Ring-Tailed Lemur Broken Paw
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.
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.
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.
Lemur Phalanges Fixation
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.)
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.