Wildlife Care

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This page contains some of the wide variety of injured wildlife treated at our hospital since 1989. Take your time and pace yourself because there is lots here to learn about. There are many photos, including those from actual surgical procedures. 

Our Wildlife Program is a community service provided by the Long Beach Animal Hospital. In this program we provide free medical care for injured wildlife. We routinely care for over 1,000 injured animals each year, and successfully releases almost 50% of them back into their native habitat. This success rate is due to the hard work of all the volunteers and staff of our hospital.

Wildlife Chick

This is nothing wrong with this chick  found on our roof. It is such a nice picture we thought it would be great time to let you know that wildlife exists everywhere, even in our urban environment. Can you tell what it is and how old it is. The fact that there is an egg behind it is a good clue to its age.

 

We work closely with the California Department of Fish & Game to ensure that all state and federal laws are followed. Many of the injured wild animals brought to us come from Fish & Game, Long Beach Animal Control, lifeguards, and regular Joe citizens.

Dr. P has been working with wildlife since he first became a veterinarian in Michigan in 1978. This picture is when he was a at his first job as a veterinarian when he was 24 years old.

In 1980 Dr. P moved to CA and started working at the Sun Surf Animal Hospital, where he continued to work with wildlife, and started the Wildlife Program at Sun Surf

He took care of many pelicans, many of them with fish hooks inside of them

Many surgeries were performed to remove them

This was around the time someone (presumable a fisherman) was sawing the tops of their beaks off

Dr. P has been treating wildlife at the Long Beach Animal Hospital since 1989. This article in the Long Beach Press Telegram is about a fox that came to LBAH after a golfer hit it with a golf ball. His front leg was so badly fractured that it had to be amputated. It was amazing how fast he took off on 3 legs when he was released weeks later! At least this fox had his 5 minutes of fame in the local newspaper! 

 Dr. Wood will now be working as the primary doctor for all the injured wildlife brought to our hospital. Here she is examining a peregrine falcon.

Caring for injured wildlife is a team effort, and all of our staff gets kudos for all of the work they do

We will do whatever it takes, including acupuncture on this duck, in order to get them better

We see some strange things sometimes, like this squirrel with a nail in its head. It was successfully removed surgically by Dr. Ridgeway

We are a registered teaching hospital with the veterinary schools throughout the country through our externship program. Externs are senior veterinary students training with us as part of their veterinary school curriculum. During this training we involve our externs in the care of wildlife. We want them to learn the importance of conservation medicine early in the careers, and the tremendous need for this, as wildlife is being encroached upon with the burgeoning human population everywhere. If you follow this Wildlife Photography link you can see this as Dr. P travels the world.

Justine Ma, a UC Davis veterinary student, is suturing a laceration on an opossum

Another UC Davis student extern, Lisa Hsuan, had an opportunity to work on a red tailed hawk. The radiograph showed no internal problems.

She sutured the laceration on its back

She had the pleasure of releasing it back where it was found

We teach these students how to read radiographs on wildlife, something they do not routinely get in veterinary school. Take a look at this opossum and see if you see any problems.

This opossum has a severely fractured spine, visible at the top left of the radiograph. This very serious injury is not correctable, so it was humanely euthanized. Any idea what is on the circle at the lower right? We will give you a clue: this is the pouch of this female opossum. 

Marie is learning how to confidently handle small raptors like this owl 

This is Liz Whitsett, another one of our externs in 2014. She spent several weeks working with a duck with an injured neck. This video shows you the dedication she had to helping rehabilitate this duck.


Megan is from the U of Illinois, and learned how to anesthetize a hawk

Denise is from U. C. Davis, and learned how to examine a hawk

Jasmine is also from U. C. Davis, and learned how to work with a wide variety off wildlife like this gull

This is Kellie Davis, a future veterinarian-to-be, working on a pelican with Julio

When you bring us injured wildlife we need you to fill out a Wildlife Rescue form. This keeps us in compliance with Fish & Game Regulations, tells us where you found it, what you did for it, and gives us a medical record. After we provide initial medical and surgical care, our goal is to release these patients back into their native habitat or send them to licensed rehabilitators.

If you find an injured wild animal there are several important things to do before you bring it to us:

Be cautious because wild animals are very quick and powerful. They have strong instincts to protect themselves and can inflict serious injury.

Be particularly wary of shore birds with pointed beaks and birds of prey with strong talons. They can inflict serious eye and bodily injury.

Call your local animal control authorities to see if they can capture the animal.

When captured, place it in a box, keep the box covered and in a warm spot, and keep children away. These animals can easily die from fright, so keep handling and observations to a minimum.

Do not attempt to provide medical care. What seems to be such common sense treatment for our personal pets or us humanoids does not carry over to wildlife.

Call us to make sure we are open, and bring the animal to us during our regular office hours as soon as possible. We are open until midnight every day except legal holidays. If we are closed, keep it warm and covered until we are available.

In the springtime many baby birds are brought to us that have fallen out of a nest. Unless they are obviously injured, it is best to leave them alone. The odds of them surviving are much greater if you put them back in the vicinity where you found them. Put them back into the nest if it is available. Your smell on the bird will not bother the parents. If the bird is on the ground and there is no nest, leave it alone, because the parents are watching it.

