Hoof and Leg Injuries Q&A

Q: We found a baby deer on the side of the road that was hit by a car. It has a broken leg and was still nursing. We want to try to save this baby deer. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

A: You must take this deer to a veterinarian immediately or it will suffer severe pain from the fracture. The vet can evaluate the injury and decide what needs to be done.

Q: I found an injured baby deer in our horse pasture, its back left leg gone from the ankle down. It keeps coming up to my horses round hay bail and to our pond to drink. I don’t think his mother is anywhere around. Should I just let it be? I believe it’s going to die with nothing to eat.

A: Wild animals sometimes do survive with this type of injury, but this would generally be less likely with a fawn than with an adult I guess. It is a dilemma that you find yourself confronting, but I suspect that the best thing is to let Nature take its course, one way or the other.

Q: I am writing to you today from South-eastern Georgia. The small animal hospital I work for has a 2yr old WTD. She was presented to us as a baby 2 years ago with a badly broken left tibia. She underwent surgery and wore an external fixture for several months. That injury healed remarkably well and she was on her way to a proper facility for animals who cannot be released back into the wild. Unfortunately she was attacked by a dog at our clinic and, while she did survive the attack, her right rear leg was badly injured and the lower half of her cannon bone died. The lower 6 inches broke off on its own before surgery could be performed to remove the dead section. At this time the cannon bone is protruding approximately 1½ inches below a large scar tissue pad. Would you suggest we amputate the remaining section of leg? The deer “Baby” does use this leg to walk/balance with, but she also is able to walk using 3 legs. Do we amputate up high or should we leave something for her to use? We had thought to go about 2” above the exposed bone into the scar tissue pad and then close it over the site. Also, we are concerned about anaesthesia on an adult ruminant. She was an adolescent when her last surgery was performed and we realize surgery on adult ruminants can be tricky. Any advice on anaesthesia/surgery would be appreciated. We use isoflurane for general anaesthesia at our clinic. As you can imagine, we are very fond of Baby and we want to do what is best for her. We have considered euthanasia, but she is very healthy and seemingly well adjusted to her injury. We feel that we can place her in a proper facility if we can get her past this injury.

A: There are no absolute in cases like this one – each animal copes in its own way. I must also stress that I am not a specialist surgeon so you must temper my advice with your own first hand knowledge of this deer and its situation. My inclination is to suggest that you do a high amputation, where you will have a fresh surgical wound to heal. Isoflurane should be fine. Let me know how it works out.

Q: Hello, Sonja from Sweden here. If a deer is bitten by a dog and there is injury, should you give tetanus 1500 units antitoxin?

A: Deer are certainly susceptible to tetanus, and any penetrating wound can be a problem. A dog bite is such a wound, with anaerobic conditions deep in the wound track. A 1500 IU dose of tetanus antitoxin SC is a good idea, if you have the opportunity to administer it.

Follow up Response: Hello again. I have another injured deer. She hurt her foot 3 weeks ago (not broken) and broke her leg 6 weeks ago. Today I had a quick look and the leg is hard and nice, and the foot feels more stable. She stands without dipping the small spur under the joint in the floor, which is an improvement. On Monday a vet is coming to sedate her so that I can take a good look. If the leg is okay and the foot is better, what is the next step? Shall I continue with plaster or only stabilize with vet flex (support bandage). I have to give her a chance – we have fought for almost 3 months together.

A: It sounds like the leg is doing well. By 6 weeks there should be a good union of the fracture but it would be a good idea to use a support bandage for several more weeks. Well done!

Follow up Response: Thanks for that. The vets in Sweden have very little knowledge, if anything, about deer. The little fawn with the broken leg is about 6 weeks old. The fracture is on the shinbone – a clean break, no wound. Everything is healing but I am anxious whether I got the angle of the foot right.

A: Good work – looks great. He appears to be quite happy with what you have done too.

Follow up Response: Hello again Anthony. After several months of fighting, she is now well. She walks almost perfectly on her leg. Just wanted to show you our little miracle, and thank you for your wonderful support throughout the months. It would not have been possible without you.

A: Well done – you must be pleased. You did all the hard work.

Q: I am a wildlife rehabilitator in Kansas, USA. 2 days ago I received a call from individuals who had hit a fawn with their vehicle and badly mangled the fawn’s back leg. I debated on whether or not to save the deer due to the necessity of amputating the limb. However, the individuals who hit the deer were very distraught and wanting her to be saved. The vet felt the deer had a more than 75% chance of surviving the operation so I arranged for the amputation. The fawn did indeed survive but as she is recovering I have found that she will not move her other hind leg nor her tail, and as soon as I repositioned her she leaks urine. I believe that the impact of the accident may have paralyzed her back extremities as well. Do you think I should try IM steroids in hope that she will regain use of her remaining back leg, and if so how long should I wait and see if she does recover? Or do you think I should humanely euthanize her. The vet was not a big help in this situation.

