Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Two Thousand Eye Exams

Sidebar: To Cut or Not to Cut?

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institure: aerial view

Common cuttlefish (Mehgan Murphy/NZP)

Veterinarians prescribed oral antibiotics for a common cuttlefish in 2007 after its right cornea became inflamed. The medication was injected into the cuttlefish’s food—a shrimp—daily. Several days later, there was no sign of infection.

Yet the veterinary team also discovered that the cuttlefish had cataracts in both eyes. That raised a tough question: Should the vets operate? The zoo’s veterinary team is capable of operating on cuttlefish, which they sedate by putting anesthetic in the water. But surgery always involves some stress and risk for the patient.

The veterinarians decided against operating. Cuttlefish cataracts are often a sign of aging, and these creatures rarely make it past the ripe old age of two. So surgery would be an invasive, risky option with little chance of long-term benefits. The animal’s quality of life, veterinarians concluded, would be better served by letting nature take its course


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Smithsonian Zoogoer 40(1) 2011. Copyright 2010 Friends of the National Zoo. All rights reserved.