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Ring-Tailed Lemur Broken Paw

March 31, 2013

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Lemur with a Paw Problem

“Doc, you gotta help my little guy, Tricky. I don’t know what happened. He just came running down the hall this morning holding his paw up, ” Tricky’s mom started to cry. “He’s supposed to live at least 35 years, and he’s only a year and a half. He can’t lose his leg!”

The little, muscular, light-weight lemur perched on his mom’s shoulder. His dark brown eyes darted around the examination room. He seemed undecided whether to stay with his person or leap to a high spot of safety. He stayed on his human.

Doc Truli reached out the back of a hand to approach him slowly, so he wouldn’t startle and leap around. He allowed her to stroke his side, but he guarded the left front paw and jumped to his mom’s other shoulder when Doc managed to touch the paw even lightly.

Each time he tried to jump off mom, she held onto his harness. Lemurs born and raised in captivity live with a light-weight nylon strap harness around their waist to help their humans get a grip on them. Healthy lemurs are impossible to hold still without some ingenuity.

After Tricky settled in, he allowed Doc Truli to touch and check his paw. (We became friends, as you can see from the picture of Tricky lounging on my shoulder.  That was a pleasant surprise!) The equivalent of what would be our pointer finger was obviously fractured. Tricky needed surgery.

Beautiful, thick, plush fur covers this energetic lemur.

Tricky the Ring-Tailed Lemur

Tricky the lemur sits on Doc Truli's shoulder. This was totally his choice, not Doc's!

Doc Truli and Tricky

The "pointer-finger" on Tricky's left paw was bent nearly in half.

Broken Lemur Toe

Tricky the Lemur Needs Surgery

An active animal like a Ring-Tailed Lemur will not stay off of the paw to let it rest and heal. He will not allow a bandage without tearing it off to see how it’s made. Without surgery, Tricky risked losing the digit.

First, we needed x-rays to tell how to surgically fix the break. There’s no way that lemur would sit still on the x-ray table in order for us to shoot an x-ray.

“We set the x-ray machine to 1/300 of a second for a tiny bone like a lemur toe. Still, there’s no way Tricky would sit even for that tiny fraction of time,” explains Doc Truli.

After we set up the surgery room for the Lemur, Tricky’s mom positioned herself next to the surgery table in front of the anesthesia machine. Still perched on her shoulder, Tricky looked up and around the surgery suite, spinning his head around about 320 degrees as Lemurs often do while they are eating to watch for predators. Next, we needed to hold an anesthesia mask in front of his face and let him breathe some isoflurane gas anesthesia.

Having anesthetized Lemurs before, Doc Truli knew he would fall asleep before you could ask, “How long?” The challenge was, how to get him to allow the mask on his face.

Tricky, the lemur sleeps peacefully under anesthesia with a medium-sized breathing mask over his face to ensure he stays asleep!

Tricky sleeps with anesthesia

Doc Truli did not think about it. She reached up, picked him off mom’s shoulder, set him on the table, put his face in the mask, and in about 1/2 second, before he could even process what had happened, he was asleep.

The x-rays showed a complete, transverse, displaced fracture of the second phalanges on his left paw. In regular English, this means he fractured the bone completely across and the ends where not lined up.

The x-ray shows a complete, transverse, 1/4 inch displaced fracture of the lemur phalanges.

Can you see the break?

This toe fracture is unlikely to heal on such an energetic, active animal as a lemur

The arrow points to the fracture

Lemur Phalanges Fixation

The paw is shaved and prepped with surgrey sterile prep, the fracure has been reduced, so the toe is smooth and aligned.

Lemur Paw after Fracture Reduction

This x-ray shows the toe lined up straight with a metal pin in the medullary cavity to hold it.

Post-op Metal Pin Holds the Bone in Alignment

This x-ray shows the paw top-to-bottm, proving the bone is straight from top to bottom and side-to-side, which is essential for proper healing.

Lemur toe aligned side to side with a metal “pin.”

