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Musculoskeletal Disorders of Ratites

By Thomas N. Tully, Jr., BS, DVM, MS, DABVP (Avian), DECZM (Avian), Professor Zoological Medicine, Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine

Exertional myopathy results from capture, transport, attack by predators, or fighting; it can occur in birds of all ages. Borderline nutritional deficiencies may exacerbate stress-related myopathy. Clinically, birds are often unable to stand but are otherwise bright, alert, and responsive. Fluid therapy to correct metabolic acidosis and to effect diuresis, combined with anti-inflammatory and antibiotic therapy to prevent clostridial disease, are indicated. Administration of vitamin E at 5 mg/kg, with or without selenium at 0.06 mg/kg, is recommended. If nutritional deficiencies are expected, correcting the diet by adding oral vitamin E to the diet or drinking water is indicated.

Various treatments, including slinging the bird to exercise the legs and swimming, have been tried for myositis secondary to overexertion or trauma. However, handling the bird in this manner is very stressful; it is preferable to allow the bird to sit until it can stand on its own, which may take up to 90 days. The prognosis remains guarded, even if the bird is alert and has a good appetite.