By Sam Vaughn, DVM, Dip., ABVP—Avian Practice
We are having problems rearing a new baby that is a rare species. Our Bali mynah pair has never raised offspring before, and this is our first baby after five years of the pair being set up to breed. The pair went into the nest box and threw out all of the shavings that we supplied as nesting material. They laid two eggs and hatched one baby. The baby has a crooked right leg, which is also turned over so that the baby is placing weight on the top surface of the foot rather than the bottom. The baby is now 8 weeks old and also has cataracts in both eyes. While we are very despondent over the chances of saving this baby, we hope we can learn something to help prevent these problems in the future.
Mynahs are passerines in form, that is, they have three toes pointed forward and one pointed to the rear when their feet are properly placed on a perch. I would immediately fashion a "surfboard" splint to correct both the toe deformity and the angular limb deformity. This splint was created by Dr. Brian Speer in California, thus the name surfboard. I usually make these out of tongue depressors, sometimes two taped together to provide strength and the proper width for alignment of the toes.
The splint needs to be wide enough for the toes to properly perch, in this instance, three toes forward and one back. The last joint of the toes should just fold over the edges of the splint. Once you have measured this width, then you can tape the two pieces together with a nonstick tape like VetWrap. I like to use four or five layers to provide gentle cushioning for the toes. Then, each foot is placed on the surfboard in this manner, and the toes are taped to the board with the VetWrap. Be certain not to use adhesive tape for this, because the skin of the toes will peel off when you remove the tape.
Place each foot at a normal distance apart, in the correct position, and tape them firmly in place. This should not only correct the foot deformity, but also the angular limb deformity. The baby must bear weight on this device so that, as the bones continue growing, they grow in the correct position (correcting the angular limb deformity). These bandages need to be removed and changed every day. Bits and pieces of nest material and feces can become lodged in the bandage and can create infections and abrasions.
Hopefully, you can restore some nesting material to the box, providing a little "nest" into which the baby can be tucked in just the right position to force it to place some weight on the surfboard. Parents will usually feed a baby wearing this contraption, but make sure to take body-weight measurements twice daily to ensure the baby is being fed and, thus, growing acceptably. Many times with youngsters that are young enough, these deformities will correct in three or four days. Others may take five or six weeks to correct.
The cataracts are more of a dilemma. There are several possible causes, including hereditary, nutritional/metabolic and disease. Nutritional and/or metabolic cataracts can be induced by many problems — I would suggest an evaluation of the diet for calcium/phosporous ratio.
The chances of this baby becoming a productive member of a breeding program are very slim with this visual deficit. Many of the cues for feeding, breeding and courtship are dependent upon visual stimuli and are a necessity for reproductive habits.
There is the chance that if the limb deformities can be corrected, that the cataracts could be removed by an opthalmologist at a later date. However, I would still hesitate to add this bird's genes to the gene pool.
Good luck with this precious baby, andI hope that the parents go back to nest soon!
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Sam Vaughn, DVM, Dip., ABVP-Avian Practice is an avian specialist based in Louisville, Kentucky. Certified in Avian Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Dr. Vaughn owns Avian Medical Services Inc. (an avicultural service and consultation practice) and is a partner in Veterinary Associates Stonefield, a full-service avian/exotic and small animal practice. Dr. Vaughn holds degrees in biology, chemistry and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Auburn University. Feel free to visit his web site at http://www.vetcity.com. Telephone consultations by appointment are available by calling (502) 245-7863.