How we used polly-filler to mend parrot’s beak

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MINE is a great job. Not always, by any means, and as my colleagues will agree, some days aren’t great, but on the whole it’s a pretty good job.

One of the things that makes veterinary medicine enjoyable is the variety; the variety of clients, the variety of patients and the variety of cases.

We are fortunate within our practice that every day brings forth an array of less commonplace clients – a sexually-frustrated parrot, an alpaca with wonky legs or an anorexic python – but even so there are days that throw up challenges we have not previously encountered.

Jackie is a seven-year-old African grey parrot. He’s cheeky, noisy and a very much-loved member of his family.

He’s looked after properly, fed sensibly, but is allowed the odd treat, including his daily half of Rich Tea biscuit and his own cup of tea (decaffeinated, of course) in which to dunk it.

Jackie was referred to us by the local veterinary practice at a weekend with a broken beak and stabilised at our new Whorral Bank surgery by the emergency case staff.

Two days later, he was taken to theatre and the fragments of his mandible pieced back together and wired in place.

A parrot’s beak, however, is designed to crack nuts and can generate a force in excess of 400lbs/sq inch. Jackie’s repair, therefore, was unlikely to last very long if reliant solely on rings of surgical wire.

Morpeth Autoparts came to the rescue and Jackie’s beak was reconstructed using a fibreglass repair kit more frequently employed in the correction of Peugeots than parrots.

The rest of the kit, incidentally, came in handy in the patching up of a tortoise that a dog had mistaken for breakfast.

Post operatively, we had an anxious few days waiting and watching how Jackie adapted to his new prosthesis.

He could pick up food, but not swallow, or swallow if we put food in his mouth, but not co-ordinate the two actions. Accordingly, Jackie was reliant on tube feeding with a parrot soup specially prepared by the nursing team.

On day three, Jackie ate a grape – an improvement, but not enough to sustain him – and still refused to talk.

He refused to talk that is right up until his owners came to visit. Then Jackie’s demeanour picked up immediately. Back with his family, he chatted, he preened, he took a Rich Tea biscuit, dunked it in his own cup of tea and ate without hindrance.

Jackie is not out of the woods yet and we are yet to see if his beak will regenerate adequately under the prosthesis, but to date he is doing fantastically well.

He is happy, his owners are thrilled and I realise that, on occasion, mine can be a pretty great job.

Sam Prescott,

Director and Senior Vet