Even though we like feeding cuties like this  baby hummingbird, it is not injured, and its best chance for survival would have been to leave it where it was found prevent animals like cats from injuring it if it is on the ground.

These guys have personality!

Graphic photos of injured wildlife on this page

Unfortunately, if you are able to catch a wild animal, it is usually seriously injured. Their prognosis is very poor in this advanced state of disease. We cannot save all of them due to these serious injuries. This is the case with the sharp shinned hawk below.


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The radiograph of this hawk shows an open transverse fracture of the distal left humerus

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You can see how the fractured bone has broken through the skin

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This is what it actually looked like after it was cleaned up. It is infected and the upper bone is discolored and non-vital. The bird has probably been in this state for a while before being brought to us. The prognosis is poor and the bird was humanely euthanized. 

Red-Tailed Hawk with a Fractured Wing

A red-tailed hawk was found on the runway at Long Beach airport and brought into our Wildlife Program with a broken wing. Our ultimate goal is to fix the wing and release the hawk back into the wild. There is no guarantee that will happen, but we are willing to give it a try.

Our Wildlife Program admission form gives you more details when it was brought in by Long Beach Animal Control on September 29th, 2018

It had a band to help us trace its origin (number 1967) and learn more about it

Jonathan went on the U.S.G.S. (U.S. Geological Survey) at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center web site and put in the band number so they know this birds disposition

This is some of the information he provided

Jonathan is a natural with wildlife, and his care before and after surgery is a big reason as to the successful outcome of this case

Birds of prey are easily stressed, so after the initial exam and treatment we let it rest in a quiet area

Radiographs revealed a mid-shaft oblique fracture of the right humerus. This fracture requires surgery if there is any chance this bird will fly again.  Do you see the 3 pellets also? Removing them causes more trauma than it is worth, so we rarely remove them. The one concern we have with this approach is if the pellets are made from lead, which is usually not the case.

Raw bone ends are very painful. We wrapped the wing in a soft and secure bandage to minimize pain and stabilize the bone to prevent further injury.

We put it on pain and anti-inflammatory medication, along with supportive care like assist feeding and fluids, to make it stronger in anticipation of surgery in a few days. When we felt it was stable and ready for anesthesia we performed orthopedic surgery to repair the fracture using a pin and wires. We did not take out the pellets.

Injections of medication can traumatize the breast muscle when given daily, so much of the medication is given orally 

In most mammals (dogs, cats, humanoids) a plate and screws give the best stability for healing of the humerus. Birds have light bones so their weight does not interfere with their ability to fly. We prefer not to use plates and screws that are heavier than a pin and wires due to this weight issue with bird bones and flight.

In addition, after the bone has healed, plates and screws need to be removed due to their weight and interference with flight. This requires another anesthetic procedure and additional trauma to the area. The stainless steel pin is easily removed without anesthesia, and the stainless steel wires that are put in to help stabilize the fracture are light and can be kept in place.

Some medical terminology to help you understand the surgery we will be performing:

  1. The segment of broken humerus towards the shoulder is called the proximal segment
  2. The segment of broken humerus towards the elbow is called the distal segment
  3. The inner cavity of the bone, which contains bone marrow that produces red blood cells, is called the medullary canal. In some locations on the bird, the canal is hollow for weight reduction for flight.
  4. The outer layer of the bone, where the strength of the bone resides, is called the cortex.
  5. The cortex of a fractured bone that is healing properly has an exuberance of calcium and protein matrix deposited on it that can be seen on a radiograph (X-ray).
  6. This exuberance is called a callus, and the amount that is laid down in a normally healing fractured bone cortex varies. It can be seen on a radiograph as a deposit on the cortex over the fracture site.
  7. If you want to get technical: callus comes from periosteal and endosteal osteoblasts aiding osteoclasts in creeping substitution remodeling.
  8. When we see this callus on a post operative radiograph we know that healing is progressing normally. If it is not present, it could be that the bone needs more time, there is an infection, there is loss of blood supply to the cortex,  a bone plate has been put on improperly, or there is motion at the fracture site. Each one of these causes requires a different treatment to correct.
  9. When the bone does not heal properly it is called a non-union, a potentially serious consequence that might require amputation of the affected limb.
  10. A stainless steel pin, called an intramedullary (IM) pin will be used. Intramedullary means it will go right down the shaft of the bone.
  11. The wires we use to help stabilize the fracture are called cerclage wires
  12. The anesthetic breathing tube that goes down the trachea (windpipe) is called an endotracheal tube. It is abbreviated as ET (this is not the same ET as the movie!). This is safer for the bird and gives us more control of anesthesia.
  13. Even though it is not apparent from the surgery photos that follow, a special effort is made to prevent hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature) during the surgery by administering supplemental heat. We do this with warm internal fluids, warm water blankets, and additional heat in the form of warm water fluid bags around the bird. You cannot see them during the procedure because the drape covers them.

