Haptoglobin (Hp) is an acute-phase protein synthesized in the liver that circulates at elevated concentrations in response to tissue damage caused by inflammation, infection, and trauma. As part of a larger study, sera Hp concentrations were measured in temporarily captive (n=21) and free-range (n=38) western stock juvenile Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) sampled from 2003 to 2006. Baseline Hp concentration at time of capture was 133.3±17.4 mg/dl. Temporarily captive animals exhibited a 3.2-fold increase in Hp concentrations during the first 4 wk of captivity, followed by a return to entry levels by week 5. Haptoglobin levels were not influenced by age, season, or parasite load. There was a significant positive correlation between Hp concentrations and white blood cell count (P<0.001) and globulin levels (P<0.001) and a negative correlation to red blood cell count and hematocrit (P<0.001 for both). There was no correlation between Hp levels and platelet count (P=0.095) or hemoglobin (P=0.457). Routine blubber biopsies collected under gas anesthesia did not produce a measurable Hp response. One animal with a large abscess had an Hp spike of 1,006.0 mg/dl that returned to entry levels after treatment. In conclusion, serum Hp levels correlate to the stable clinical health status observed during captivity, with moderate Hp response during capture and initial acclimation to captivity and acute response to inflammation and infection.
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Vol. 43 • No. 2