Unna The Killer Whale Under Treatment at SeaWorld San Antonio
Killer whale veterinarians and trainers at SeaWorld San Antonio are giving around-the-clock attention and medical care to Unna, a female killer whale with suspected cystitis caused by a fungal infection. Fungal infections are found in wild cetaceans as well as those in human care.
Preliminary tests show that the fungus is Candida, an organism that is pervasive in the environment and found in many different animals including whales and dolphins. Experts are still determining the species of Candida and its susceptibility to specific medications, as this particular fungus does not appear to be acting like normal Candida. It appears to be resistant to commonly used medications, and we are working aggressively to overcome this challenge. The SeaWorld team is consulting with internal and external experts including nephrologists and fungal experts such as the renowned mycologist Dr. Michael Rinaldi.
Two weeks ago, trainers noted changes in Unna’s behavior, even though she was still eating and interacting with her trainers and other whales. Our veterinarians and trainers promptly partnered together to perform thorough medical exams and set up a vigilant monitoring schedule.
The whales at SeaWorld are trained with positive reinforcement to voluntarily participate in their own health exams, which allow us to comfortably and safely treat the animals. Unna is more than 17 feet long and weighs more than 4,600 pounds. She voluntarily provides urine for analysis twice a day for monitoring and also offers her tail fluke for blood withdrawals.
The most recent step in her treatment was a cystoscopy procedure performed Friday by SeaWorld veterinarians. For this procedure, Unna was carefully removed from the pool in a large sling, and then placed on a large soft foam mat. Using a local anesthetic, veterinarians inserted a small scope to examine her urinary tract and collected some additional samples for microscopic examination. Soon after the procedure, Unna rejoined her pod and was swimming and eating. Results of the tests are pending.
Veterinarians are continuously monitoring Unna for any signs of change, and treating her with antibiotics and anti-fungal medications. The team is expecting her to respond positively to these medications but they remain on alert for any signs that the infection is spreading to her kidneys.
Unna was born December 27, 1996.
We appreciate your support and well wishes to Unna and our zoological team that is caring for her with passion and dedication. We will keep you updated on Unna’s health on our blog.