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Fractures Caused by Poor Husbandry

Fracture of the Calcaneus Bone (Heel Bone) continued

Note the swelling of the entire heel area (arrow)

Typical appearance soon after fracture .
Note the swelling and the shortening

This demonstrates the pull of the extensor tendons.
They pull the proximal fragment of the Oss Calcis up and often to one side generally the medial side

The arrow shows where the point of the heel bone should lie.

The arrow shows where the point of the heel bone should be positioned.

Note the Oss Calcis is pulled over to the lateral side. It should be aligned with the arrow


After much questioning and observation I came to the conclusion that this is a husbandry problem associated with lack of exercise and weight bearing in juvenile macropods that are restricted to their artificial pouch for too many hours in the day when they should be out exercising and weight bearing on their limbs.

After having 5 cases in one year including one joey that fractured the calcaneus on each hind leg a month apart I started giving talks to macropod carers at the local care group meetings to make people aware of the problem.

It appears the major problem is with macropod carers that live busy lives and rear joeys, taking them to work but never having time to sit and watch the joey get out of the pouch and hop around and fossick outside in a large safe yard. These carers are very dedicated but do not have safe pens that they can leave the juvenile macropod in for hours to get his exercise.

Weight bearing is essential to develop strong bones as bone is a dynamic issue and the canaliculi or microscopic building blocks of bone align to cope with the direction of stress placed on the bone in weight bearing and movement. Spending little time out of the pouch weight bearing and moving about does not help strengthen the main bones. What happens is we end up with a young animal that is gaining weight but his bone strength is not keeping up with the weight gain to support it. Something has to give. And when he hops the pull of the Achilles tendon working to extend the hock causes the calcaneus to fracture.

Other factors?

I also believe that the majority of these joeys are kept inside and possibly don't get enough sunlight which is essential for vitamin D synthesis . Vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism and transport.

Most of the replacement milk formulas should have sufficient calcium included to prevent a calcium deficiency so it should not be diet related.

So why do these fractures occur in young healthy hand reared macropods with no history of trauma?

Calcium Deficiency ? unlikely
Vitamin D deficiency Possible
Dynamic stress factors of weight bearing and exercise are definitely missing in almost all cases.

The good thing is that I can say that, since we have alerted our carers about the need for exercise and weight bearing, we have only had one case in the last 5 years. This has often meant people passing on a joey to another carer who has the facilities that allow the joey to get that safe exercise for extended periods.

Too much hanging around in joey bags and not enough standing on their own two feet

Fractures in Macropods - Jim Pollock B.V.Sc


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