A: I have to say quite categorically that this animal should have been euthanized at the start – and I do understand the desire to do something for it. But in trying to be kind it is so easy to inflict additional suffering, for all the wrong reasons. What is done is done however, but you still need to consider the fawn’s best interests. I can give you no idea at all as to how long it might take to recover normal function, or even if she will ever do so. Only you can be the judge of whether she is suffering needlessly. You are in a very difficult position but consider the fawn’s welfare above all else.

Q: Young buck (approx. 1-2) years of age broke his leg in two places in January of this year. It was a compound fracture that somehow healed. There is a significant knob with small holes around the fracture. He walked well on it for a few months and now seems to be quite lame. He doesn’t put much weight on it and it appears swollen below the original fracture. I am quite concerned about infection or it may be another fracture. He has become rather tame and comes by a couple of times a day for a small amount of “wildlife blend” that I have been feeding. Am I doing more of a disservice than good? I thought about calling the game warden, but they will put him down without question. What about antibiotics? There isn’t any rehab locally that will help. I want to do the right thing which I know isn’t necessarily what my heart tells me. Can you advise?

A: The animal is certainly in quite a lot of pain from your description, and I can only suggest that you should inform the authorities. They can make a proper assessment. The most humane outcome should be sought.

Q: My 5-month old pet whitetail doe recently broke her leg while out in her pasture. The bone is not sticking out and it is broken just above her hock on her right rear leg. We raised her from a baby because her mom was hit by a car so she is very tame. We called our vet but he thought it would be best to just leave it and let it heal on its own. Is this the best thing to do?

A: I am very reluctant to give advice on a clinical case that I have not seen, because every one is different. There is absolutely no way that I can evaluate the situation that you describe from this distance, with the welfare of the animal being the most important issue. I am sure that you wish to do what is best for the animal. It may well be true that similar fractures have healed without intervention but I am equally sure that many have not. I can only urge you to get your vet to take a close look at her before any decision is made. If the advice is then to leave it alone you will need to watch her very closely over many weeks to ensure that she is not suffering undue pain.

Q: We have a property over near the ocean; we went over this Saturday and found a doe with her fawn. The doe has an injury on her right front leg that looks like it’s at the knee. No signs of open wounds or any breaks. She walks with it bent at the knee, like she can’t straighten it, but she did move around to eat. My land is flat and she can get around okay, but I don’t like to see her hobble. I have an automatic corn feeder and there are plenty of apples on the ground that she was eating. We stayed away so as not to spook her. Should I just see if it heals or should I contact Wildlife Rescue?

A: Wild animals are very commonly injured in a number of ways, and this can lead very quickly to effects on their ability to move around and to feed, or to avoid predation. The very old, the very young and sick or injured animals are frequently taken by predators and this is a natural process. I understand that you would like to do something to help this deer, but perhaps it is best to assess just how much pain she might be suffering and to then decide whether you do one of three things:

1. Do nothing and let nature take its course (she might survive);
2. Try and help her yourself by putting out feed, etc; or
3. Call your Wildlife Department and pass the problem to them. They in turn may do nothing, or they may shoot it, or they may try to capture it for treatment.

There is no right or wrong answer – only you know what seems best for the animal.

Q: I am a small animal veterinarian that does what I can to help our local wildlife rescue center. I would like your honest advice on what to do with this case. The center rescued a deer that had a relatively recent fracture of its distal humerus. We reduced it and tried external stabilization. The deer was treated with antibiotics and pain meds. The fracture is not healing. They have asked me to amputate the foreleg. It can be placed in a sanctuary. Is it ethical to amputate a forelimb in a cervid? If he does break down in his other front foot, I don’t know if it will be detected early enough to prevent pain and suffering. He is about 120-150lbs now and is ambulatory on 3 legs. How long will he be able to live pain free without one front leg?

A: While one would not seek too often to have a situation where a leg amputation is an option, I have seen several deer with a leg missing and all seemed to get around quite well. We had a fallow doe that was trapped in the wild and she had a back leg missing. Over a number of years she was just as mobile as the others and to my certain knowledge had at least four fawns. If you do perform surgery it is obviously vital that you assess post-operative pain and general progress. And deal with any pet.

