Subconjunctival antimicrobial poloxamer gel for treatment of corneal ulceration in stranded California sea lions (Zalophus californianus)

Claire A. Simeone, Carmen M.H. Colitz, Kathleen M. Colegrove, Cara L. Field, Carlos Rios, Heather L. Chandler, Shawn P. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Corneal ulcers are commonly encountered in pinnipeds. Prolonged oral antibiotics and topical ophthalmic solutions may not be practical to administer, and novel treatment techniques are desired. Thermodynamic gels are a potential solution because they hold antimicrobials at the site of injection, slowly releasing drug. This study investigated the clinical efficacy of antibiotic-impregnated poloxamer gel in management of corneal ulceration. Animal studied: Twenty-six California sea lions undergoing rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center. Procedures: A poloxamer gel mixed with 2% enrofloxacin was subconjunctivally injected in the treatment group. Control animals received oral doxycycline. Systemic anti-inflammatories and analgesics were administered as needed. Corneal examinations under general anesthesia were repeated weekly, and included sampling for bacterial culture and corneal cytology, collection of high-quality corneal images, and treatment administration until the ulcers were healed. Results: There was no gross or histologic evidence of a localized tissue reaction to the gel administration in the conjunctiva, and no evidence of systemic reaction to therapy in animals that died due to unrelated causes during the study period (n = 17). In animals that experienced a superficial corneal ulcer involving only epithelium or superficial stroma (n = 12), all lesions resolved completely, in both treatment and control groups. Of those animals with deeper or more complex ulcers involving keratomalacia or descemetoceles (n = 15), four demonstrated complete lesion resolution (all four received gel treatment). Conclusions: This study demonstrates that subconjunctival antibiotic poloxamer gel administration is a safe and effective alternative therapeutic option to traditional treatments for superficial corneal ulceration in pinnipeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
JournalVeterinary Ophthalmology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • California sea lion
  • Zalophus californianus
  • corneal ulcer
  • marine mammal
  • poloxamer gel
  • subconjunctival injection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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