You assign responsibility to your veterinarian for the treatment and care of your pet bird when it gets sick. However, sometimes emergencies occur that require immediate attention until you can get your bird to the vet. Prompt action can reduce the pain and damage of an accident, and may even save the life of your pet. Get started by having your vet teach you routine care and about feeding of your bird. Next, work with your vet to assemble an avian first aid kit, which you can put together yourself or purchase commercially.
First Aid Kit
Become familiar with the kit’s contents, how and when to use them, and the correct response for common injuries. Most important, keep veterinary emergency phone numbers in the kit.
Other kit items should include:
• Blunt-nosed scissors
• Hemostat to help remove debris and foreign objects
• A small transport cage
• Grooming tools
• Sterile gauze and tape
• Styptic powder
• Hot water bottle
• Small towels and blanket
• Medicine dropper
Here are some common injuries and the appropriate first aid:
Broken Feathers: If the feathers are bloody, you need to stem blood loss. If you’ve been instructed in how to remove a bleeding shaft, you can pull it out. Otherwise, use flour or styptic powder to pack the wound and gently wrap with gauze. Then rush the bird to your veterinarian or emergency clinic.
Attack: Cats and dogs can harm your bird. Apply gentle pressure to a bleeding wound. If the bird has a broken wing, wrap gauze around both wings loosely to the body and secure with tape. There isn’t much you can do for a broken bone beyond gently transporting the bird to the vet, keeping it warm and calm.
Scratches and Abrasions: Gently remove dirt, debris or feathers with a pair of tweezers or Q-tip. Clean the wound with betadine. Keep your bird from picking at the wound. Have you vet confirm that the wound is only superficial.
Bleeding Tongue: Do not apply styptic powder. Get immediate veterinary care.
Bleeding Toenails: Apply styptic powder. If bleeding doesn’t stop quickly, bring the bird to the vet.
Trouble Breathing: Though rarely, birds may have labored breathing if their nostrils are blocked with mucus — wipe it away with a damp cloth. If your bird is panting, it may be overheated, ill or panicked. It the bird is stretching out its wings, it might be too warm — move it to a cool location and mist it with water. If the condition persists, minimize handling and transport the bird to your vet immediately.
Burns: First, run cold water over the affected area for a few minutes, then dry and apply cold compresses. A severe burn may require emergency care, especially if your bird’s breathing is labored or if it collapses. Your vet will evaluate whether antibiotics are necessary.
Chills: A shivering bird may be in distress. If the bird is cold because of exposure, gently warm it with a hot water bottle, but don’t overheat the bird. If the shivering continues unabated, take emergency action and rush the bird to the vet.
Poisons: A bird could easily die from poisoning. If the cause is fumes given off from a Teflon pan, move the bird to where it can get fresh air. Sometimes birds have external contact with poisons such as insecticide or bleach — bathe it right away and check for any irritation or burn. If your bird ingests a poison, call the animal emergency number or poison control center and explain the circumstances. Follow the advice — don’t take actions on your own without sufficient knowledge.
Your bird is depending on you to keep it safe and healthy. Your obligation is to develop sufficient skills to handle common first aid situations. Many larger birds can live for decades — don’t cut their lives short by being unprepared for emergencies that require first aid. If you don’t already have an avian first aid kit, start assembling one today. Use your veterinarian as a source for information and recommendations. It requires a little effort, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can take care of pet bird when accidents happen.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.