Q: I unfortunately have a deer on my property with a broken leg. The bone is sticking out just above its left rear hoof. The deer itself seems healthy otherwise, but can’t put any weight on the leg as the hoof flops around on its own. I have seen deer with broken front legs heal and actually get around ok with that sort of injury. With the rear leg broke, mobility seems to be more of a problem, and I don’t know how the leg will heal with the bone protruding above the hoof. I was wondering what you think about an injury of this nature and if this deer has a chance of survival.

A: I think you know just how much trouble and pain this deer is confronting. You are correct in saying that some deer with leg fractures do eventually heal, but the best chance of this happening is when the fracture is high on the leg and not compound (that is no bone protruding). In other words, everything is against this unfortunate creature, and almost for certain sure it will not heal because of where the damage has occurred. There is no question of surgical intervention either so unless you want to see this animal suffer for far too long, you will euthanase it. Now nothing in biology is impossible, and if you do nothing it MIGHT survive. But can you allow it to suffer on that basis? Your call.

Q: My husband and I live in southern British Columbia. We have a young black tail buck that lives in the meadow area near our home. We have known his mother for 7 years, and he and his sister are the only fawns she has ever had that survived past 6 months. Most deaths are from car collisions. Willie and his sister were born late May 2009. Willie was injured on his left back leg in February, and we didn’t see him around for a few weeks, then he showed up with this severe leg injury, probably from a car. His leg is broken and the bone is sticking out in the lower outside of his leg, and also below the hock on the inside of the leg. It has never healed, and has remained swollen and draining. It flays outward and is not usable any more. The wildlife center here does not take care of injured deer, so we had no luck getting him any help with the initial injury. He comes around for apples and we have put out some grain for him. He has been managing to have some quality of life, but since rutting season he has been injured on his foreleg, and now the poor little guy is barely getting around, hopping on 2 legs. We are just sick about it. The conservation officers put deer down from car accidents, but they will not come out to destroy him, and I don’t think I could bear to see an officer come out with a gun and kill him.

We have a lean-to in the back of our property which backs onto the meadow. If we were able to somehow contain him in the lean-to, could we care for him and possibly his front leg would improve and he could manage with his injured back leg? I am thinking with my heart and not my head, but we definitely love this little fellow. He is not a pet, and we have never tried to get close to him, but we have always put carrots and apples out in the meadow to try to keep him and his mum and sister away from the busy highway.

No one is able to help him, and no conservation officer will come out and put him down, so his life will end in terrible suffering out in the woods. We are apparently expecting a cold snowy winter too. I am heartbroken about him. I would like to try to help him. Please advise me.

A: I really do wish that I could give you some good news, but I am as certain as you ever can be that this little creature is suffering more than we can accept. I have to say that you will have to find a way to put him out of his pain. He needs your courage now.

Q: I am taking a national diploma in animal management. I am working on an assignment on wildlife casualties and I’m wondering how you would go about treating a roe deer with a broken back leg after being hit by a car? Thanks in advance for any help!

A: As always the welfare of the animal is paramount, and in the case of an endemic species with no element of being endangered it would not generally be considered a candidate for full blown orthopaedic surgery. The cost and the welfare aspects of catching and dealing with a wild animal really make it difficult to support surgery. With a fracture high in the leg many wild animals survive without surgery. If the large muscles of the thigh contract they can partly immobilize the fracture and union can occur. If the leg is fractured below the hock it is much less likely to have bony union occur. In either case it would be best to try and see the animal at intervals and if it is obviously suffering to shoot it.
Every case is different and you need a sensible compassionate attitude to get the best outcomes.

Q: I appreciate the time you take to answer questions that people have about deer issues. The q & a section is very informative and one of the most useful sources of info I have been able to find for deer. I live on the California coast where there are Columbian Black-Tailed deer, and in my area they are protected. There is no hunting allowed. Deer often come to the field outside my kitchen window and it has been wonderful to witness generations of deer here. About 12 days ago a buck showed up that had a big gash in his lower hind leg, and there was bone sticking out. He could not put any weight on the leg, and I felt so sorry for him. I didn’t see him again until yesterday and today, and it looks like he chewed away the protruding bone.

He now is also able to put weight on this leg, lightly, which is much more than before. I notice him licking it and trying to keep it clean. What worries me is the color of the skin surrounding the gash – it is turning black. The area is very swollen and clearly must be infected. I am so worried that he is getting gangrene, and there is nothing I can do and no official will even do anything about an injured deer unless they are in such bad shape that they can’t get around at all.