Brianna our anesthetist bringing our patient into our surgical suite on the day of surgery after its morning treatment of pain medication and internal fluids

We initiate anesthesia with a mask that supplies 100% oxygen and anesthetic gas

When our patient is relaxed we place the ET into the windpipe. In this photo Dr. P is opening the mouth and holding down the tongue with his right index finger to aid Brianna in placing the ET tube.

Proper placement of the tube is crucial, and it is easy to put in down the wrong pipe (the esophagus).  Dr. P is confirming the proper placement of the tube prior to connecting the anesthesia machine.

Our bird is now under complete anesthesia, and our team of Dr. Kennedy, Brianna, and Alex, is readying it for surgery

You can see the bruising to the area after the feathers have been removed and the skin has been prepped

After checking anesthesia and draping our patient, Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Wood begin the procedure, while Dr. P photographs and gives advice

The anesthetic level of our patient is constantly monitored during this long procedure. Our surgeons are careful not to lean on the bird because this can make respiration impossible, with obvious catastrophic consequences.

To get oriented, the shoulder is at the top of this picture, the elbow is at the bottom. The skin incision is made directly over the fracture site, taking care not to damage any nerves or blood vessels, as the muscles are gently dissected to get to the broken bone. What seems so apparent on a radiograph is not so apparent when you go in surgically, and there is blood, swelling, muscles, nerves, and tendons all around the bone. This also gives you an idea of how hard it can be to find the pellets.

The forceps is holding the proximal segment of the bone, that part that connects to the shoulder. After several minutes of careful dissection the fracture segments are exposed. Contraction of the strong muscles in this area has caused significant override of the bone ends. Aligning these ends takes time and gentle manipulation to get them back into normal position in order to be able to place the pin.

After picking the correct size, our surgeon slowly inserts a stainless steel IM pin in the proximal segment of the humerus

It is slowly advanced towards the shoulder with the help of an instrument called a pin chuck and lots of rotational movement. Bird bones are relatively fragile compared to mammals, and we need to be very careful not to fracture the cortex of the bone along the way. You cannot see the pin as it goes down the shaft, it is all done by feel. Picking the correct size pin is important because of these fragile bones. If the pin is too large it can cause another fracture, but if it is too small it does not give enough stability for healing

It comes out through the skin near the shoulder joint, but does not interfere with the shoulder movement

The pin chuck is taken off its original position on the pin, and repositioned so that the pin can now be pushed back distally to the fracture site

It is pushed just to the point where it is sticking out of the fractured end of the proximal bone segment

The distal segment of the humerus is lined up just over the pin, and the pin is slowly pushed forward into the the shaft of  this distal segment, aiding in alignment of the fractured ends. Getting proper alignment of the proximal and distal segments of the bone is one of the more delicate parts of the procedure, and takes two sets of hands. We need to go by feel again as we push it down to the most distal end of the humerus without going through that cortex. Measuring the IM pin length ahead of time helps.

The pin does not give enough stability by itself. Cerclage wires are needed to add proper stability, and in this fracture 3 were used. This is a large bird that puts tremendous pressure on this wing when it flies, and we need to make sure there is no movement at the fracture site during healing as the bird exercises its breast muscle to get strength back. If not, we might get a non-union and the wing might need to be amputated.

When our surgeons are convinced the IM pin is properly placed, and the cerclage wires are holding well, the muscles over the bone are sutured to bring them back into normal position, taking care not to injure any other structures like nerves. The skin is sutured closed with a non-reactive suture material that will be removed in 10-14 days. The drape has been removed for you to visualize the incision line.

A post operative X-ray is taken while our patient is still anesthetized

There are 2 things to note on this X-ray:

1. Lower Circle- The pin has been inserted down the shaft of the humerus as far as it can go without going through the cortex of the bone distally. The cortex of the bone is thin as can be seen on this radiograph, and if the pin is pushed too far distally iy can easily go through the cortex. This radiograph shows perfect placement by our surgeons

2. Upper Circle- The cortex of the bone under the cerclage wires shows good alignment 

The end of the pin at the shoulder is sticking out too far for normal wing movement, and now needs to be cut shorter. This is not done until the post-operative radiograph confirms the pin is seated properly in the distal cortex of the humerus. If not, it is adjusted now while the hawk is still under anesthesia. Enough pin needs to be left for the chuck to grasp the pin months later for removal.

The pin is made of very strong stainless steel, and it takes large bolt cutters to cut off the extra length

This is the proper length for this pin now that it has been cut, allowing for proper movement of the shoulder, and giving enough purchase for removal with the pin chuck months later

Bonewax is used to help protect the skin in the area from trauma due to the cut end rubbing under the wing. This can cause ulceration and infection, the last thing we want festering under this wing when it is bandaged.

It is molded over the cut end of the pin

The skin and feathers are dried before the bandage is applied. Moisture under the wing wrap can predispose the skin to a fungal infection 

A piece of sterile gauze is placed over the bone wax after the skin and feathers are completely dry

The post-operative bandage is now applied using gauze and vet wrap 

The final appearance of the bandage around the chest and wing. It needs to be tight enough to immobilize the humerus, but not so tight as to impede respiration. This is important in birds, since they do not have a diaphragm, and need to move their chest in and out more than mammals do. This was alluded to earlier when we talked about the surgeons not inadvertently leaning on their patient while they are concentrating on their surgery. 