The bone in the phalanges of a lemur paw is tiny. No standard stainless-steel intramedullary pin designed for a dog will fit. Doc Truli knew, from fixing a Chinchilla’s front leg, that a stainless steel sterile pin existed in the animal hospital in the form of the needles used every day to give vaccine injections. After cutting the 22 gauge needle from a syringe, Doc incised

the lateral side of the toe (away from Tricky’s face to hopefully make it less interesting for him to chew the incision as it healed). The ends on the bone poked out through the hole. Doc Truli placed the sterile needle in the center of the bone where the medullary cavity lies. Then she popped the end of the broken be over the pin and the pieces of the broken bone snapped into place. A little sterile surgical skin glue and some post-op x-rays to prove the alignment of the bone was good, and Tricky woke up from his anesthesia.

Usually, after bone surgery, a pet is caged of restricted to keep her or him from moving too much and hindering healing. Ring-tailed Lemurs ignore such instructions. Loki returned to his normal activities right away. Doc Truli anxiously waited to see if the paw surgery would hold up and heal.

Lemur Paw Healed After 4 Weeks

(There are no words needed for how happy we all feel that Tricky is back to normal.)

4-weeks post-op, Tricky the finger is only slightly swollen and aligned and firmly joining.

4 weeks post op lemur paw

Grey and white with black tail stripes, ring tailed lemurs like to sit on people's heads

Tricky, the Ring-Tailed Lemur, using his repaired paw

Further Notes About Ring-Tailed Lemurs

  • It is legal in Florida, United States (where Tricky lives) to own a Lemur, with a Florida Department of Fish and Game Permit.
  • There are legal Lemur breeders to get Lemurs from so that you do not obtain a wild animal that pines for his family.
  •  You may also need a USDA (US Department of Agriculture) permit and have a veterinarian visit your premises, inspect your husbandry plan, and clear your Lemur physically .
  • Lemurs are wild animals, and according to Doc Truli’s conversations with the Duke University Primate Laboratory veterinarians (premier Lemur authorities), they are highly social, live in large Lemur groups, thus may be understimulated socially and intellectually in a human environment. They may bite and slap as they grow sexually mature. Lemurs usually mark territory and poop everywhere, leaving stinky reminders that you live with a wild animal. Also, before you consider buying a Lemur, realize the primate and Lemur retirement and rescue facilities (according to Duke U professor private conversation) are full, underfunded, and may not offer a satisfying home for unwanted, older Lemurs. Truly, if you are not emotionally, financially and every way ready for a 35 year commitment, you may end up abusing, killing, or abandoning your Lemur. Basically, there is no good way to “divorce” a Lemur.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Marisol permalink
    February 4, 2014 11:40 pm

    Amazing to read this story almost a year after the broken finger event. I am “Tricky’s” grandma. For us he is Loki. Loki’s doctor, “Dr. Truli”, was amazing! Such a caring veterinarian.!!!! Loki is doing great. Thanks to “Dr. Truli”. What the story says about biting, it is totally true. He bit his “uncle” and he slashed the right side grandma’s face in a split second. He has very sharp teeth!!! Needless to say, now we stay away from the baby. However, with his mom Alina Loki, is very protective of her. The love between them is unbelievable. The “kisses” ,the snuggles, the communication via sounds between the two of them are priceless. Loki is also nice to his “grandpa”. No biting there. The story talks about finances. That is true. Special accomodations had to be made. We created an indoor and outdoor habitat just for him. A hole in the wall was made to install a tunnel with a doogie door that would lead him from his indoor habitat to his outdoor habitat. However, it is not only for Loki. His two sister cats, enjoy the tunnel as well to go safely outside. Loki, a 35 or so year commitment that will be fulfilled. He will be with us for the rest of his life.

    • February 4, 2014 11:57 pm

      Dear Marisol,
      I’m do glad to hear Loki is doing well. And thank you for the details about how you have adapted his environment to make him happy!
      -Doc Truli

  2. Bart Springer permalink
    April 1, 2013 9:00 pm

    What a great story from Doc Truli who loves Lemurs and always has.


  1. In which states is it legal to own a lemur? |

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