This buck can still get around, and even moves around with a group of other bucks, but I was wondering if you could give me an assessment based on these photos I took. I’m sorry one of the photos is a little blurry – the first one shows what it looked like 12 days ago. You can see the white bone. The next photos show what it looked like today. It is nasty, and I want to know if you think this is something that can heal on its own. Also, I want to know if there is any way to give him antibiotics, or if there is anything I can do to help him. Thank you so much for your time, I hope to hear from you soon. I actually have more deer questions, and many times have wanted to email you, so if I hear back from you, I will send you more questions.

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A: You and I can only begin to imagine what this animal has gone through to this stage, but I am always just amazed at how some wild animals survive the most dreadful trauma. This buck is not out of the woods yet, but it has to be possible that he will in fact survive as a 3-legged animal. If the leg does slough that is probably the best outcome, and he will learn to survive with 3 legs. We had an old fallow deer doe that was wild caught and with only 3 legs, she had a fawn each year for 5 years. I cannot guarantee that he will not die sooner rather than later, but he has been through the worst of it now and he deserves to live for as long as good luck and best wishes can arrange for him. Not much point in antibiotics now, but the only way to treat him is with a dart rifle. I would have to wonder what your officials would consider a major injury if this was not one. Let me know what happens to this buck.

Q: I saw the most disturbing vision and cannot get it out of my mind. I was coming home and in our neighborhood a deer was with a younger deer and the bigger deer had a back leg that was mangled. It was dangling like a branch off a tree. I didn’t see any bones protruding but it was like it was dangling by a thread. I could not tell if the deer was in pain or not. I am not even sure if I will see it again. I want to know if it is suffering and will it survive this. Please help!

A: Yes I am afraid that the animal will be suffering in the most dreadful way and surely needs a compassionate hunter to end the pain.

Q: I recently bought 55 acres in Texas and yesterday found an injured doe (yearling). She was unable to stand but is very alert and allowed me to pet her and give her water and food. The previous property owners fed the deer. I managed to find a woman who is a rescue volunteer who came to retrieve the doe. She found no broken bones, but the doe appears to have nerve damage from a fight to escape barbed wire. She has started the doe on antibiotics and steroids, but she told me it is difficult to find a vet who will prescribe pain meds for deer. Can you tell me what pain meds are used on deer? And why it is difficult to get them prescribed? Can they use Advil, etc? Vicodin? Are there specialty medications? It is unfortunate that I can’t get these answers in Texas. I would appreciate any information that you can give me. I plan to volunteer with this rescue group once I have moved to the property. Where do you get information about deer treatment?

A: I must apologise for taking so long to reply – I did make a start on your query but I got sidetracked. As to the vets who will not supply pain killers for deer, it is more likely that they do not see deer at all because they feel that they don’t know enough about deer to attempt to treat them. The problem with treating wild deer is the fact that any intervention at all is likely to be accompanied by a serious escalation in stress levels, and this must be judged against the possible benefits of such escalation. Not an easy call.
There are no pain meds developed especially for deer – a vet may choose to use one of the opiods but these are very dangerous to people if a drug accident does occur. Finadine™ may be useful, but consider what I say above.
For information on deer diseases one book that you might find useful is:

Heigh and Hudson (1993) “Farming Wapiti and Red Deer” Mosby. ISBN 0-8016-6787-9.

Q: My friend picked up a baby buck about a week old on the side of the road. One of the hind legs is swollen and I was wondering if they could give him some baby aspirin and put ice on it to reduce the swelling. They have got it to drink goat’s milk from a bottle. Our vets wont look at wildlife?

A: You could give the fawn aspirin but the risk is that the leg is fractured and may need some form of fixation. Baby bones heal quickly but they do need to be treated humanely.

Q: I have a (wild) mother deer in my yard with an injured foot or hoof. She gets around but is limping. Would it be okay to give her aspirin (in a piece of apple)? If so, what dosage? Or is there something better for pain relief? Thank you for any advice

A: It is best to try and determine what sort of problem is causing the lameness. A good scrutiny with a pair of binoculars should give you some idea – fracture, abscess, foreign body, etc. You can then treat the animal with some hope of success. Wild deer can recover from quite severe problems at times, but animal welfare is paramount. Aspirin will do little for a fracture.