Our hawk is now taken completely off anesthesia and given 100% oxygen as it awakens. It is wrapped in a towel and held this way until fully awake to prevent thrashing and damage to the fractured humerus. 

The skin incision is checked a few days later. This one is healing fine, so there is no need to change our post-operative protocol. The bandage was reapplied and the bird was prepared for release to our rehabilitators. 

This is just the beginning, because now this hawk needs rest, food, rehabilitation, and post-operative radiographs and exams over the next several months if we want this surgery to be a success.

It is time for this bird to go to the expert rehabilitators at South Bay Wildlife Rescue for long-term care and to build strength back into the wing while the bone is healing. If it wasn’t for the expertise and dedication of Ann Lynch and all of her volunteers who do so much behind-the-scenes work, it would not have been worth doing the surgery.

The handoff from Dr. Wood to Christina from South Bay

At first is was put into a special cage, and when the IM pin was removed later, it was put into a flight cage to start getting its wing and breast muscle strength back

The hawk adapted well to the flight cage, and was soon exercising its injured wing

An exam and  follow up radiograph one month later revealed good callus formation at the fracture site and intact cerclage wires. Also note that the tip of the pin has not moved very much, which means we picked the proper diameter pin to put into the medullary canal of this humerus. 

It was brought back to us one month later for radiographic and physical assessment on whether the pin should be removed. It was eating well and maintaining its weight, so we were hopeful for a release back into nature..

An exam and radiograph at this recheck said we were good-to-go for pin removal

The chuck was put on and the pin carefully removed

Our pin, feathers and all, after removal

We wish Dr. Wood would show a little more enthusiasm for her work!

The appearance of the humerus after the pin was removed. The cerclage wires are intact and the fracture site has healed with healthy cortical bone. 

An exam after pin removal confirmed the fractured humerus had healed properly

It was 2 months from the time the bird was presented to us on Oct 13th, 2018, until the pin was removed. After pin removal the hawk was kept in the flight cage under Ann and her teams close observation to determine when it could be released back into the wild. Even though the wing drooped, the hawk seemed to progress. Unfortunately, after several months, Ann determined that the bird was not strong enough to fly and hunt on its own successfully. She sent Dr. P an email saying she would keep it as a teaching bird.

A month later Ann changed her mind and said the bird is releasable. U.S.D.A. release protocol states to release the bird at least 150 miles away from where it was found if that was at an airport. Otherwise, unless a poisoning or shooting is involved, it is put back where it was found. Since this hawk was found at Long Beach airport we needed a new release location 150 miles away.

Based on prior experience it was determined that Lone Pine, CA along Highway 395 was a good location. There is a golf course there with lots of tree and cover for prey, and other birds had been released there successfully. Soon after determining it was releasable, Dr. P and his assistant Georgina Strange loaded up the bird at Ann’s house and drove right to Lone Pine and the golf course.

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The release location was ideal, with many trees for hiding and perching, lots of underbrush for prey, and mountains in the area for a varied vantage point

The release went well, and the hawk exploded out of the carrier when Dr. P opened it. After 7 months it was free!

 

It flew towards another red-tailed hawk that had a younger bird with it (you can see the younger bird on the right). After a brief interaction it flew off and we called it a day.

As you can see it is a major team effort for a successful release of a bird of prey back into the wild. A special thanks to Dr. Kennedy, Dr. Wood, Brianna, and Alex, for their expertise in anesthetizing and repairing this bird’s fracture. This thanks includes all the staff that took care of this bird before and after surgery. Kudos to everyone at Long Beach Animal Hospital and South Bay Wildlife Rescue!

Owl Eye Surgery

A great horned owl had a luxated lens, probably due to trauma. The lens was pushed forward from its usual position and is now residing in what is called the anterior chamber of the eye. In this abnormal position the lens can cause significant inflammation, making the eye painful, and necessitating removal of the eye (called an enucleation) due to this pain and inflammation, if it is not treated.

Removing the lens is not a routine surgery. It requires special expertise and equipment, and luckily for us Dr. Doug Esson at VOC (Veterinary Ophthalmic Consulting) volunteered to help us in this case. Yea for Dr. Esson!

The cloudy and circular area is the lens in the anterior chamber where it should not be

This is the other eye that is normal. You cannot see the lens at all because a normal lens is clear to let light into the retina. 

Before we treat this bird we take a radiograph to look for any internal problems

As part of our ophthalmic exam the pressure in each eye is checked with an instrument called a Tonopen. Here we are checking the good eye.

After several days of treatment and stabilization it is time for surgery. Ellie, our extern from Michigan State University, is performing a pre-operative exam just prior to surgery

As the bird is being anesthetized Dr. Esson gets his special instruments ready

After the owl is intubated and anesthetized, Dr. Esson positions it so that it is illuminated properly by his special light

He sets up his dissecting microscope and starts the procedure

This gives you an idea of how strong the illumination is as he gently puts on a retractor to keep the eyelids open

The retractors open up the surgical field for good visualization

During the procedure the cornea is constantly bathed in a special sterile solution

An incision is made where the cornea meets the white part of the eye called the sclera

You can see how tough the cornea is when another instrument is used to expand the opening

The opening in the cornea is now big enough to introduce the instruments needed to break up the lens and suction it out

The fluid in the eye will escape through the small incision made in the cornea, so a special solution is immediately injected to keep the globe intact and prevent collapse

The instrument that breaks up the cloudy and inflamed lens is called a phacoemulsifier

This is the phacoemulsifier in position to break up the lens into small pieces using sound waves. The lens pieces are then suctioned out.

