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How to Medicate Your Bird

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Birds can be difficult to medicate. They do not take pills well; they can find and spit out cleverly hidden tablets in food; and they can be quite a challenge to hold while trying to administer medication. The following are possible methods for medicating your bird:

Adding Medicine to the Drinking Water

Adding medications to drinking water is controversial but sometimes is the only practical method available, especially in aviaries. The goal is that the bird will self medicate throughout the day as he periodically drinks water.

There are several disadvantages of this method. The first disadvantage is that not all drugs can be placed in drinking water. Some drugs make the water bitter or bad tasting and the bird will not drink. Instead of a sick bird, you may have a sick and dehydrated bird. Some birds may even refuse to drink the water if the medication changed the color of the water. Another disadvantage is that the water and medication mixture must be prepared fresh daily.

Adding Medicine to the Food

Adding medication to food is another method. It is more reliable than the water method, especially if you are able to hide the medication in a favorite treat. Usually, liquid mediations, crushed tablets or the contents of a capsule are mixed in the food. As the bird eats, the medication is ingested.

The disadvantages are that some birds won't eat the food with medication since the medication can alter the taste of the food. Medication can be difficult to properly mix with the food. You may need to add water to make the medication moist. This will help adhere the medication to the food pieces.

If there is more than one bird in the cage, both may receive medication. If the healthy bird is dominant, he may ingest most of the medication and the sick bird may receive very little.

Giving Liquid Medicine

The most reliable method of medicating your bird is through administration of liquid medications directly to the bird. Most oral suspensions are well liked by birds, especially if flavored.

The procedure to give liquid medication to your bird includes:

  • Draw up the prescribed amount of medication in an oral syringe or eye dropper.

  • To administer oral medications, begin by removing the bird from the cage.

  • Wrap him in a soft towel. Make sure his wings and feet are not exposed.

  • Once restrained, allow the bird to calm down before beginning to give the medication.

  • Place the tip of the eyedropper or oral syringe just inside the beak. The bird may begin to bite at the tip.

  • After the tip has been placed in the beak, slowly administer the medication. Allow your bird to swallow frequently. Giving the medication too quickly may result in aspiration pneumonia or even death.
    You may notice medication coming out of the nostrils. Don't panic. This does not mean your bird aspirated. Stop giving the medication and allow your bird to calm down. Try to contact your veterinarian to explain what occurred. If you cannot contact your veterinarian, don't administer any more medication at that time. Still give the next prescribed dose at the proper time.

  • After administering the medication, give your bird a treat. This can help alleviate some of the fear and stress involved and can help make future attempts at medication administration go smoother.

    Giving Injectable Medication

  • Another method of medication delivery is through repeated injections. This is not a very common method due to repeated stress on the bird, pain and other alternatives available.

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