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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Rehab Vulture Treated with Acupuncture

October 24th, 2012

Claire Peterson assists Drs. Aurora Villarroel and Jacob Mecham treat Ferdinand’s bone disease with acupuncture.

By Claire Peterson (Class of 2013)

Two of OSU CVM’s clinicians, Dr. Aurora Villarroel and Dr. Jacob Mecham (Rural Veterinary Practice – RVP), are earning their certification process in veterinary acupuncture. They hope to use these skills in practice to help many different species, including -apparently- turkey vultures!

Ferdinand is one of the education birds at Chintimini Wildlife Center in Lewisberg, OR. Chintimini takes in orphaned and injured wildlife in the hopes of returning them back to the wild. Being an education bird means that Ferdinand cannot survive in the wild, so he has been trained to be an ambassador animal to educate the public. Chintimini does many educational programs for all ages, on and off-site. Ferdinand came into the center as a patient because he suffers from metabolic bone disease, meaning there was a calcium:phosphorus imbalance when he was first growing, causing his bones to not calcify normally. This lead to malformations – see photos below.

Because of Ferdinand’s malformed bones, some of his joints have already begun to develop degenerative joint disease (also known as osteoarthritis) despite him only being hatched in 2009. As one of Ferdinand’s head handlers at Chintimini and a senior vet student at OSU, I recently attended an externship at the Minnesota Raptor Center where I heard about acupuncture being used in raptors to help with palliative pain control from arthritis. During my senior year rotation in RVP, I helped both Dr. Villarroel and Dr. Mecham in doing acupuncture in livestock, and asked whether they would consider acupuncture on Ferdinand: they were both excited to use their newly learned skills and knowledge on such an unusual patient.

On Tuesday Oct 16th Ferdinand came in for his first treatment. He had several acupuncture points done on both wings and both legs to help with pain management and improve bone health, and even had electro-acupuncture on two main points on his wings. Although he was not very happy about lying on his back for several minutes at a time, Ferdinand went through the treatments like a champ and shook it all off with a great rouse and preen afterwards (birds do this when they are comfortable). He even decided to show off his wings in the sunlight from a nearby window for all the students and doctors to see. We hope this was his way of saying thank you, and look forward to seeing how he improves with further treatments!

For more information about Chintimini Wildlife Rehab Center, visit their website.

Top: Normal raptor wing. Bottom: Ferdinand’s wing – notice the severely bent bones.


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