A few seconds of the phacoemulsifier in action

When every piece of lens has been removed a very fine suture (called 8-0), which is the diameter of a human hair, is used to suture the incision in the cornea. This suture is so fine that the microscope is needed to see it, and special forceps (along with special hand-eye coordination) are needed to place the sutures properly.

Can you see the sutures?

The red circle might help visualize the sutures. They are not removed, and will slowly dissolve on their own.

Local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication are injected into the conjunctiva for post-operative comfort and healing

Ellie is watching from behind, Dr. Wood is looking through the teaching dissecting microscope, and the camera that brought you all of these pictures is on the tripod on the right with a special lens

Our surgical team of Ellie, Dr. P, and Dr. Wood as the owl is waking up from anesthesia

When fully awake the chauffeur is called and away goes the owl and surgical team back to Long Beach Animal Hospital for immediate post operative care

Back at the hospital eye drops to control inflammation and pain are put in frequently

Our friend was alert and feeling better the next day

The day after surgery the eye looks great and there is much less pain from inflammation. It is time to go to our rehabbers at South Bay Wildlife Rescue

A Duck with Personality

This duck was brought to us with a bum wing that was hanging limply at its side. It had a great personality, so we took a radiograph to determine the extent of the problem.

Duck Rad

The humerus (upper arm bone) has an old and severe fracture. This wing is painful and non-functional.

 This fracture is not surgically repairable, and we knew we had to amputate the painful wing.  This duck could not survive in the wild with only one wing. This duck had a great personality, and we were able to find someone that would care for her since she could note be released back into the wild. We treated her with pain medication and supportive care for a few days to get her stronger in anticipation of surgery. The duck adapted to us quite well, and loved the 3 full meals (and Netflix movies) it received each day.

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At first she did not eat well

She soon adapted to us and we had to stay on our toes to keep up with her appetite

On her surgery day she was given a pre-operative exam to make sure she was ready for the anesthesia and surgery. She passed with flying colors and was brought into the surgical suite.

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Like we said, she was a duck with personality, and made herself right at home in our surgery suite

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The heart and lungs are important organs to check in regards to anesthesia. She seemed to know we were helping her, and sat still for her exam.

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We gave her a sedative just prior to her surgery. She remained calm the whole time, completely trusting us. 

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We wrapped her in a towel and let her relax as the sedative calmed her down

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While our duck was being prepared our surgeons were getting ready for surgery

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We started the anesthesia with a mask that gives 100% oxygen in addition to the initial gas anesthesia that relaxes her

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Once our patient was relaxed we intubated her for greater control of anesthesia

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Now the fun part of plucking (we don’t clip bird feathers) all those feathers begins!

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The downy undercoat feathers would be floating around the room if we did not have our powerful vacuum sucking them up immediately. Once the feathers are plucked the skin is rapidly cleansed with a special surgical antiseptic. 

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While Dr. P is draping, his assistant is getting the surgical instruments ready

We used our carbon dioxide laser for this surgery. Amputations can be bloody, since we are going through muscles and many blood vessels. We are even going through the brachial artery, a large artery that supplies the wing. The laser dramatically reduces bleeding, which is advantageous because this reduces surgery time. For the patient, there is substantially less pain, swelling, and inflammation after surgery. Its the only way to go for a surgery like this.

Laser-Unit

The laser has many settings to customize it to the exact surgery we are performing

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Dr. P has been using the laser for over 20 years, and rapidly makes an incision in the skin and down through the muscles

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The cut muscle is the white tissue between the clamps. Notice the lack of bleeding at the muscles.

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Dr. P gave his assistant surgeon, our extern Michelle Greenberg, an opportunity to experience the laser. She is a lefty, so he had to think backwards (kinda like DaVinci) when he guided her on where to apply the laser.

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The procedure went as expected, and our friend woke up with much less pain. She is a foodie, and hopefully we have enough food to keep her happy until she goes to her new home!

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Her morning weigh post surgery showed she is maintaining her weight

She is still lame on her left leg, and does not bear complete weight on it, or walk for very far with her weight on it. We have her on a pain and anti-inflammatory medication to help. We also do rehab with her twice each day.

She seems to enjoy her passive range of motion exercises with her sore left leg

After  rehab we take her outside in the sun and let her do her duck thing. The buoyancy of the water helps with her leg problem. For some funny reason we get the impression she enjoys this.

All too soon a volunteer came to take her to her new home

Peregrine Falcon with a broken wing

Not all fractures are as severe as the duck, and can be treated with a splint. This Peregrine Falcon was brought to us with a wing injury, as noted by its inability to fly and drooping wing. After a thorough physical exam a radiograph was taken.

