UT-VMC emergency room tails:Popcorn

UTVMC ER TAILSBy Dr. Amanda Rainey

One Monday evening not too long ago we received a call that a gentleman was bringing in his Cockatoo, which had been attacked by two dogs.  It still amazes me how much damage animals can do to each other, and dog attacks are some of the most brutal wounds you can imagine.  I was very concerned for the welfare of this bird, as its much smaller size than most dogs would not give it very good odds as the victim of violence.

Popcorn arrived about 30 minutes later, and the fourth year student on emergency went up immediately to bring him back to the exotics ward.  Popcorn was wrapped in an old shirt of the owner’s, and we gently removed him from the clothing to place him in our heated oxygen cage.  He could barely stand after the trauma he had endured, and his eyes were tiny slits as he squinted at us from the inside of the cage.  I noted that his white feathers were quite disheveled and bloodstains were present in various areas.  It is our policy not to handle pet birds of any kind without the assistance of our exotics clinicians, as just the stress of manipulating a bird can be enough to cause serious health consequences.   I obtained a quick respiratory rate while watching Popcorn and then phoned the exotics clinician on call, who would soon join us to help examine and treat Popcorn.

In the meantime, I went to speak with Popcorn’s owner about what had happened.  Popcorn and his owner were currently staying with friends, as their home had recently burned.  The group had left to get some supper, and upon their departure tucked Popcorn safely away in his cage before heading out.  Somehow Popcorn must have opened the cage, which he had reportedly done several times before, and when they returned home the two dogs that lived in the household had him cornered.  There was blood and feather debris all over the floor and after quickly calling us the owner scooped up Popcorn and brought him in.

Our exotics clinician soon arrived, and together we examined Popcorn.  He seemed like he was in shock from the trauma, as he did not protest to being picked up and handled.  Luckily for him, the only wounds we could find externally were along both his wings, where the dogs had somehow damaged and removed several blood feathers. These feathers were fortunately completely removed otherwise he might have bled to death due to their rich blood supply and tendency to ooze excessively when broken.  The possibility of internal injuries still existed, however with his fragile state attempting radiographs would be too risky, as birds need to be anesthetized in order to take proper radiographs.  We administered some pain medications along with antibiotics into the muscle along his keel, and provided subcutaneous fluids into the loose skin near his legs.  Popcorn was then placed back into the warmed oxygen cage to be monitored overnight.

Popcorn persevered through the evening and into the next day and slowly began moving about his cage and munching on the various food items we had placed there for him.  He needed a few days of supportive care, but was able to go home without lasting damage, much to his owner’s relief.  He left much differently than he arrived, talking up a storm and bobbing about his travel cage, which made us all smile.

(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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