A broken leg, also known as a leg fracture, is very painful for ducks, and should be considered an emergency. Affected ducks are usually very lame, reluctant to walk, or simply can't walk. The surrounding area of skin may be swollen and discolored.
Types of Bone Fractures
There are several different ways a bone can break--some are more serious than others, depending on it's location, how it broke, and whether any of the surrounding tissue is damaged. Four of the most common types of fractures seen in ducks include:
- Comminuted fractures: Occurs when a bone has broken (shattered) into several pieces.
- Displaced fractures: Occurs when two parts of the broken bone have moved apart (misaligned).
- Open or compound fractures: Occurs as a complicated break, where the bone has broken through the skin, or the initial injury has exposed the broken bone.
- Undisplaced or hairline fractures: Occurs when a fracture through the bone with little damage to the surrounding tissue.
What to do
If you suspect your duck may have broken a leg, you should call and make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Try to minimize movement of the injured leg, and cover any open wounds with a sterile dressing clean cloth, or clear item of clothing; maintain direct pressure on the wound if it keeps bleeding.
Your veterinarian will likely take radiographs (xrays) of your duck's leg. These are needed to see the extent of the fracture. Their recommendations for treatment largely depend on the type and severity of the fracture. If the bones are severely misaligned, your vet may refer you to an avian specialist for orthopedic surgery. A surgeon will need to realign and fix your duck's broken bones, using metal wires, plates, screws or rods. Sometimes an external frame (external fixator) is attached to the broken bones with metal pins to help keep them in place. This is removed once the fracture has healed. Following the surgery, your duck's leg will be specially bandaged to help protect the leg while it heals.
Follow up Progress Appointments
Your duck's broken leg may take 3 to 6 weeks to fully heal, depending on the severity of the fracture, method used to mobilize it during healing, and whether there were any complicating factors. The only for your vet to monitor how your duck's fracture is healing, is by taking X-rays. Usually the first progress X-ray is taken two weeks into recovery.