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First Aid for Birds

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Birds can be quite fragile and any illness or injury can have devastating results. First aid and home care for birds is primarily intended to help until your bird is examined and treated by a veterinarian. First aid should not be the only treatment your injured bird receives.

Trauma

Trauma is one of the most common dangers faced by birds. Sharp edges or wires in cages can cause severe lacerations. Fighting between birds, especially larger birds, can result in injury, including lacerated tongues. Other pets, such as dogs and cats, may injure birds that fly free through the house. The most important thing to do for any trauma is to make sure your bird is calm. Delay first aid attempts until the bird is no longer stressed. Place your bird in a warm quiet environment for several minutes. After a period of rest, first aid efforts can begin. In the case of severe bleeding, you may have to render aid before calming the bird. After first aid efforts have been completed, always contact your veterinarian. Most bird injuries will need additional veterinary care.

Lacerations

If your bird receives a laceration or puncture, clean the wound with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine. Avoid topical antibiotic cream unless specifically recommended by your veterinarian. Most creams are quite oily and can cause problems with feathers.

Bleeding

Initially, find the source of the bleeding. If the bleeding is from a broken pin feather, remove the feather. Do not use powdered blood clotting material on a feather follicle.

Tongue lacerations can cause significant bleeding and prompt first aid is needed. Mix a solution of powdered alum and cold water and apply it by dipping the bird's mouth in the solution.

For other sources of bleeding, the alum/cold water mixture can help reduce bleeding. Use cotton balls or tissue dipped in solution. Press this to the affected area for a couple of minutes.

Beak and Nail Injury

Torn or chipped beaks and nails need some aid to prevent further injury. Ragged beaks and nails can catch on items in the cage or on items throughout the house. Remove or trim the part of the beak or nail that is injured and use an alum/cold water mixture to reduce bleeding. Consult your veterinarian for additional treatments.

Impact Injury

Crashing into walls or glass can occur if a bird is allowed to fly free through the house, especially if windows are not covered by curtains. Place your injured bird in a dark quiet place and contact your veterinarian. If loss of consciousness occurs or your bird does not rapidly return to normal, emergency veterinary care is crucial.

Illness

Most bird illnesses require veterinary care. If you suspect that your bird is ill, place him in a dark quiet room with a temperature around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Contact your veterinarian. Do not attempt home treatment for illness unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian.

Typical signs of illness include:
  • Dull demeanor
  • Fluffed up appearance
  • Reduced appetite
  • Closed eyes
  • Abnormal droppings
  • Reduced activity
  • Spending a lot of time on the bottom of the cage

    Miscellaneous

    If your bird is covered in an oily or greasy substance, clean him by washing, rinsing and drying. If bathing your bird is not possible, repeated applications of corn starch or baby powder can help.

    If you notice any tissue protruding from your bird's vent, moisten or lubricate the tissue with Vaseline® or KY® jelly and contact your veterinarian.

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