Care process

Seals are wild animals. They belong to nature. Yet, they sometimes get into trouble. When that happens, we make sure that the seals in need receive the best care they could wish for. We do this by using scientifically based techniques with a team of specialist veterinarians, experienced caretakers and dedicated volunteers. On this page we tell you everything about how we work in our seal hospital. From the intake to returning them to their home: the Wadden Sea.

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Intake

If a sick, injured or orphaned seal is brought to us by a seal guard, the animal goes directly to the intake room. You could think if this place as the emergency department in the hospital: here we do the intake and the first care of every seal that comes in.

During an intake, our vet and nurse work together to examine the patient. The nurse is the one who holds the animal and makes sure the vet is not bitten. The vet then goes through a number of steps to see exactly what is needed to make the seal better.

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1: Taking temperature and blood

First of all, we measure the temperature of the seal. This way we know whether the seal is hypothermic or has a fever.

The vet also takes blood from the seal upon arrival. After the intake, that blood is examined with the blood analysis machine. That machine can tell us whether the seal's blood is healthy or not. It is also checked whether the seal has antibodies for viruses..

Did you know...

Did you know: seals are mammals. This means that their body can warm up and cool down on its own. A healthy seal has a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius (just as warm as most humans).

2: Listening to the lungs

The vet listens to the seal's lungs with a stethoscope. By listening to the lungs, the vet can hear how heavily the animal is breathing and whether there is fluid in the lungs.

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3: Is the seal heavy enough?

Next the seal is weighed and measured. When seals are sick or injured, they often don't have enough energy to hunt. Because they don't eat well for a long time, they lose weight and can lose a lot of weight.

4: Cleaning wounds

Newborn pups often still have a piece of the umbilical cord attached to their abdomen. The umbilical cord can leave a wound if it falls off. To prevent it from becoming infected, we clean the area around very well.

This also happens every day after the intake, until the nurse can see that the wound has healed properly. The spray that is used to protect the wound has a bright blue color. That's why some puppies have a blue spot on their belly!

Did you know...

By looking at the umbilical cord, we can estimate how old the pup is. A pink, fresh umbilical cord means the pup is no more than a day old. A brown, shriveled umbilical cord: the pup is already a few days old. Does the pup have no umbilical cord at all? Then it is probably more than a week old.

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5: Looking in the mouth

During the intake, the veterinarian and nurse also look into the mouth of the seal. If the gums or palate appear inflamed or if a wound is visible, the animal will also receive a mouth spray in addition to the other medicines.

Newborn common seals don't really have teeth yet, but the other patients we care for can bite! The nurse and vet must therefore pay close attention.

6: Tagging the hind flipper

Seals sometimes look very similar. It can then be very difficult to tell them apart. Each seal therefore receives a name and a tag with a unique number upon arrival. This plastic card is inserted through the swimming membrane between the toes.

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7: First feeding

Finally, we feed the seal. Seals that have just arrived to us are often very weak- This can make it difficult for them to eat and digest fish. That is why the seals do not get herring in the beginning, but a porridge made with salmon.

Seal care in three phases

Na de intake wordt de zeehond naar een verblijf gebracht. Zeehonden die wij opvangen, blijven niet de hele tijd in hetzelfde verblijf: wij werken met drie verschillende zorgfases.

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    Phase 1: intensive care

    Right after the intake, seals go to phase 1. Here, the seal's rehabilitation begins with a fairly intensive care. You can compare it to intensive care in a hospital. The patients here are still very sick and weak. So we have to keep a close eye on them!

    Het zijn onze dierenartsen die beslissen wanneer zeehonden klaar zijn om naar buiten te gaan voor fase 2.

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    Phase 2: recovery

    Ze baseren dit op het gewicht van de zeehond, hoe goed het dier eet, hoe lang het kan zwemmen en op de gezondheid van de zeehond in het algemeen. De dieren hier krijgen al een tijdje geen vispap meer en hebben een stuk minder medicijnen nodig dan in fase 1.

    During their stay in this phase, seals will eat more and more on their own. At the end of phase 2, they no longer need medication.

  • emmer vol met vis

    Phase 3: almost better

    One more stage to go! In the third (and final) phase of rehabilitation, seals eat independently. The vets continue to monitor whether they continue to eat enough and whether they stay healthy, but they no longer need intensive care. It is important that the seals are left alone here as much as possible.

    You can read in detail how we work in each phase here: Seal care in three phases”.

Release

Feeling well enough? Then it's time to go back to the Wadden Sea, where they belong. The vets decide when they can be released. Because we make a personal treatment plan for each animal, it differs per seal for how long they stay with us. However, every seal is released back into the Wadden Sea after recovery: no animal remains permanently in the shelter.

Weighing one last time

Usually seals are released in small groups. The pool they are in is emptied in advance so that the caretakers can catch the seals. They are then weighed one last time to make sure they are ready to go home. Then they are put in special release boxes.

The release box

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A release box is a kind of wooden tunnel with two sliding doors at the ends. When caught, the seal is lured into the box at the back, after which the sliding doors close. The boxes with the seals are loaded into one of our vans and taken to the port.

Back home

From the harbour, we go on a boat with the seals to the Wadden Sea. Usually, we try to release the seals on a dry sandbank, but sometimes it also happens from a pontoon hanging behind the boat. 

At the release, the sliding doors at the front of the boxes open and the seals can bounce out on their own. As soon as they see the water, the seals goes from their boxes back to the Wadden Sea where they can now live in good health. And that's what we do it all for.

Report a seal. Seen a seal in need? Call 144 (24 hours a day available) Read more.