Clinical Findings and Surgical Repair of an Abdominal Hernia in a Steller's Eider Duckling (Polysticta stelleri)
IAAAM 2016
Pam Tuomi1*; Kathy Woodie1; Jane Belovarac1; Sadie Ulman1; Tuula Hollmen1
1Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward, AK, USA


A 10-day-old captive reared female Steller's eider (Polysticta stelleri) duckling presented with poor weight gain and labored respiratory effort when handled. Radiographs revealed dilated intestines with increased intraluminal gas. Enteritis with bacterial endotoxemia was suspected and supportive care including oral trimethoprim sulfa, probiotics, and supplemental gavage fluids was initiated. A 5-day recheck indicated clinical improvement in her behavior and appetite, but continued weakness after exertion. Repeat radiographs showed a pendulous abdomen. The duckling continued to exhibit slower than normal weight gain paired with increased respiratory effort and fatigue, and supportive treatment with oral amoxicillin-clavulanic acid and probiotic was continued. Eleven days after initial presentation, radiographs revealed an obvious non-reducible hernia with bowel loops ventral to the body wall. The duckling swam normally, had left-side distention when standing, showed progressive weakness, and subsequently lost waterproofing of ventral feathers due to her propensity to sit. The hernia was surgically explored and repaired on Day 17 under isoflurane anesthesia.1,2 A ventral midline incision revealed adhesions of viscera (intestinal loops, ceca and a small retained yolk sac) to the subcutaneous tissues and a well-circumscribed 2 cm diameter muscle defect left of the umbilicus. Adhesions were broken, the viscera replaced intra-coelomically, fibrotic hernia margins trimmed, and the defect closed with a two layer closure of simple continuous patterns of 3-0 antibacterial absorbable braided polyglactin suture (Vicryl Plus AntibacterialTM, Ethicon, Inc.) in the muscle wall and skin. Post-operative supportive care included continued oral antibiotic, anti-inflammatory medication (meloxicam), warm water pools, cold laser treatment and periodic aspiration of small amounts of recurring subcutaneous air. The duckling made a full recovery over the next 4 weeks with serial radiographs confirming resolution of the air sac defect responsible for the subcutaneous air accumulation.


The authors thank the Alaska SeaLife Center Avian Husbandry and Eider Research Program staff for their excellent care for this duckling and all of the eiders housed at this facility.

* Presenting author

Literature Cited

1.  Altman BA. Soft tissue surgical procedures. In: Altman RB, Clubb SL, Dorrestein GM, Quesenberry K, eds. Avian Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co.; 1997:730–731.

2.  Bennett RA, Harrison GJ. Soft tissue surgery. In: Ritchie BW, Harrison GJ, Harrison LR, eds. Avian Medicine: Principles and Application. Lake Worth, FL: Wingers Publishing, Inc.; 1994:1132.


Speaker Information
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Pam Tuomi, DVM
Alaska SeaLife Center
Seward, AK, USA

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