Toe Trouble!

Here is another case that illustrates the incredible healing powers of our avian patients. 001


A female peregrine falcon presented to the clinic last month with, as you can see, an incredibly swollen toe after sustaining an injury whilst fee lofted in her moulting aviary. We still have no idea how this injury occurred in this otherwise immaculate falcon and we can only postulate that she either damaged it on the coated mesh on the roof of the aviary or a fibrous food item (e.g. tendon) became wrapped round whilst feeding, which subsequently tightened up and cut into the toe. Whatever the cause however, the healing scab was now contracting down and apparently cutting off the circulation to the digit. Losing this extremely important toe would almost certainly end her career as a game hawk so we admitted her immediately to see what we could do.003

004Surgical investigation of the toe showed the band had cut right down to bone, slicing into, but thankfully not as yet completely severing the tendons controlling the end of the toe / talon.  With the constricting band removed the swelling almost immediately started to reduce but at this point we were still unsure as to how much damage had been done to bone, tendon and blood supply. All we could do was to clean and flush the area, dress it with materials to try and encourage new tissue growth and support the injured tendons. She was placed on covering antibiotics, pain killer/anti-inflammatories, and medication to try and increase blood supply to the area. We kept her hospitalized to minimize movement / trauma to the area and to be fair she was a model patient. 48 hours later, with bated breath, we removed the dressing not really knowing what we were going to find.005

006Amazingly the swelling had already come down significantly, the end of the toe was warm with good circulation and she was busy ‘building’ new tissue to fill the gap!

A quote from my mentor and boss at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, Prof. Pat Redig  that has always stuck with me is that “dealing with injuries and disease in birds is way more like gardening than woodwork” in which, as with everything else, he was spot on. What I have come to realize he meant was that healing tissues respond best  to gentle nurturing by appropriate  ‘feeding’, ‘weeding’ (debriding areas of infection / necrosis) ‘watering’ (gentle flushing) and support and really don’t like being yanked around and put under tension. 007

Experience has shown that trying to pull and stitch such wounds together in most cases results in them breaking down, whereas gentle cleaning with the application of dressings designed to keep healing tissue protected and moist, gives the patient the best chance to exercise their incredible powers of healing.

As such the toe was dressed regularly over the next month and we were delighted that, as well as the skin deficit healing completely, the tendons were obviously still in good working order with the owner reporting she is now weight bearing and gripping the glove/food as normal.  She will need a couple more months of rest and physiotherapy which will conveniently take us right up to the start of the falconry season in August when, we are in no doubt, she will be once again, fully fit and ready for action!!

Toe Trouble!
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