Recumbent Ratites: A Novel Approach to Physical Therapy
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010
Meredith Wainstein, DVM; Michelle Bowman, DVM; Jeffry Proudfoot, DVM; Jan Ramer, DVM, DACZM
Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, IN, USA


Exertional myopathy has been reported in many animals, including ratites. There are few published cases of successful rehabilitation in birds with exertional rhabdomyolysis.2,3 Aggressive physical therapy and supportive care have been efficacious when initiated promptly following the inciting insult. Physical therapy in affected ratites may be limited due to the large size of the species and poor patient compliance. Flotation tank devices, such as the Aqua Cow Rise System, have been utilized to treat nonambulatory cattle. The flotation system is filled with warm water that supports the animal’s weight, preventing further pressure necrosis and increasing blood circulation to affected musculature.1

A 20-year-old male ostrich (Struthio camelus massaicus) presented in sternal recumbency following aggression from a male kudu in a mixed-species exhibit. Attempts at slinging the animal resulted in further stress to the bird, and manual physical therapy was limited by the animal’s weight and positioning. Physical therapy was provided through the use of a flotation device, which the animal tolerated well. The bird showed improvement in strength and muscle tone in its recovery from exertional myopathy, although this animal died from events separate to the use of this technique. This novel method of providing physical therapy should be considered as part of a multimodal approach to the treatment of recumbent ratites.

Literature Cited

1.  Burton AJ, Nydam V, Ollivett TL, Divers TJ. Prognostic indicators for nonambulatory cattle treated by use of a flotation tank system in a referral hospital: 51 cases (1997–2008). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2009;234(9):1177–1182.

2.  Businga NK, Langenberg J, Carlson L. Successful treatment of capture myopathy in three wild greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis tabida). J Avian Med Surg. 2007;21(4):294–298.

3.  Smith KM, Murray S, Sanchez C. Successful treatment of suspected exertional myopathy in a rhea (Rhea americana). J Zoo Wildl Med. 2005;36(2):316–320.


Speaker Information
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Meredith Wainstein, DVM
Indianapolis Zoo
Indianapolis, IN, USA

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