Wing Fractures in Birds – Birds of Prey, Parrots, Parakeets, and Wild Birds. Not only do wild birds break a wing every now and then, but this can also happen to birds kept as pets and especially to falconry birds. Birds are particularly at risk because they do not have a stable bone structure due to an unbalanced diet, e.g. due to a lack of calcium.
Whilst in the wild it is rare for birds to have an unbalanced diet as they instinctively know what they need, unfortunately this is quite common in aviaries or cages. (An exception are the collared pigeons, which are also heavily burdened with rickets in nature).
Lack of exercise and the overweight of many cage birds promotes the breakdown of the bird’s natural bone structure. If their wing gets stuck in the grating or in the toy, it can easily happen that a wing breaks. Often the cause is flying against window panes or falling at the suddenly closing room door. In the great outdoors, it is mainly cars or unsecured window panes that lead to a wing fracture.
While it is absolutely essential for wild birds to survive in the wild that a broken bone heals optimally, a bird kept in a cage would also be able to cope with a suboptimal broken wing. Because we humans know from our own experience how painful osteoarthritis is, and everyone
Poor posture inevitably leads to arthrosis at some point, the best possible bone healing should also be aimed for in caged birds.
What to do if the bird breaks a wing?
As a first measure, painkillers should be administered and the wing should be immobilized with a loose bandage. If it is not possible to apply a bandage, at least put the bird in a dark, small box so that it remains calm until it can be attended to appropriately by the vet. the
Immobilization of the wing is important because otherwise a simple closed fracture with a good prognosis quickly turns into a complicated open fracture. The broken ends, which are usually sharp, bore through the thin bird skin or splinter open further when the stressed bird flaps its injured wings.
The fractures of the upper arm and of the ulna and radius usually have to be treated surgically so that the bone ends sit in front of each other again, which is the basic requirement for healing. Fractures in the area of the primaries usually heal satisfactorily under bandages.
The larger the bird, the more important it is for the broken bones to heal optimally. In the case of large birds, such as swans or large birds of prey, even the primaries fractures must be treated surgically, especially if several bones are affected.
How does an operation like this work?
After examining the injured bird, administering pain medication, and treating any shock and other injuries that may have occurred, an x-ray is first taken to assess the fracture.
Inhalation anesthesia (induction of anesthesia using a mask, followed by intubation) is the most well-tolerated anesthesia in birds. Nevertheless, breathing and heart rate should be monitored using an ECG. As many feathers as necessary are removed and the surgical site thoroughly disinfected. We insert up to 2 intramedullary drill wires into the fractured bone via a small skin incision while protecting the muscles. sometimes supported by a cerclage. The skin wound is then closed again.
During longer operations, it is essential to ensure that the birds do not cool down and that the blood sugar level does not drop. For longer operations, we use warming mats and administer full electrolyte solutions with glucose.
Once the broken bone has been reduced and fixed, a bandage is applied, with the so-called eighth bandage being preferable to all other bandages. The wing should only be additionally fixed to the body in the case of upper arm fractures that are located far proximally. The smaller the bandage, the less stressed the bird will be and the more likely it will tolerate the bandage.
Following the operation, the bird should be placed in a warming box for a few hours. In the case of polytraumatized animals, increasing the oxygen concentration in the warming box is beneficial.
A bandage must always be changed every 5 days, moving all joints, otherwise, the wing will become stiff!
Healing after 3 to 4 weeks and then?
After 10 to 14 days, tying the primary wing feathers together as a bandage is usually sufficient to support fracture healing. Normal adhesive tape should never be stuck to a bird’s feathers or skin!
If it is absolutely necessary to stick on a bandage, because otherwise it would not hold at all, then only masking tape, which can be removed with alcohol, may be used. The material from which the teat bandages are made is very well tolerated.
After 3 to 4 weeks, the injured wing will be x-rayed. The drill wires are removed from the bone under anesthesia. A few days later, the bird can begin its flight training. It takes varying amounts of time before the bird can fly well again.
Which fractures have a good prognosis and which do not?
Fresh, closed fractures without joint involvement and without further soft tissue damage have the best prognosis. This means that the earlier a fracture is operated on, the better the prognosis.
Older closed fractures without joint involvement and even older open fractures can heal without symptoms if the soft tissue has not been severely damaged.
Fractures involving a joint never heal without consequential damage to the affected joint. Splinter fractures of a joint always lead to stiffening of the joint. In the case of these fractures, at least an extensive reduction in pain or freedom from pain can be achieved if they are treated adequately. Depending on the severity of the joint impairment, some birds can still fly a little, but of course not in such a way that they would be able to cope in the wild, for example. Cartilage-building preparations are well tolerated by the bird.