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Uploaded:2019-11-14
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Zeema the keel-billed toucan has had a rough first year and know she faces surgery to fix her leg which should never have been broken in the first place.

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Hello everyone! We’re here at Animal Wonders with Zeema the keel-billed toucan.

I’m Jessi, and I’m one of Zeema’s primary caretakers. Zeema just had surgery on her leg yesterday, and I wanted to let you know why she needed it and how it went. [CHEERY INTRO MUSIC]. Zeema came to Animal Wonders about a year ago, at the end of October 2018.

She was in really poor shape and living in a home that didn’t want to keep her. You can see how rough she looked from these photos of a year ago. She was still a baby, but she looks so shabby because her wing feathers had been chopped off and she had a respiratory infection.

She also had a sore on the back of her left leg that was not just a sore. Her leg was actually completely broken, and the end of one of the pieces had gone through the skin on her leg. Due to her overall poor health, especially the respiratory infection, we couldn’t surgically fix her leg at that time.

She had to be stronger in order to survive anesthesia and the stress of the whole ordeal. See, birds are really sensitive to stress, and a respiratory infection can be life threatening. So we focused on giving Zeema the best care we could while supporting the limitations that her broken leg and being unable to fly left her with.

Over the months, she grew stronger and learned how to hop from perch to perch. She had many rounds of antibiotics to clear her respiratory infection that just kept coming back. Eventually Zeema grew into her flight feathers enough to be able to take her first flights at nearly a year old.

She’s even better at flying now and she loves to test her wings. Unfortunately, as she started getting more and more active with her flying, she was using her leg for more strenuous things, like sticking the landings of longer flights. A few weeks ago, we noticed Zeema was sitting still for more than a few minutes.

This is really unlike her, so we immediately knew something was up. She was holding her left leg up and didn’t want to put any weight on it. A quick exam by our vet gave us some answers.

Her leg was stable, but her ankle joint was swollen, meaning she had sprained it. So she went on some pain and inflammation-reducing medication, and we gave her a week. She showed some improvement but not enough, so we got her in for some x-rays and found the problem.

Zeema’s leg was broken so severely that the angle of the break makes it look like her ankle joint. But in this x-ray, her leg is pulled as straight as it gets. Her joint is down here and the break is up here in her tibiotarsus.

That would be like breaking our shin bone and having it heal at an angle. You can even see the part of the bone that poked through her skin back here. What’s most concerning in the x-ray is all of the inflammation and arthritis that’s formed around the ankle joint.

At just a year old, we shouldn’t see any arthritis yet. So, Zeema needed surgery after all. Luckily, this crisis all came at the perfect time.

Zeema had been off antibiotics for two months and was in great health to undergo such an invasive procedure. And that brings us to today. Zeema’s surgery with our vet, Dr.

Shoni Card, went smoothly and she’s now in recovery. One thing that Dr. Card noticed when she opened up Zeema’s leg was a bit of what looked like an infection.

She thinks that Zeema had an infection in her leg from the initial break, and the antibiotics she received for the last year hadn’t cleared it completely. Which explains why she kept having recurring respiratory infections. It wasn’t actually in her respiratory system.

It was stemming from inside her leg. She now has an antibiotic bead in her leg that will release medication over time, and since it’s right on the site, it will do a better job of knocking out the infection. She also has this large bandage on her leg because they had to do full reconstructive surgery on the broken bone.

Dr. Card put a pin inside her tibiotarsus bone and five external pins to hold it in place: three on her tarsometatarsus and two on her tibiotarsus. She has six to eight weeks of recovery time to allow her bone to heal itself, this time in the correct position.

This should reduce the strain put on her ankle joint which will hopefully drastically reduce the inflammation and arthritis. Right now Zeema is pretty uncomfortable, so she’s on a pain medication to help her through these first couple days. She’s also on a strong oral antibiotic to prevent an infection.

And Zeema has also been prescribed physical therapy. She needs to stretch her toes out as often as possible, and she doesn’t want to do it because it doesn’t feel great. See, her muscles and tendons aren’t used to being so stretched out.

They’re used to being shorter because the break made it a shorter distance between their attachment points. Now that her leg is a normal length, the muscles and tendons are tightly stretched out, which makes her want to curl her toes up and hold it back a bit to relieve the pressure. So we need to get her stretching those muscles and tendons out by straightening her toes so she can build strength to perch on both legs evenly and start hopping around again.

Eventually, she’ll be back to hopping up to her favorite hanging circle perch. Zeema is such a strong and beautiful toucan, and I’m so glad we were finally able to do the surgery to fix her leg. We’ll be posting her progress on her Instagram page @ZeemaTheToucan, so follow there for more immediate updates.

If you’d like to send Zeema some love and support, please check out the links below to find our Amazon Wishlist and pick out some toys and perches that are best suited for our special girl. Now, I love learning about animals and how their bodies work, which is why I recently watched this video called What Animals See on CuriosityStream. I enjoyed revisiting some information I thought I knew pretty well but realized I hadn’t explored fully, and now I’m eager to continue delving down the rabbit hole once again.

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