Chapter 10: Animal Health and Welfare Considerations

Animal health involves protection from both infectious and noninfectious diseases.

Infectious Diseases

The infectious diseases most likely to threaten sea otters are:

  • morbillivirus – undoubtedly the most concerning infectious disease for sea otters
  • Influenza virus
  • bacterial diseases – unlikely to pose a significant, population-level threat to a reintroduced sea otter population along the Oregon coast
  • fungal diseases – Only one fungal disease warrants discussion: coccidioidomycosis (otherwise known as Valley fever). The primary risk to sea otters is associated with adjacency to the San Joaquin Valley.
  • parasitic diseases

Chapter 10

  • Animal Health
  • Infectious Disease
  • Noninfectious Disease
  • Trauma-Caused Disease
  • Animal Welfare
  • Summary 
  • Final Conclusions

Noninfectious Diseases

  • Toxic diseases 
    • domoic acid (DA) intoxication
    • saxitoxin intoxication
    • microcystin intoxication
    • tributyltin
    • other contaminants (e.g., methylmercury, PCBs)
    • oil spills
  • Trauma-caused diseases 
    • shark bite 
    • human-caused trauma (e.g., vessel traffic, fishing-gear entanglement, gunshot, blunt trauma to the skull)

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is more subjective and speculative than animal health. While animal welfare is becoming more science-based, it evaluates an animal’s state at any one point in time, is described on a continuum from good to poor, and varies, often dramatically, within a group of animals and over time. It is generally determined based on five factors:

  1. Nutritionally complete diets—in quantity, familiarity, safety, and accessibility
  2. Comfortable living experiences—that are appropriate for the species, provide the ability to rest, offer haul-out opportunities, and prevent risks from humans
  3. Good physical health—humans help to mitigate known disease risk and provide live-stranding responses, carcass recovery and processing, and potential rehabilitation opportunities
  4. Adequate social structure—per group size, sex ratio, age range, and site fidelity
  5. Freedom from chronic stressors—e.g., boat traffic, ecotourism disturbances, inadequate refugia, interspecies interactions

Key Terms

Click on the following key terms used on this web page to see their definitions on the glossary page: