Birds are one of the most popular pets in the world. In 2017, there were approximately 20.6 million pet birds in the U.S. With so many feathered friends, accidents are bound to happen that could break a bone or two. Sometimes they fall from their perch or get attacked by an animal, such as a cat.

Seeing your pet standing on one foot or with one wing hanging lower than the other usually signals a fracture. The way birds are currently treated for broken bones involve placing metal pins to secure the broken pieces in place and then later removing them.

This can be difficult as it requires a second surgery. Moreover, birds evolved to have fewer and hollow bones to keep them light for flight. Metal pins are heavy, placing asymmetrical stress on the bird. This often encumbers them during flight, take off or landing post-fracture repair.

Researchers have managed to address this issue by using sheep and dog bones which they whittled into orthopedic pins. This method of treatment is also more affordable and efficient.

"There is no need for the implants to be removed because they will ultimately be absorbed by the body," Saifullah Dehghani Nazhvani, first author of the study, of the Shiraz University School of Veterinary Medicine's department of surgery in Iran, said. "Therefore, the implants can be used for wild birds, such as eagles, owls, and seagulls."

Researchers obtained bones from dead animals and sanded and procesed them. This newly formed pin was then inserted into the humeral bones of the pigeons, which were as good as new after 32 weeks.

"There was no rejection of any of the implanted bones at all," Nazhvani said. "And for pigeons who underwent the treatment, there was early function of the wing and more solid repair than we thought due to slow absorption of the implant and its contribution to the healing process."

The passenger pigeon. JOEL SARTORE/National Geographic Creative