First Aid for Birds
Accidents can be fatal, but more often than not, they are treatable. They most frequently occur at the beginning of taming when you allow the bird freedom of the house, and from run-ins with other pets. Your bird also may fly head-first into a window or mirror or twist a leg in a toy once thought to be safe. In an emergency, act first, and then call your vet for follow-up care. To remain calm is most important of all.
The most useful first-aid preparations can be bought at your local drug store. They are hydrogen peroxide, B.F.I. Antiseptic powder, Q-tips and eyewash. You may find one of the commercial bird salves useful to dress abrasions; they can be purchased at a pet store.
Use hydrogen peroxide to stop bleeding. Pour some on a dry cotton swab and squeeze out the excess. Press the swab against the bleeding spot and hold for an instant. The eyewash can be used to wash debris off the bird’s eyes, but do not spray it into the bird’s nostrils.
If you suspect that your bird has broken a leg or wing, do not attempt to set the bone yourself. If the bird has a wound, carefully clean it with peroxide and keep the bird quiet. Remove any perches from the cage and keep the bird warm until you can contact the vet. Place food and water within easy reach of the bird, but do not try to force the bird to eat or drink. Place the cage in a quiet corner and let the bird rest. Partially cover the cage to keep the bird calm.
You may clip a blood feather and cause it to bleed or may clip a claw too short. If bleeding is light, simply place the bird back in its cage and let the blood clot. If bleeding is severe, use pressure with a dry cotton swab to press against the spot. It is wise to have styptic powder on hand for emergencies. A small amount usually will stop the flow of blood, especially if used in combination with pressure. Once bleeding abates, place the bird back in its cage and leave it in a quiet corner. Do not disturb the bird, but do watch for renewed bleeding.
Signs of Shock in Birds
The most probable cause of death in caged birds is shock, a direct result of accidental injury. The symptoms of shock are as follows:
- Pupils that do not react to light
- Shallow breathing
- Clammy skin
- Soft moaning sounds
- Bird’s total acceptance of your touch (semi paralysis)
If you suspect that the bird is suffering from shock, do not move the bird. But if there is very heavy bleeding, you must stop the flow. For birds that appear to be in shock and where no wound is apparent, administer the following first aid. Keep the bird warm and restrict all movement. You may find it useful to wrap the bird gently in a small cloth if it cannot keep an upright balance.
Do not move the bird or take it to the vet until you have attempted first aid. Many bird owners run to the vet without any first aid to the injured pet; often, this action itself causes the bird’s demise. But by all means, call the vet after the bird has been attended to. Learn to recognize the symptoms of shocks and to respond appropriately.
Signs Of Ill Health
Sick birds usually show signs of an illness long before they die. The signs to look out for include:
- Clogged Nasal Passages Or Discharge
- Closed Eyes Or Watery Discharge From The Eyes
- Fluffed Feathers
- Frequent Sneezing
- Heavy, Labored Or Irregular Breathing
- Loose, Watery Or Off-color Droppings
- Loss Of Appetite
- Sleeping All Day Long
- Soiling On Or Around The Vent
- Standing On Both Feet When Sleeping
A bird that remains thin even though it eats a tremendous amount should also be suspected of suffering from some malady. Whenever these signs are seen in combination, be certain to call your vet for an appointment as soon as you can. Most illnesses can be effectively treated if you catch them in time.
Do not put off visiting the vet if you expect to have your bird for many more years. Do not attempt to administer medications that are intended for use on humans, dogs or cats unless instructed to do so by your vet. Many bird shops sell over-the-counter medications for pet birds; these can help.