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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24467
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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I have an Indian Runner drake who broke his leg a month ago.

Customer Question

I have an Indian Runner drake who broke his leg a month ago. We have no avian vets here but I was able to find a vet who x-rayed him and put a splint/bandage on his leg. The break was just in one spot in the upper part of his leg, but it was pretty bad -- there was a gap and several loose bone chips; the vet was not very encouraging, but because I'd read online that bird bones heal much faster and he's a young healthy duck, I wanted to give him a chance.
He is now putting weight on that leg and able to move pretty quickly (although I have him confined in a small area so it's hard to tell just how well he can really run) but he still sometimes puts that leg out to the side or behind a bit. However, I'm not sure if that might be at least partly because of the splint.
Since the vet really didn't know anything about treating birds, I believe the information that she gave me -- that he would have to be confined for several months and that we'd need to do another x-ray at 6-8 weeks to see if the bone was healing -- is incorrect. What I read on a poultry forum is that a broken leg will normally set in 2 to 3 weeks, so that's a huge difference.
So I'm trying to find some more official source to confirm what the recommended time is for splinting a duck's broken leg. My gut feeling is that I probably need to take the splint off now (it's been 31 days) so he can start to rebuild the muscle in his leg, and that part of his awkwardness really is because of the splint getting in his way, but because the break was so bad I don't want to take it off too soon either.
Also, I don't want to ask the vet to x-ray him again, partly because of the cost but primarily because now that my duck is feeling more like himself he's very feisty (he doesn't like to be picked up) and I think it would be difficult to restrain him and get a decent x-ray. In any case, I've tried calling the vet to talk to her about it, and she never called me back. :(
Any information would be much appreciated.
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. We don't have many avian vets on this site. I understand your financial constraints but there's no manner in which I can assess how well a fracture is healing and, thus, how long a splint/bandage needs to be used without re-X-raying that leg. While it's true that the rapid metabolism of birds allows for rapid healing, the completeness of healing of a fracture site will be predicated upon the severity of the fracture - comminuted versus a simple transverse fracture, how displaced the fragments are, and compound or not/the presence of infection or not. His bearing weight on that leg, however, is a positive prognostic sign. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thanks, ***** ***** doesn't actually help since those points are essentially the things that I already knew. What I was looking for was a confirmation of the average time frame for fractures to heal in ducks (or birds in general) -- i.e., 'usually it takes from xx to xx number of days, but if it's a complex fracture it may take up to xx days,' and to know whether or not the person on the forum who gave the two to three weeks figure as an average was correct.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 8 months ago.
I would expect a simple non-displaced fracture to heal sufficiently within 4-5 weeks. A complex fracture healing time is much more difficult to predict as it would be predicated upon just how complex it is. Two to three weeks is overly optimistic even for a simple displaced fracture. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

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