Q: Today I saw a young buck (1-2 years) limping through my yard. One of his hind legs is obviously broken roughly six inches above his hoof. It’s dangling, which is worrying me, but he seems to be getting around surprisingly well, even jumping a solid 5 feet up onto our retaining wall. The area does have some blood around it but does not appear to be actively bleeding or noticeably swollen at all. I’m unsure of how he got the injury. I’d like to know if he has a decent chance of survival, because if he does I’m willing to provide food through our winter months, which are fairly mild, and allow him to hang around and recover. However, if he’s unlikely to survive and likely to suffer a great deal I’d rather call animal control to put him out of his misery.

A: Fractures like this one rarely survive, but I am not going to say that they never do. However there would be a great deal of pain over many weeks. Your call.

Q: I am a student in my first year of the national diploma in animal management. I am currently in the middle of an assignment on wildlife management and rehabilitation and was wondering how you would treat a roe deer with a broken back leg due to being hit by a car and also how the treatment would differ if the injury was a simple fracture or a compound fracture. Thanks for any help you are able to give!

A: The answer to your question depends on a couple of things – firstly is it a high fracture or a low one, ie: above the shoulder or stifle or below? Simple fractures high in the leg can sometimes heal with no intervention, especially if it is a young animal. There is an animal welfare issue as well, and if the deer is suffering you have two options – surgical repair or euthanasia. Can you really justify the cost of orthopaedic surgery for a deer that has no conservation value?

Q: Our deer have been relocated to a large lot with some good ground cover and trees. But the left front foot/hoof remains in its collapsed position. However, the deer eats and walks, and hopefully is not in pain.
Would Dr. English be able to put the emailed photos on the website and address all that he can as regards the left front leg/foot/hoof? Does it appear to be her tendons, or ligaments, or what? What kind of problems might be expected in the future? The new manager said that deer in captivity do okay with only three legs, so that she should be able to do okay with her condition. Is that correct? Or is it mixing apples with oranges to have made that comparison? Any other thoughts on her left front leg/foot/hoof are truly wanted and appreciated.
As always very much thanking you and Dr. English.

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A: It is quite correct that a 3-legged deer can do quite well – I have seen an old fallow doe that we trapped from the wild many years ago and she had lost a hind leg just below the hock. Presumably there had been some sort of incident and in fact she moved quite well with the damaged leg held up out of harm’s way.
The point was she had learnt to hold the leg up and hence it was not in much danger of being injured again. On the other hand if a leg is damaged to the extent that the animal cannot hold it up it tends to be open to damage when it strikes a fixed object. So it all depends on how she copes with the damaged leg and whether it is constantly exposed to impact damage. It may well be that she is moving around quite happily and she may do that for years.
If you feel that I am not addressing the actual problem this deer has then you are probably right. I am always reluctant to speculate on a deer that I cannot physically examine – even with photos.
On the other hand if, despite the best will in the world, it becomes clear that the animal is suffering and unlikely to recover normal mobility you may have to consider euthanasia. Not what you want to hear and it’s your call.

Follow up question:

Q: Can the dew claws dropping to the ground and the foot becoming over-extended be from arthritis? I refer to the photos in my earlier query so that you can see how the hooves look. The new manager said he had seen this foot condition happen to deer because of arthritis. But why would arthritis cause this to happen? How could arthritis cause it? Also it collapsed AFTER the overly long hooves were finally trimmed. What made it drop like this only after the hooves were trimmed? Has Dr. English seen this happen before in deer? If so, what was the reason for it happening? As always, with thanks.

A: I very much doubt that this problem is due to arthritis, which is in fact quite rare in deer in my experience. Our deer farms are all pasture based and the animals get plenty of exercise. This is good for foot health. I admire your tenacity in seeking to understand what is going on with these animals, and I fear that my answers will not be enough for you. My best wishes to you.

Q: We’ve been feeding a doe and 2 young deer (perhaps this last spring’s fawns) for the last several weeks. They come almost daily. Today, the mother doe arrived with her hind leg missing about 3 inches below the hock on a hind leg. She’s obviously limping and finding it difficult to walk, but is eating the apples we’ve put out. She doesn’t seem to go far from our home as she’s been here intermittently all day long to eat. I fear her leg must have been caught in some sort of trap to break off so neat and cleanly. There’s no visible bleeding at this time.
Part of me says she should be put down. Part of me says it’s not my choice. The winter is fairly harsh here in Pennsylvania and I fear she’ll have a long winter and will be unable to run away from danger – bears or dogs in the neighborhood.
I also realize her future prospects are grim. What do you think?

