Spinal injuries and congenital or developmental spinal deformities have rarely been reported in pet birds, and treatment for these conditions is even less often described. In poultry, spinal and leg deformities have been well documented, but treatment of the individual is not considered, because affected individuals are typically culled. A 10-week-old male African black-footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus) from the penguin exhibit at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore was evaluated for ataxia, weakness, and motor deficits and was diagnosed with a spinal deformity. Further investigation by using magnetic resonance imaging was conducted, and the penguin subsequently underwent an attempted surgical repair of the malformation. The penguin never regained normal motor control and was found dead 4 weeks after the surgery. Necropsy results revealed hemivertebrae and compression of the spinal cord with associated myositis. Although attempted treatment was unsuccessful in this case, this report illustrates the diagnostic and treatment challenges of avian spinal disease.
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Vol. 22 • No. 4