Wildlife triage and decision-making

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When an injured or orphaned wild animal is presented to a veterinary surgeon, rapid and important assessments and decisions have to be made, primarily to prevent suffering, but also in relation to staff health and safety and legislative requirements. This chapter discusses triage, which entails examination and assessment for successful rehabilitation. Reasons and methods for humane euthanasia of wild animals are also detailed.

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4.2 Triage decision tree to guide the veterinary decision-making process for an adult wildlife casualty. Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and are printed with her permission.
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4.3 (a) Cygnet with lead toxicity. This animal is a good candidate for treatment and rehabilitation as the condition generally responds well to therapy and swans cope well with periods of captivity. (b) Radiograph of a badger with a comminuted and open fracture of the radius and ulna. This animal should be euthanased due to the severity of the injury and the poor prognosis for a successful outcome. (© Elizabeth Mullineaux)
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4.4 Observation from a distance of wing position in birds may be useful to help determine which part of the wing is injured. (a) Injuries to the shoulder or coracoid bone result in skewing of the affected wing upwards such that the primary feather tips are held higher than those of the unaffected wing opposite. (b) Injuries to the elbow or humerus result in the wing being held away from the body and slightly dropped, but the primary wing feathers are not dropped. (c) Injuries involving the carpal joint, ulna, radius or distal to the carpus result in the wing tip dropping and the primary feathers trailing. Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and are printed with her permission.
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4.6 Assessment of body condition (diagram of standing bird viewed from above (left) and skyline view of keel with bird lying on its back (right)). In birds this is achieved by pectoral muscle mass palpation and prominence of the keel bone. Red shaded area = pectoral muscle mass, ranging from very thin (top), thin (middle) to good (bottom). Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and are printed with her permission.
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