Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rusty's Surgery

Rusty is in captivity because he was hit by a car and left blind in his right eye.  His bad eye has been bothering him lately, though.  A vet checkup led to a determination that his bad eye needed to be removed.  He had a large corneal ulcer, dislocated lens, and a big honking cataract.  His eye pressure was normal, so we were given the option of no surgery and trying to treat the ulcer.  This would involve catching and treating his eye three times a day for two weeks.  No guarantees it would work, and the cataract could still cause swelling and issues in the future.  We decided surgery to remove the eye would be far less stressful for Rusty, and would certainly take care of the issues.

We were anxious to get the surgery done so Rusty could be feeling good for the upcoming breeding season.  He and Iris normally start copulation by mid to late November, so that time is essentially upon us!

The day of the surgery we caught Rusty up, put him into a dog carrier, and drove him 2.5 hours up to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center in St. Paul.  We caught Rusty up and left at about 8 AM.

Dr. Henriksen and her staff were excellent to talk to.  Drew from The Raptor Center assisted, since they don't usually handle raptors at the Vet Medical Center.  Needless to say we didn't get to stay for the surgery, but they did take photos for us and got special permission for us to post them.  Thanks!!

Here's Rusty down and out for the count, under anesthesia.

Since owl eyes are so huge, you can see the side of them in their ears.  Because of this the incision to remove the eye was made from the ear over to the eye.  The surgical site had to be plucked of feathers first.  I think owls look a LOT nicer with feathers!!

I do have photos of the surgery itself, but I won't post them because I think most people wouldn't want to see them.  The photos show how they held the eyelids open, the eyeball itself coming out, and sewing up the large gaping hole.  This is a major surgery for an owl since one eyeball is about the size of its entire brain.  That's almost 1/3 of the stuff in the head being removed.  Dr. Henriksen said owls will sometimes hold their heads tilted after eye removal surgery.

Here's Rusty, all sewn up but still knocked out.  

We kept him in the carrier overnight.  He didn't eat anything and thumped around some.  In the morning I switched him to a larger carrier and quick snapped this photo.  Looking much more handsome than the last photo!

Tonight he needed his first dose of antibiotics and pain meds from us (he got them at the vet's the day of surgery.)  Hein held him, I put his pill in his food, and I fed him bits of food.  He ate VERY well, although Hein's sweatshirt got a nice amount of gopher blood on it (and Rusty got some blood on his bib.  Owl bibs aren't made for blood....)  He was full of spunk, but took his meds like a good owl.

Hein did a great job holding Rusty, even when he decided he didn't want to be held anymore.  But for the most part he resigned himself to being held and doing what we needed him to do.

Four more days and then back to Iris!


  1. Good to see that he came through the surgery okay and that his recovery is moving forward. Hehe, some owl lovers get huffy when I tell them that owls eyes are bigger than their brain. But they have good instincts.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful update and pictures. Rusty looks good after all he has been through! Glad he is eating and anxious to be released back to Iris. Thank you for all the TLC you are giving to this beautiful bird --I 'll be following his progress closely. He is so lucky to be in your care.

  3. Hi Karla! ;)
    I have been watching Rusty & Iris cam since last year and I think You're doing owlsome job ;) I hope Rusty gets better soon, because Iris seems to be anxious without him. But I wonder how's Alice responding to her temporary kitchen roommate? ;D Did she notice him? I bet she did ^^ But does she react to him like she did once on Bumpy with hissing and bill clacking or rather ignore Rusty?


    P.S. Sorry for any misspelling, but English is not my original language.

    1. Alice was just surprised to hear Rusty in the kitchen. Thankfully she didn't react like she does to Bumpy. Rusty is now in the porch so they are a little farther apart, and I think Iris can hear Rusty.