A fractured cockatiel

A fractured cockatiel

An exerpt from Doc's Tales: The Art and Science of Veterinary Practice.
Sep 08, 2010

A challenging case involved a cockatiel. They are lovely and of all I have seen very nice birds to care for.

It was in the early winter when the quite concerned owner presented the female bird at my clinic. It had a mid-shaft femoral fracture of the left leg.

She said there was no way the bird could have been injured to cause the fracture. As mentioned in a prior story birds long bones have no marrow in the cavity but heal surprisingly rapidly.

What to do? We had stainless steel equipment to pin dog and cat fractures but nothing small enough for a four ounce bird.( Have I mentioned that Vets are innovative?) We had a staff meeting and decided to try pinning the leg with 25 gauge hypodermic needles.

To do this we cut a section of a 3cc syringe case to the proper length. We heated a needle and penetrated the casing above and below where the fracture was. After suitably anesthetizing the patient we easily passed needles through the casing and femur, cut them off and wrapped adhesive tape around the device.

When the bird was presented a month later the leg was perfectly healed. We were understandably pleased with our success but pride succumbed to frustration two weeks later.

The bird was presented with an identical fracture of its right leg! In querying the owner we learned that the bird was regularly laying eggs, something they normally never do in the winter months.

The obvious cause of the fractures was that she was depleting her calcium to produce the egg shells. She had osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones. This affects many elderly women.

We recommended increasing the vitamin D in the bird’s diet and moving its cage nearer to the window to get more sunlight. Normally we don't want the cage of tropical birds near places where the temperature drops very far. The calcium, they get from a cuttle bone.

We repeated the correction with the same results; wonderful healing and in two weeks a second fracture of the left femur just as before! I know you are going to doubt my veracity about three times on one bird but it is completely true!

An article on cockatiels had appeared in a journal that said they do not utilize dietary vitamin D very significantly. I recommended the owner get a grow-lamp as is used to start seedling plants in the winter and hang it very close to the cage.

The bird healed again and at last report had no fourth episode.

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