Apr 03, 2017 02:32PM ● Published by Louisa Asseo
By Dr. Louisa Asseo, Oasis Veterinary Hospital
Last month, the team of Oasis Veterinary Hospital embarked on what I hope will become an annual spring event, “Sunday Funday.” Thankfully, the rain had stopped long enough for us to enjoy some fresh air and a nice lunch overlooking the ocean in the company of our fun and compassionate teammates.
As our hearts and minds never stray too far from our animal friends, we journeyed to find some different ones to learn about. This year, our destination was the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. The tour led us through most of their facilities and afforded us the opportunity of seeing how this hospital and rehabilitation center has helped over 20,000 marine animals since its opening in 1975.
I think most of us would agree that the highlight of the day was seeing the juvenile elephant seals. Their cacophonous sounds resonated throughout the center and lured us to their spotless clear pools, where we had the opportunity of seeing numerous babies basking in the sun nearby. Most of these babies were brought in emaciated and abandoned or stranded from getting washed away in a storm. The babies are rescued, assessed for injuries and diseases that need attention, then fed until they are fat and happy and ready to be released back to the big blue.
Aside from saving stranded seal pups, the center is also very active in scientific studies of diseases. We learned that native California sea lions are having an emergence of a type of cancer that has become very prevalent in the native population. Through the center’s research efforts, we now know that an individual’s genetic makeup, environmental factors, and a viral trigger cause this cancer. The center is studying this cancer and the factors contributing to its proliferation in hopes of helping to curb the spread of this disease to more wild sea lions. Interestingly, their efforts are also helping human medicine scientists. These studies in sea lions act as a human model to understand the development of certain cancers found in people. Not only are they studying why some animals are developing tumors and others are not, but they are also evaluating individual environmental and genetic factors that help predict which animals (or in the future, which people) may be at a higher risk for developing certain cancers.
The center is helping animals we share our world with, and in turn, these animals help us learn about and help ourselves. What a beautifully orchestrated world we live in! I hope you all have a happy and healthy spring.
Photo: Oasis Staff at the Marine Mammal Center