The radiograph of this falcon revealed a transverse fracture of the proximal radius (circled in red)

We splinted the wing and will be sending it to South Bay Wildlife Rehab for care. It will return periodically for exams and radiographs to assess the healing, and hopefully will be released back into the wild. 

Barn Owl Hanging by its Wing

Long Beach Animal Control received a call about a bird hanging from a bridge in Long Beach. When the officer got there she saw an owl hanging by its wing.

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There was fishing line around the wing

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She called the Long Beach Lifeguards for assistance. They brought equipment to remove the owl.

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The owl was successfully removed without injuring it any further

It was brought right to our hospital for medical care. The first thing we do after our rapid and immediate physical exam (after removing the fishing line around the wing) is to warm the owl up, give it warm fluids for shock, and let it rest from its ordeal. It was given several medications to help it heal faster and minimize the pain in its wing.

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The only problem we found on our exam was an injured right wing

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When it was stronger we took a radiograph. Fortunately, it did not have any fractures.

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A special bandage was applied to let the wing heal

We kept the owl for several days to make sure it was healing well and eating on its own. Once we were sure it was on the right track we transferred it to South Bay Wildlife Rehab.

We have been working with them for many years, and they are an invaluable part of our work. Without their dedication, experience, and knowledge, we would not be as successful as we are in our Wildlife Program.

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They specialize in birds, including birds of prey, like this Barn Owl

After resting, healing, rehab of the wing, and eating lots of meesers (mice), and a recheck exam by Dr. P and Dr. W, the owl was ready to be released. We gathered everyone involved for a final farewell to our friend, and released it back in the area where it was found.

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These are the main players in this owl’s recovery. From left to right:

Christine from South Bay Wildlife

Dr. Wood from Long Beach Animal Hospital

Vyktoria from Long Beach Animal Control

When the time was right, and Dr. P had the camera’s rolling, it was released. It was obvious from the beginning that the wing was 100% healed when it flew off into a palm tree 100 yards away from where it was hanging from the bridge when found.

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A slow motion video of the owl’s release

Our team telling of their experience

Sparrow Caught in a Glue Trap

A sparrow made a landing at the wrong airport and got stuck in a glue trap. This is a very serious condition that frequently results in death due to exhaustion and shock.

After he was stabilized and warmed up, we gently removed him from the trap with Eaze Off and mineral oil. Then we gave him his first washing and let him rest. We need to remove all the glue from his feathers, and then let him preen, to bring his feathers back to normal function and repellency.


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Our little friend stuck fast

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It took several minutes of gently applying the mineral oil directly where it was stuck

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We used a tongue depressor to very, very gently extricate him

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We checked his wings carefully for any damage to the bones, tendons, or ligaments

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 Off to a bath with warm water and dilute Dawn detergent. We need to get all of the adhesive off for him to return to normal function. This might take several washings.

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We kept him cozy warm after his bath
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A check of the wings after the bath showed most of the glue gone, with some minor irritation under the wing

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Enough for one day, we will wash him again soon after he rests

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Another day with us to preen his feathers to return their water repellency, and he should be good to go. He gave us a big thanks, and said he would bring donuts next week next time he flies by.

Egyptian Goose Fracture Repair

This cute guy was presented to us by a good samaritan. The goose was unable to walk at all. After a thorough exam, assessment of why it could not walk, and therapy for shock and dehydration, we radiographed the rear legs.

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It was another friendly goose that adapted to us well

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 Brenda, wearing her protective apron, is getting ready to bring the goose into x-ray

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You can readily see the fractured metatarsal bone. It turns out both rear legs had this same fracture.

It was decided that surgical repair using an IM (intramedullary) pin was necessary to fix both legs. These pins are made of stainless steel, and are not reactive. Sometimes we keep them in after the bone has healed, sometimes we remove them.

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We have a supply of various size pins to customize the repair to the right size of the bone marrow cavity

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We use a special instrument that allows precise placement of the pin

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The pin will stay in for several months, and is placed in such a way that removal is easy

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Once the fracture is repaired, and the skin is sutured, our technician Lisa applies special bandages

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The bandages aid in healing, prevent further trauma, and make the bird more comfortable. We change them often to assess the surgery site.

We routinely have senior veterinary students observe in surgery. You can learn more about them from our web site, and especially our Facebook page, where they post a daily diary of what they learned for the day.


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They get to come right into surgery, and oftentimes get to scrub in and help

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Our patient waking up from surgery, already able to bear some weight

Banded Peregrine Falcon

Downtown Long Beach has many pigeons, just like many cities. This means there are Peregrine Falcons, living on the ledges of the high rise buildings, also. We see them frequently, usually due to some trauma. 

Someone brought us a weak one that was banded

We contacted the place where it was banded and went about diagnosing and treating the weakness

A lateral radiograph revealed prior injuries. There is a pellet in the chest and a BB in the right femur.


This is a VD (venture-dorsal) radiograph

It was determined that the pellet in the chest was not causing any trouble. The BB in the leg was inside the marrow cavity of the femur, so it was left alone. Taking it out might cause more harm than good.

