Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Eyes: Penguins Undergo Cataract Surgery

Posted: May 26, 2016
Aleksandra Bush
Penguins from Moody Gardens have made their way to Texas A&M for cataract surgery.
Veterinarians say the penguins can barely see -- and it's not only affecting their health, but their social life.

"Penguins are pretty aggressive towards each other," says Richard Henderson, the veterinarian at Moody Gardens. "When penguins can't see, they often times get pecked."

Three penguins named Clarence, Jeep, and Takota traveled via refrigerated truck to Texas A&M Veterinary School. Two of the chinstrap penguins were scheduled to get cataract surgery. The other penguin came along for the ride.

"We are going to make a small incision into the cornea, that will allow us access into the eye," says Dr. Erin Scott, the optometrist who performed the surgery at Texas A&M.

The two penguins getting cataract surgery are in their late twenties. Veterinarians say cataracts are normal at that age. These penguins can barley see because they are already blind in one eye.

"Our machine here has a needle that is going to vibrate ultrasonically and it is going to break up the cataract," says Dr. Scott.

Veterinarians say the penguins bring a unique challenge to the operating table. Since they have to remain cool, doctors will monitor their temperature using a cooling blanket.

Dr. Scott says the surgery should take about an hour and recovery will last about three weeks.

"They'll enjoy their life," says Henderson. "They will be able to swim. They will be able to be penguins again."

Texas A&M says one of the penguin's surgery went well. Unfortunately, veterinarians could not perform surgery on the other penguin. They say he has a detached retina and is permanently blind in both eyes.

All of the penguins will head back home to Moody Gardens after staying at Texas A&M overnight.

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