A: I guess it is a value judgement whether you let nature takes its course, which includes predation by bears and dogs, or take what may be seen by many people as the more humane option, and shoot her now. If you do nothing she will most probably be taken by a predator, and that is the way mother nature keeps the ecosystem and its critters in some sort of balance. Or that is the theory, but all too often we try to put our own stamp on things, well meaning or not. So what to do? Let her have a chance of surviving but accepting that the bears have to live too. She is a tough, smart old lady to have survived this long so there is a good case for leaving the 30.06 in the cupboard and let them sort out who is more successful, the prey or the predators. That is what I think.

Q: We live in a neighborhood where the deer are like pets. We all feed them….by hand (except the bucks!!) and we have a “herd” that are regulars to our yards. Anyway, a very young doe was lying in my yard Sunday, her front legs were dangling from the knee down. She is getting round on her hind legs when she has to move. I called the Game Warden, she said, “let her die and call to have her hauled away”. I called the local rehabilitators, they said that she would probably heal since there was no bleeding or broken skin, to keep giving her food and water.
She managed to get herself across the street to the greenbelt area (no houses, just vacant with grass and trees). This was Sunday. I have been giving her high water content veggies, she won’t let me get close enough to give her water, I put water close enough for her to get to if she wants it. She gets up when I get too close and moves off from me on her hind legs. Today, three days in, when I took a neighbor over, she moved from us and she was putting her front legs on the ground some. We are watching her and feeding her. We are wondering if we are prolonging her suffering, if we should keep seeing if she improves, or if we should contact the one cop we have in our village and see if they could do something.
I have been given conflicting reports on their ability to heal broken legs. Their only predators here really are cars. If she pulls through, as a cripple, she will always have food and water……but is that cruel? Help!! We are in Briarcliff, TX (Hill Country)

A: We have been presented with similar situations in recent times – they may differ in the detail but there is almost always an animal in trouble, with a range of options in terms of what you should or should not do. If you are a good person you will agonise over the value judgement that is required to do something. Or nothing. But you are already committed to doing something for this wild animal, but your actions in providing water and feed, and in your continuing care for the animal.
Do I think you are right to do this? I honestly do not know because only you can make the decision, as the person in the background. I am just too far away to offer a definitive answer. The advice you have had so far has been pretty good, and yes, simple fractures of the lower limbs in young animals do heal very well, as long as the deer can rest and not move about too much. Only time will tell and you must decide whether at any point in time you need to think again.
In a previous question the ability of the average police person’s ability to kill an injured deer humanely with a hand gun has been called into question. What do you think? Or am I being fair in even asking the question?

Q: This fawn was entangled in wire and we freed her. She had a laceration on her lower leg, above the hoof. We hydrated her, cleaned the wounds and fed her for 2 hays. She gets around by folding the foot under at the joint between the hoof and the lower leg. We have been told it is tendon damage and can heal. Is that correct?

A: If the foot is turning under as your description suggests, it means there is very little chance that the tendons are not badly damaged, and that they are probably severed. I wish I could be more helpful but the fawn’s welfare is the main issue.

Q: I found a baby deer on the side of the road a few days ago. There was a busy 2 lane and a 4 foot fence separating it from a herd. I left her be for a while to see what would happen. She just kept screaming and finally the herd left. I waited a little longer but there was no return. It turns out that the baby had a broken hind leg, a little above the hock. She puts no weight on the leg, it is completely snapped. I have called around and nobody is set up for a fawn right now and all the vets say is that they wont amputate it but that they will make a splint for it. I already have it in a splint so that wont do anything. Do you have any suggestions on what to do? It should really be amputated but nobody will do it. She wants to get up and run around but her front legs are starting to bow in because she is having trouble shifting her weight.

A: This is not necessarily a hopeless case, although you will need to watch her very closely for signs that she has had enough. She has several things in her favour if you are prepared to look after her while the bone heals. If you do nothing she still has a chance of a good result because she is young and it is a high fracture. The large muscles will spasm, and if you give her what in a human we call bed rest she may heal in 6-8 weeks. No promises but it can certainly happen. The worst thing is for her to run around – keep her quiet and no noisy surprises!
Give her lots of TLC.

