A Wind-Blown Laughing Gull Injures Spine

laughing gull in cageThe following story was shared with us by the Florida Wildlife Hospital.

On the morning of January 23, the Florida Wildlife Hospital received an adult laughing gull from Cocoa Beach, a coastal city in Brevard County. The patient had been observed in the road in front of the rescuer’s residence the morning prior. When she found the same bird huddled on her front porch the following morning, she suspected it had a broken wing. Upon presentation at our facility, patient 20-0180 was alert and responsive but reluctant or unable to stand.

Assessing Condition Of The Laughing Gull

Initial exam findings were inconclusive and insignificant. The adult gull had a good body condition, weighing 238 grams (about 8.4 ounces), and was only mildly dehydrated, having presumably only been grounded for 24 to 48 hours. We found no external injuries and were unable to palpate any skeletal or muscular injuries. Both deep and superficial pain were present in both legs. Gait assessment showed it was unable to stand, instead sitting on its hocks.

A winter front approached our coast on January 22 and we had poor weather conditions for 48 hours. It was raining and windy, with gusts as high as 26 mph on the beach. Given the weather conditions and the patient’s presenting issues, we suspected it had some minor spinal inflammation from an impact-related injury. This is a common presentation of coastal avian patients when we have high winds.

Creating Treatment Plan

laughing gull in cage and flying after releaseFollowing the initial assessment, we provided oral fluids and placed the gull in a small, padded kennel. Our continuing treatment plan was to limit mobility, to reduce the swelling, provide anti-inflammatories, and supportive care.

Later that day a second, 10mL, of oral fluids was gavage-fed along with oral Meloxicam. Oral Meloxicam was given once a day for three days, after which a full re-evaluation was completed to assess the patient’s condition.

The morning after admission, the gull made small improvements. It was gavage-fed 10cc of EmerAid Intensive Care Piscivore three times a day for 24 hours. The first feeding was diluted EmerAid and was administered with 1 fish oil capsule, the following two feedings were full-strength EmerAid. Additionally, three small smelt and several live minnows were offered in the kennel to encourage self-feeding.

The following morning, the gull was cleared for a short, deep water float under supervision. It had eaten all the minnows and lake smelt offered the afternoon prior. It ate another bowl of 10 smelt and several minnows right away, so gavage-feeding of EmerAid was discontinued. At the second feeding, the gull was observed standing and walking around its kennel. The patient received the third and final dose of Meloxicam later that afternoon.

Evaluating The Recovery Progress

A full re-evaluation was completed on January 26, just 36 hours after admission. The patient’s gait was within normal limits, consistent, and strong. The patient was moved to a small shorebird enclosure outside where it could be observed in a larger, more normal, environment. Staff increased the amount of smelt offered per feeding and decreased feed-outs to twice a day to help decrease stress and human interactions. The gull’s gait, mentation, activity level, and flight ability were monitored for the next several days.

On January 29, 6 days after admission, staff prepared the patient for release. A few hearty meals and some TLC was all this gull needed to get back on its feet. The patient was flying strong and had gained weight to 252 grams (about 8.9 ounces). A volunteer from our rescue and release team was happy to return the adult laughing gull on the shoreline very near the original rescue site. The gull was observed flying east out over the ocean.