Intraperitoneal Dextrose Administration As An Alternative Emergency Treatment for Hypoglycemic Yearling California Sea Lions (Zalophus Californianus)

Vanessa A. Fravel, William Van Bonn, Frances Gulland, Carlos Rios, Andreas Fahlman, James L. Graham, Peter J. Havel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) cares for malnourished California sea lion (CSL) (Zalophus californianus) pups and yearlings every year. Hypoglycemia is a common consequence of malnutrition in young CSLs. Administering dextrose during a hypoglycemic crisis is vital to recovery. Traditional veterinary approaches to treat hypoglycemia pose therapeutic challenges in otariids, as vascular access and catheter maintenance can be difficult. The current approach to a hypoglycemic episode at TMMC is to administer dextrose intravenously (IV) by medically trained personnel. Intraperitoneal (IP) dextrose administration is an attractive alternative to IV administration because volunteer staff with basic training can administer treatment instead of waiting for trained staff to treat. This study compares the effects of IV, IP, and no dextrose administration on serum glucose and insulin in clinically healthy, euglycemic CSL yearlings. Three groups of animals, consisting of five sea lions each, were treated with 500 mg/kg dextrose using one of the following routes: IV, IP, or no dextrose (control). A jugular catheter was placed, and blood samples were collected at times 0, 5, 15, 30, 60, 120, 180, and 240 min after dextrose administration. IV dextrose administration resulted in an increase of serum glucose concentrations from a baseline level of approximately 150 mg/dl to a peak of approximately 350 mg/dl. The resulting hyperglycemia persisted for approximately 2 hr and was associated with an attenuated plasma insulin response compared with most terrestrial mammals. Intraperitoneal dextrose administration resulted in increases of serum glucose to approximately 200 mg/dl, which gradually declined to baseline by 2 hr after dextrose administration. These data suggest that the initial treatment of a hypoglycemic crisis in young malnourished CSLs can be accomplished with IP dextrose, thus enabling minimally trained volunteer staff to respond immediately to a crisis. Further studies are needed to determine the most appropriate long-Term treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-82
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • California sea lion
  • Dextrose
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Intraperitoneal
  • Marine mammal
  • Zalophus californianus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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