Q: We have a lame young buck resting on our property. He comes and goes, rested once in the brush under our pine and oak and twice on the cool pavers in front of our side door. He usually lifts his left, back leg when he walks, but he puts weight on it periodically. He holds the leg up well and grooms it alot. He eats leaves from the brush. He walks casually and focuses on us when we speak. We live in Manitoba, Canada, where we lost 40% of our whitetail this past hard winter.
Here is a photo of him standing, eating brush, and another of him resting and watching us. These photos were taken 2 days ago. Tonight, he surprised us at our side door, again, then he got up as we rounded the corner on our way in from the yard. We did not have our camera, nor did we get close. We backed up and spoke gently to him. He remained for only 5 minutes tonight. Two days ago, he rested in the brush for a few hours after moving from the pavers by the side door, where he had been found. He seems slightly more mobile today.
Can you tell what kind of break he has from the leg position as he stands? After reading all your Q&As, I am sorry to say, this seems to be a lower break. I really need to get closer for a better photo and analysis.
Do you think he is in pain? Do you think the authorities would set his leg right, or would they shoot him? I don’t want to call if there is a good chance this buck could heal on his own and is not in excessive pain.
He looks to be about 2 years and healthy. Should I bother him by going outside and offering water, apples, trying to get closer for a better leg photo?
Please post the pictures for folks to see “Buckely” who sleeps at our door. I sure hope he will be all right.
We are quite worried about Buckley, even though he seems more mobile, because his leg is broken, and my husband believes he saw raw flesh. We live only a few blocks from a highway and 2 blocks from a busy Sobeys. We have the only forest for miles, and Buckley isn’t leaving. He feels safe here. And, he lays at our door.
We have to help!

buck Buck

A: I think there is a very good chance that this boy will be okay, as long as he does not do something foolish before the leg is fully healed. You do not wish to have him shot by a hunter, so do not tame him with apples, etc. Force him to eat what deer eat in your part of the world. Keep him as wild as possible.
If the authorities took him they would certainly not do surgery – they may or may not shoot him. Remember my warnings on this site about aggression in tame entire bucks.
His pain should be tolerable now.

Follow up response: Buckley is doing much better . . . putting a lot more weight on his leg, not excessively grooming it, nor holding it way up. His leg looks real good . . . still no swelling. And he is eating lots and is quite relaxed . . . heck, he even bedded down in the grass 20 feet behind us as we sat at our lookout. We’ll keep you posted. Didn’t have a camera on hand, again.
I spoke to Manitoba Conservation. They will not be tending to the buck. The process is “let nature take its course”.

Q: I have a fawn I found in the pen yesterday that has total loss of the mobility of its legs. She seems alert and there are no signs of scours or any type of internal problems.
What are your thoughts?

A: There is a long list of possible causes when an animal cannot rise. Without a history and thorough clinical examination I would only be guessing (and my crystal ball is far too small I am afraid). Having said that, if the fawn is B.A.R. (BRIGHT, ALERT and RESPONSIVE), then the most likely cause of the recumbency is spinal trauma. You will have to give it some time for a lesion like a haematoma to resolve (6 weeks or more), but if it cannot get up in 2 weeks it probably will not get up. The fawn’s welfare then becomes the dominant concern.

Q: What is a broad spectrum antibiotic that can be given to a buck with an infected broken leg and approximately how many mg and for how long? Thanks.

A: If you can restrain him in such a way that nobody gets hurt, good old fashioned oxytet as Terramycin 200 LA IM every 48 hours is enough – say 4 doses 48 hours apart. The company says it lasts for 3-5 days but this is probably not true.

Q: We have a 3 month old fawn on our deer farm. She has been weaker than the others since birth. At first she struggled to stand herself for the first few weeks. It was almost as though she had a calcification issue. Then for the past couple months she has been mobile, although slower than the others and not growing as quickly. Her typical gait is slower with her back hunched. Suddenly a few days ago, she is unable to walk again. She will not put pressure on her legs – she tries, then flops down. Again, it seems as though her back legs contain some calcification in the joint areas. We have treated her with broad spectrum antibiotics and antiinflammatories. Today marks 6 days that she cannot stand. Is there any hope for this sweet girl?

A: I think you have to take a fairly pessimistic view of the likely outcome for this little fawn. Clearly she has been in trouble right from the start, and I think you have to be sensible and humane about her situation.
With a fawn in which the only sign is sudden onset of paralysis the most likely cause is trauma to the spine. It would need radiographs to locate fractures, but the issue as always is animal welfare. You have to set some limits on what to do but I believe only you can tell how it it going.

Q: Hello, this fawn is 6 months old. Something is wrong with the front right leg, with a yellow/green dry crust on the inner part and inflamed/swollen on the outer part. The deer is limping and when standing still they are putting no pressure on the leg. Otherwise the fawn is healthy. Any ideas on what might be wrong? Also, if it is an infection, do deer heal on their own or need antibiotics? Please advise.

fawn right leg problem fawn right leg problem

A: Wounds like this can heal eventually, but if handling makes the deer nervous it can injure itself again and may even cause a fracture that is healing to re-fracture. Even well meaning attempts can be a problem when the animal reacts badly to handling. Probably just as well to monitor the progress of the injury, always being mindful of the animal welfare issues. Good luck.