The falcon was standing on the leg well and had adequate talon strength, so it was stabilized and sent to a falcon rehabilitator for long term care before release.

Owl with an eye problem

Owl with blood in eye. Technically, this is called hyphema, which is blood in the anterior chamber. The cornea and lens were ok, and this owl was treated with topical eye medication and supportive care until it healed and was released.

That red area at the bottom of the eye is the hyphema

Squirrel with fracture

One brightly colored green splint and he would be OK

Some birds are so young and tiny it is hard to determine what they are. We fix em up anyway!

Butterfly with a bum wing

Sometimes people bring us injured wildlife that even amazes Dr. P! Someone brought in this butterfly that was unable to fly.

You can see the tear at the edge of the right wing

It was quite large and made it impossible to fly

A few drops of our special tissue glue from surgery and things look better

A quick fill up of the tank with high octane jet fuel

Then a test flight to make sure the rudders and ailerons are working

And this little one is good to go

Peregrine Falcon Wing Injury

A Peregrine Falcon from downtown Long Beach was brought to us because it could not fly. The fact that someone could catch such a flighty bird indicates it could be severely injured.

Dr. R is performing an exam upon admission while Jessica is gently holding it

We took a radiograph to look for fractures or internal injuries. You can see the tremendous detail we get from our digital radiography (click on the photo for a larger view).

Once we determined there was no fracture we bandaged the bruised wing

A closeup of our friend before we said good bye

Hawk Fracture

This red tailed hawk had a traumatic fracture of its radius and ulna. It was repaired with an intramedullay pin and sent to a rehabilitator for 30 days. The pin was removed and the hawk went back to the rehabilitator to strengthen the wing and flight muscles in the hope of releasing it.

Nature cooperated on this one and we were able to release it in Long Beach near where it was found

Pelican Esophagus Laceration

A good samaritan found this weakened pelican in Long Beach.

It had a serious and chronic laceration of the neck that penetrated the esophagus.

When suturing we have to carefully dissect the esophagus away from the skin or the esophagus will never heal. We also have to remove the dead tissue at the edges of the esophagus for healing to progress. We use a special suture material that is strong, causes minimal chance of scarring the extremely sensitive esophagus, and will eventually dissolve on its own. We doubt this pelican will keep its suture removal appointment!

In a chronic wound of this nature the healing process causes the lacerated esophagus (E) to fuse with the skin (S). This laceration is so large you can see the backside of the esophagus in the center of the picture

We infused the area with local anesthetic and carefully repaired the laceration. The bleeding is a good sign, and tells us there is adequate blood flow to allow healing.

After a few days of rest,  and lots of grueled mackerel, our friend was strong enough to be released. We took him to Marine Stadium in the late afternoon.

Our kennel assistant Ian was instrumental in this pelican’s treatment, so he got the honors

The pelican did what any self respecting pelican did and flew the coop (actually, cage in this case)

Next stop was a quick dip, then off to pelican land to spend the night with his buddies

Oil Soaked Duckling

This little duckling came to us severely oil soaked. This is a dangerous situation that commonly leads to death. Death is a result of hypothermia, ingestion of toxic oil, and the loss of water repellency by the feathers. Do not try to remove the oil at home because professional care is necessary if they are to have any chance for survival.

This little guy was completely coated in oil. He had quite the personality, so we nicknamed him Yacky.

The washing process is carefully orchestrated to minimize stress during this critical stage. Many washings are needed to eventually remove all of the oil.

Yacky is one of the lucky ones because the people that found him brought him in immediately. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Red Tailed Hawk Criminal Case

An immature red tailed hawk was brought to our wildlife program by the Department of Fish and Game. It was confiscated from people that were inexperienced in dealing with this type of bird and were caring for it poorly. This is in violation of California law.

Fish and Game will be prosecuting the people that performed this senseless act, so all of our effort is carefully documented and the chain of evidence is maintained

The left eye is non-functional

The normal right eye as a comparison

X-rays revealed a BB in the eye. It is unknown to the Fish and Game officers who shot the bird so maliciously.

In addition to the serious eye injury, this bird had two additional problems, both due to inadequate care. The people that were caring for this bird were not experienced at handling a hawk, and added to this bird’s woes.

The first additional problem was the infection it had on the bottom of its foot

Its feathers were also damaged. This will take a long time to repair itself because of the manner in which birds molt.

One of the precautions we took while the hawk was hospitalized is to protect the tail feathers, an area that is easily injured in captivity. This apparatus is called a tail card. It is made up of used x-ray film, making it both light and strong.

The hawk and x-rays were sent to one of our colleagues that specializes in eye injuries. He decided that the eye was stable and that any intervention would not help, and may even make the problem worse. After we corrected the dietary deficiencies the bird was released to a licensed rehabilitator. He will utilize his extensive experience and try to teach this bird to hunt with only one functional eye. We will keep you posted as to the outcome of the hawk and people that caused this problem.

It turns out that the people that brought the hawk to Fish and Game were the ones that shot it, and they were prosecuted.

Albatross Leg Fracture

An albatross with a fractured shin bone (called the tibiotarsal bone in a bird) was found at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and brought to our clinic for care.

