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Conjunctival flora of healthy and diseased eyes of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus): implications for treatment
  1. M. Fleming, BVMS, MSc, MRCVS and
  2. S. Bexton, BVMS, CertZooMed, MRCVS
  1. RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre, Station Road, East Winch, Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE32 1NR, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: mhairifleming{at}


Ocular pathology is relatively common in stranded seals admitted to wildlife rehabilitation hospitals. Some have pre-existing problems, while others develop eye problems in captivity, and in particular ulcerative keratitis, due to factors such as large prominent eyes, suboptimal water quality, trauma and infighting. Despite treatment, corneal ulcerations can rapidly progress to ‘melting’ ulcers with subsequent rupture of the globe. In this case series, 32 grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) had conjunctival swabs taken on admission to a UK wildlife hospital to identify ocular bacterial flora and nine had subsequent swabs taken after four weeks to see if this changed in captivity. Additionally, nine seals with ocular pathology were also swabbed. Although a wide range of bacteria were cultured on admission, the most common isolates were Gemella haemolysans, Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens. All ‘melting’ ulcers were associated with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which suggests this bacterial species may be significant in the pathogenesis of progressive stromal ulceration in grey seals.

  • Ophthalmology
  • Seals
  • Wildlife
  • Rehabilitation
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