Putting a owl back together again…

Owl fracture repair surgery and anaesthesia

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World Wildlife Foods

With the start of week 4, time already seems to be flying away from me. Monday’s are really light for me this semester with just 1 lecture first thing in the morning. This means that I have the option to spend the rest of my time either in surgery or studying extra things that are not normally gone into in detail. Or of course I can spend my time going over stuff again as they repetition is key.

After my lecture today I ended up heading towards clinic, and arrived as they announced an afternoon surgery for a fracture repair by the department director. Enough for me to get interested so I stuck around.

Now somehow I ended up doing anaesthesia, here we don’t really have any monitoring equipment so everything must be monitored manually. With normal animals you can generally see if the chest is moving for breathing, however when it comes to birds because the chest is covered by the wings this is more difficult. Personally I tend to try and keep a finger on the chest to feel for the movement (even this can be tricky when its a surgery which requires movement of the leg which cause more movement).

So this owl had suffered some kind of trauma which resulted in fractures in both of the legs. One of these was pretty easy to fix with the “break” being in a part of the long bone of the femur. This was repaired with a intramedullary pin. The second fracture was a lot more interesting. At the end of the femur there is something called the femoral head which sticks out sideways and connects to the hip joint. The fracture here was between the femoral head and the main part of the femur so on a very small yet important piece of bone. This was wired back together, because the bone here is so soft the wire could be placed simply by using needles to pass it through.

The owl was then recovered from the anaesthetic, and taking down to one of the bird boxes where it will have a chance to heal before being released.

Owl going to nursing box to healIf you notice I am holding the owl through a towel, whilst this prevents struggle it is even more important that human contact is limited so that the owl does not become imprinted (and then tame). There will be very limited human contact now until release.

Clinical Diagnostics and putting a Tortoise back together again (Day 624)

Tortoise Dog Attack

Todays Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Hooligans

This morning I did my clinical diagnostics exam, the first part was practical where I had to examine a cow for a suspected foreign body (of course it was negative!) and then justify what I did. The second part of the exam was theory based and I had to talk about clinical methods, different methods of diagnosis and the different ways to assess the nervous system. I manage to do ok and got a C!

To celebrate I went into clinic, for me after spending so long stuck in books seeing patients is a reminder of just why it is all worthwhile. A week or so ago I was talking to some colleagues in the UK when dog bites on tortoises came up – rather stupidly I said I had never seen it here so today not 1 but 2 dog bite victims turned up in clinic. These had both been attacked by a dog for just a few seconds… This was really sad for me as these tortoises were nearly the same age as me 🙁

Sadly the first patient had very severe injuries, both the top (carapace) and bottom (plastron) parts of the shell were broken, and there were severe lung injuries (the lungs are just inside the top part of the shell) so sadly we had to euthanise this patient to end its severe suffering. The second one had part of the side of the shell missing along with fractures to the carapace and more shell pieces missing elsewhere. We could not determine any internal injuries so are hopeful it has a chance of survival.

To do this we used dental acrylic, along with a framework of thermoplast (a cast material used for fractures), some old x-ray film and several hours of time. These are the before and after photos…

Tortoise dog attack shell repairNow as you can see we have basically built an entire framework for the shell to heal, sadly however in tortoises this process is extremely slow. This repair material will be in place for at least 6 months with the high probability that it will take over a year to heal.

Please, as interesting as the surgery is, I’d be happy to never have to see this again so please do not let dogs mix with a tortoise or turtle as cute as it may look!!!