CROW Case of the Week: Nine-Banded Armadillo (#19-1211)

The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypodidae) is found mostly in the southern part of the country or south of the border, but its range has expanded to some central U.S. states. They do prefer warmth and wet climates and reside in habitats that have trees or grassland. While there are approximately 20 species of armadillo that exist in the world, the nine-banded armadillo is the only one that resides in the U.S. All other species reside in Central and South America. Armadillo is Spanish for “little armored one,” which relates to the armor-like plates on its shell.

Its large, pointed head has a long snout and pointy ears. Its short, strong legs have sharp claws that come in handy when digging burrows. Unlike its cousin, the three-banded armadillo, the nine-banded armadillo cannot roll into a ball. It protects itself by digging a hole to shelter its soft underbelly and relies on its armor covering the rest of its body to shield predators.

Interestingly, a nine-banded armadillo is able to hold its breath under water for nearly six minutes. It can either swim with its weighted armor or plod along the river’s bottom to get to the other side. In fact, to aid in its swimming capacity, it has the ability to inflate its intestines.When a nine-banded armadillo is startled, it has been known to jump straight up in the air before running away. This act can cause it to be struck by a vehicle or wedged into a vehicle body part.

At CROW, an adult nine-banded armadillo was admitted from Lehigh Acres after being hit by a car and becoming lodged within its radiator. An initial examination by veterinarians showed abrasions across the patient’s dorsum (back) and a significant open wound through the bands right of its midline.

Additionally, veterinarians noted the armadillo’s body condition to be plump, meaning it was very overweight/ obese. X-rays revealed the armadillo also suffered a fractured pelvis and fractured ribs. CROW medical staff bandaged the wounds and commented that fractured ribs usually heal with strict cage rest for a period of time. Injuries to the pelvic region require surgery, however.

“In many cases where mammals fracture their pelvis, we can stabilize the fractures using plates and screws,” said Dr. Kyle Abbott, CROW veterinary intern. “In the case of smaller animals, strict cage rest for a couple months can be used to heal the fractures. In the armadillo’s case, surgery was not an option due to his shell blocking surgical access.”

After staff flushed the wounds, an attempt was made to suture the bands back together, but due to the armadillo’s excess weight creating tension, the sutures failed. Surgery was performed the following day in which a more rigid method was used to close the wound. “The more rigid fixation involved drilling holes into the armadillo’s bony carapace and then threading suture through these holes to bring the wound together,” said Dr. Abbott. However, the injuries were quite extensive, especially the large open wound and not enough blood flowing to the tissues. “Unfortunately, the carapace wound of the armadillo began to have extensive tissue death, called necrosis. The necrosis was secondary to the extensive trauma the soft tissues received resulting in poor blood supply to these tissues,” said Dr. Abbott. “This made the armadillo’s prognosis for recovery very poor, and it was humanely euthanized.”

CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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