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The Dr. Says - Antler Injuries

by Dr. Shane Donley
Date Posted: 01-01-2010

Steve Laughlin asked if I would write an article for the newsletter which would address lacerations, broken bones and traumatic injuries. When I thought about it, I decided the most common problems we see at this time of year are antler injuries. Each summer deer farmers call the vet clinic requesting help with various types of antler trauma.
There are three factors working against us when trying to heal damaged antlers. The first of these is hemorrhage, or blood loss. During the summer, antlers are growing so rapidly that they need a tremendous amount of nutrients to build bone. Blood supplies these nutrients, so its no surprise that velvet and the bony portions of the antler have an extensive blood supply. The second complicating factor is infection. This condition arises when bacteria invade and begin to reproduce in a wound. Usually, the velvet has to be lacerated or damaged in some..way for the bacteria to get inside. Flies also can be a problem at this time of year. Flies are attracted by blood and infection, so they are naturally drawn to antler injuries. Once maggots invade a wound, it becomes a much mOI~serious
problem. Maggots and bacteria release toxins in an animals body that can cause a buck to go into a type of shock, and ultimately lead to its death. Antler injuries fall into four categories. In the following article Ill discuss each, along with the treatment options.

Catee:orv I Velvet Laceration In this situation the velvet is cut, but not displaced or removed from the underlying bone, and there are no fractures of the bone. Blood loss is usually minimal. This injury probably could heal on its own depending upon the size of the cut. Another option is to suture the laceration. In doing so, we decrease the
risks of blood loss, fly strike, and infection. As with any wound, velvet needs to be sutured within six hours of the injury occurring, and the velvet has to be in good, healthy condition. I always use Catron spray directly on the wound, whether it is sutured or not. I also use Cylence long acting fly repellant on the bucks back. This product will repel flies for two to three weeks. Any good, long-acting antibiotic can beo(1sedto help prevent infection.

Catel!orv II Stripped Vel...et In this case the velvet has been stripped off the antler, but the antler is not fractured.  Generally, the velvet is damaged to the point that suturing it is not an option. I prefer not to leave anything attached that may decay and attract flies, so if the velvet looks like it will not live, it needs to be cut off. If the wound is still bleeding, I cauterize the area with a hot dehorning iron. I then apply Catron to the wound, Cylence to the topline, and give an antibiotic.

Cateflorv III Broken Antler with the Velvet Still Intact With these injuries, you will notice a dangling or wobbly point, or main beam, but there is no visible blood since the velvet is not damaged. There can be bleeding inside the velvet, especially if the fractured point or main beam is hanging down along the side of the head. Blood will fill the inside of
the velvet, creating a heavy, swollen, club-like antler. To treat this problem, I typically perform an antler resection.  This procedure. involves making an incision through the velvet beyond the fractured area, and removing the loose piece of antler. The portion of antler still attached to the head is then rounded to eliminate sharp edges, and the velvet is sutured back around the end of the rounded segment. By doing this, we can eliminate hemorrhage,
infection and flies. This. surgery obviously has to be done with sterilized surgical equipmene to prevent infection. I still use Catron, Cylence and antibiotics post-operatively. Theoretically, there may be another option to treat this type of wound, as long as it is not severely swollen. That option would be to apply cast material, and set the fracture
like a broken leg. I have been reluctant to try this method because it covers up the fracture area; if the wound became infected or got maggots inside, it would be difficult to see. If anyone sees a fracture like this and wants to try casting it, let me know.

Catel!orv IV Broken Antler with Torn or Lacerated Velvet There are not many options for treating this type of fracture. The broken segment must be removed. You may have the option of doing an antler resection if the velvet is in good enough condition. The second option is simply to remove the broken piece and cauterize the open wound.
As always, apply Catron and Cylence, and give antibiotics.

It seems like a lot of deer farmers have a favorite type of salve or ointment to heal a velvet wound. There is nothing wrong with these products, but in my experience, it doesnt seem to matter what you put on the wound. If you keep the flies and the infection out, the deer will heal the wound.