Q: Hi, I have a 9 month old fallow deer. About 4 months ago he was found in his barn unable to stand on his back legs. I took him to the vet who kept him overnight and administered an IV, wormed him and antibiotics. He got better but then worse. I took him back to the vet and they gave him another worming and antibiotics that I administered – shots twice a day. He got 100% better!

Around this time my husband also noticed his leg was different, and it gradually got worse. I keep him downstairs in my new basement which has cement floors. I noticed his leg turning out and it slowly started to get worse. I just thought he stood like that. Yesterday I took him to the vet and his front legs were buckling and having a hard time standing. They asked me if he could have broken it ? I said yes, when he was in his pen he would get scared of his leash and freak out. He even went through his pen once. I had a rough time when he was outside.
Now he’s as calm as can be. He goes out free, no pen or fence! He has a friend, my wallaby, and they are great friends!

The vet said he could have a deformity or a broken leg. He also said he looks like he has parasites. Now I’m worried! He is standing but leans on the wall. He walks, but kind of sometimes in a circle. I’m worried he might lose his leg or we’ll have to put him down! I’m positive it’s a break that the vet didn’t even catch at the time, so I hope you can please tell me he’s going to be fine! In 2 days he gets x-rays and we go from there. What is your opinion? Thank you so much for caring about animals and answering all these questions for people and someone like me.

A: From what you tell me it is rather difficult to work out what might be going on, but I do have to say that a cement floored cellar is not the best place to keep a deer. The vets who are looking at your animal are in a far better position than I am to sort out the problem, and certainly the x-rays should help. I can say that parasites are not his problem though. Good luck with him.

Q: I found a doe fawn snared in our fence 2½ weeks ago. I assume her to be approx 3wks of age now. I have treated her leg (which was maggot infested) by keeping it very clean and using Furazone Ointment in the gash. The swelling is down and does not appear to have any infection. Healing nicely. She does not seem to be gaining any movement below her hock where the wound is, but gets around quite well on 3 legs.

She had been eating well up until this morning. She usually eats 5-6 times a day and takes in about 800-1000ml. Today she has eaten some clover, but has only consumed 500ml of milk in 2 feedings. Her faeces are much harder and more pellet-like also. Although she appears to be fine, I am worried about her becoming dehydrated.
What is the minimum she should be taking in and should I keep all grasses away from her? And should I be introducing her to water, or keep her only on her milk diet? Should I force feed her? Is it common for them to go off of their feed occasionally? She is my first attempt at raising a fawn and it does not appear to be a task that very many people are willing to take on in my area, especially with the attention that her wounded leg requires. Any advice you are able to give me would be greatly appreciated. P.S. Your web site is amazingly informative! You give advice honestly and it is easy to understand. Thank you so much for your service!

A: From what you tell me she is probably coping quite well with what is a stressful and painful experience for her. It may just be pain that has put her off her feed and that may only last a day or two – hard to say. I don’t think you should force-feed her just yet – that will only add to the stress. She should have access to clean water and it’s fine if she wants to nibble some grass. If she stops drinking altogether that is when you should worry, and then take her to a veterinarian for a full assessment. It does sound as though she could have a major problem with her leg, and if that does not improve then you should certainly have a vet look at her to see what chance she has of regaining full function.

Q: We have a deer fawn that our vet asked us to care for. She is about 5 weeks old now and had all 4 hooves turned under, walking on the first knuckle of each leg. She had terrible sores at each pressure point that we treated topically and then applied splints made of PVC that allowed us to straighten the front hooves in one week. However, the rear legs are proving to be an issue. They were much worse than the front and after 4 weeks in splints, she still turns them under after splint removal. It is very hot where we live and she is beginning to get splint sores even though we wrap well with cotton wrapping and rub PVP iodine ointment on each hoof every day.

Any suggestions on how we can finish getting the rear hooves straight? It is frustrating for both of us! Is there a splint we can purchase that might do the trick?

We did give tetracycline infusions in the beginning to soften the tendons which helped tremendously but don’t want to do that again as it can be dangerous and gave her scours pretty bad. Thanks so much!

A: I wish that I had better news after all your care and commitment to this little fellow. I have seen congenital bowing of the tendons in cattle and deer, and unless they make a quick recovery it very soon becomes an animal welfare issue. Most that I have seen do not recover if the legs are not back to normal by about 3 weeks. You will know when it is hopeless and you will have to be strong and do what is best for the fawn if he is suffering. I wish I had better news.