They are beautiful birds with a large beak and wingspan

Upon initial examination we realized this bird had a serious problem. Survery radiographs revealed a fracture (arrow) of the tibiotarsal bone.

Closer inspection of this radiograph revealed several bone fragments. This is a serious injury that requires surgical correction. An albatross needs to run a long distance before it is able to get off the ground, so any repair of this fracture must be performed with great care.

One of our board certified surgeons, Paul Cechner, is gearing up for this complicated procedure

Undertaking a repair of this nature is a team effort. Heather and Melinda, our current externs, are monitoring anesthesia and assisting our surgeon with any of his needs.

Wild birds are highly stressed when in captivity. In addition, any wild bird with a serious fracture that undergoes anesthesia is a high risk patient. Several precautions are taken during the anesthetic procedure.

In this picture you can see the tube that is placed in its windpipe (trachea). This allows us to administer 100% oxygen and give the anesthetic in very refined quantities. It also allows us to ventilate the lungs with oxygen if respirations become depressed.

The heart rate and oxygen saturation of the red blood cells are measured continuously during the surgery with an instrument called a Pulse Oximeter. It gives us an early warning indication of any problems.

This picture shows a hemoglobin saturation of 93%, a heart rate of 167 beats per minute. and 4 bars for pulse strength. These numbers are well within the normal range.

All birds that undergo anesthesia are in serious jeopardy of hypothermia. In this picture you can see the 3 strategically placed hot water bottles (arrows). In addition to these bottles, all birds that are put under anesthesia are placed on a warm water blanket.

Careful preparation of the surgical site is necessary to prevent any bone infection, a serious complication that could easily prevent healing. All the feathers around the area must be carefully plucked and the skin cleansed meticulously. We pluck the feathers instead of clip them so that they will grow back faster.

These birds have large muscles in relation to their bones. Our surgeon is carefully dissecting the bruised muscle in order to get to the fracture site. Repairing the fracture is of no use if the surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves are damaged.

It takes two pair of hands, teamwork, experience, and specialized instruments to get the bone fragments lined up correctly

You can visualize some of the cerclage wires that are wrapped around the bone fragments to hold them in place. The black arrow points to a nerve that runs downward from the tip of our surgeon’s finger. Preservation of this nerve is critical.

Once the fracture segements are in place with the cerclage wires, a pin (called an intramedullary pin) is placed down the shaft of the bone. In this picture our surgeon is holding the bone with clamps while his assistant is inserting the pin from the right side of the picture towards the left.

Even though there are wires around the bone and a pin down the center, the fracture is still not stable enough. Four pins are placed on the outside of the bone to prevent the bone fragments from rotating.

The four external pins are connected by a special acrylic. It has to be mixed to just the right consistency.

The four pins (the 2 left most pins are visualized in this picture by the arrows) are connected with a hollow tube. The acrylic is squeezed into the tube and allowed to harden. This keeps the four external pins rigidly in place, and prevents the fracture site from rotating.

The external pins are covered with a bandage to prevent them from snagging and to minimize trauma

The post operative radiograph gives good visualization of how the fractured bone was repaired. On the left you can see the tube that is filled with acrylic and the four pins that are attached to the acrylic tube externally. On the right you can see the fractured tibiotarsal bone with the four cerclage wires and the intramedullary pin down the center of the bone.

To prevent thrashing when awakening from anesthesia the albatross is gently wrapped in a snug towel. It is kept in a warm room until it is fully awake to prevent loss of excess body heat.

The day after surgery our friend is awake and alert. She is kept in a confined cage initially to prevent her from trying to fly or even use the leg.

She will need several months of postoperative care before she is fully healed. Her intramedullary pin and her external pins with attached acrylic will all need to be remove if the bone heals. The cerclage wires on the inside will stay with her for the rest of her life.

At this point we will be working with AWRE for her long term care. Come back to this site periodically to check for updates as to her condition. Our ultimate goal is to release her back to the wild (and to find enough food to feed her!). Donations of squid, mackerel and smelt are always welcome because she needs lots of calories if she has any chance of healing. Click on the AWRE address below to learn more about this albatross.

Heron Esophagus Laceration

A good samaritan found a weak heron and brought it to us for assessment. We saw a wound on the side of its neck.

This is the wound on the side of the neck on initial presentation

Once it was stabilized we assessed the neck wound, which was more severe than originally appeared. It has a severe laceration to its esophagus, a potentially life-threatening situation.

The esophagus required extensive surgery due to the chronicity of the problem and the sensitive nature of the esophagus

Eventually we put all the pieces back where they belonged

Now the process of building up its strength and making sure it can use the esophagus began. After several days he continued to do well and was ready for release.

The heron was taken to an area on Long Beach near to where it was found. Dave Thraen and Dr. Petersen had the honors of releasing it since they did most of the work.

It didn’t take him long to find a nice tree to hide in

Archimedes

This is Archimedes, a sawhet owl that died in July, 2000 who was the mascot for AWRE. You can learn more about him by going to the AWRE web site. The address is: http://www.awre.org The Long Beach Animal Hospital supports the non profit AWRE, and provides medical and surgical services for this worthy organization.