science.” As a hunting strategy, Lomamyia latipennis larvae release a potent fart containing the chemical allomone, paralyzing and killing their termite prey.


A black-and-white illustration of a whale farting above water while a woman on a boat speeds behind it
Ethan Kocak

As befits their size, whales produce some of biggest farts on the planet. A blue whale’s digestive system can hold up to a ton of food in its multiple stomach chambers, and there are plenty of bacteria in that system waiting to break that food down. This, of course, leads to farts. While not many whale farts have been caught on camera, scientists have witnessed them—and report them to be “incredibly pungent,” as Rabaiotti and Caruso tell it.


Octopuses don’t fart, nor do other sea creatures like soft-shell clams or sea anemones. Birds don’t, either. Meanwhile, sloths may be the only mammal that doesn’t fart, according to the book (although the case for bat farts is pretty tenuous). Having a belly full of trapped gas is dangerous for a sloth. If things are working normally, the methane produced by their gut bacteria is absorbed into their bloodstream and eventually breathed out.

The woodlouse has an odd way of getting rid of gas, too, though it’s technically not flatulence. Instead of peeing, woodlice excrete ammonia through their exoskeleton, with bursts of these full-body “farts” lasting up to an hour at a time.

The cover of 'Does It Fart?'
Hachette Books

Does It Fart? is available for $15 from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Scientists Capture the First Footage of an Anglerfish’s Parasitic Mating Ritual

The deep sea is full of alien-looking creatures, and the fanfin anglerfish is no exception. The toothy Caulophryne jordani, with its expandable stomach and glowing lure and fin rays, is notable not just for its weird looks, but also its odd mating method, which has been captured in the wild on video for the first time, as CNET and Science report.

If you saw a male anglerfish and a female anglerfish together, you would probably not recognize them as the same species. In fact, in the video below, you might not be able to find the male at all. The male anglerfish is lure-less and teeny-tiny (as much as 60 times smaller in length) compared to his lady love.

And he's kind of a deadbeat boyfriend. The male anglerfish attaches to the female's belly in a parasitic mating ritual that involves biting into her and latching on, fusing with her so that he can get his nutrients straight from her blood. He stays there for the rest of his fishy life, fertilizing her eggs and eventually becoming part of her body completely.

Observing an anglerfish in action, or really at all, is extremely difficult. There are only 14 dead specimens from this particular anglerfish species held at natural history museums throughout the world, and they are all female. Since anglerfish can't live in the lab, seeing them in their natural habitat is the only way to observe them. This video, shot in 2016 off the coast of Portugal by researchers with the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, is only the third time we've been able to record deep-sea anglerfish behavior.

Take a look for yourself, and be grateful that your own relationship isn't quite so codependent.

[h/t CNET]


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