A 2-yr-old male gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) was presented for severe and generalized muscle spasticity and pododermatitis. The falcon had been treated for pododermatitis over the previous 4 mo. Muscle rigidity and spasms involved the entire bird but were more severe on the right leg. The bird was also tachypneic and hyperthermic at 45 C. While the plantar pododermatitis lesions had healed, there was still a small abscess on the lateral aspect of the right foot. Clinical signs were consistent with tetanus. Several bacteria were isolated from the abscess including Clostridium tetani. The isolate was confirmed to be toxigenic by PCR. Attempts to detect tetanus toxin in the bird's plasma were unsuccessful. The abscess was debrided. The gyrfalcon received equine tetanus antitoxin, intravenous metronidazole, methocarbamol, midazolam, a constant-rate infusion of Fentanyl, active cooling, and supportive care. Inhalant anesthesia with isoflurane was the only treatment that would lower the body temperature and reduce the clinical signs. The gyrfalcon died a few hours after admission. The characteristic clinical signs and isolation of toxigenic C. tetani from a wound were strong supportive evidence for a diagnosis of tetanus. This case constitutes the first reported natural occurrence of tetanus in an avian species. Further information is needed to determine whether gyrfalcons are more susceptible to tetanus than are other avian species and whether pododermatitis lesions may be risk factors.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4