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What you need to know about First Aid for Birds
Please use these tips when you need immediate help, but have no
quick access to a good bird vet. This information should in NO
WAY be used as a substitute for visiting an avian vet.
SIGNS OF ILLNESS
eyes closed most of the time
feathers fluffed all of the time
low, almost horizontal, posture on perch
talking and vocalization stops
discharge from nose
tail bobbing with each breath
perching with neck extended and beak grasping wire of cage, (bird
does this to keep breathing passages straight to make breathing
soiled or pasted vent
feathers lost and not replaced
changes in water consumption
changes in routine and habits
change in droppings
change in activity level
decrease in preening activity
frequent flicking of the head
remaining at bottom of cage
dehydration (weakness, sunken eyes, feet cool, ridging of skin
over sides of toes)
Air Sack Rupture
Broken Blood Feathers
Crop Emptying Problems
Food For Sick Bird
Hydration For Baby Bird
Hydration For Sick Bird
Oil Contamination of Feathers
AIR SAC RUPTURE
Disinfect skin. Poke with sterile needle to allow air ro escape.
Repeat as necessary. Air sacs are located inside the neck, chest
and belly. When ruptured, air will leak from the sac and
accumulate under the bird's skin. If air is not released, the
tear in the sac will enlarge. If there is no improvement within
48 hours, see vet for surgical repair or antibiotic therapy.
Feed with a syringe only if you know what you are doing.
Cleanse the area gently with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution,
Nolvasan, or Betadine. Apply styptic powder, cornstarch, baking
soda, flour, boric acid, or a red hot needle to stop the
bleeding. If necessary, cover the wound with gauze pads and hold
firm pressure on the wound for two minutes. Leave the gauze on.
If cut is on leg or feet, apply antibiotic ointment, then bandage
loosely. If cuts are on the body, cover with gauze and
appropriate size sock, (cut hole in toe of sock for head and
holes for legs). NOTE: this doesn't work well with smaller birds.
Do not bandage over styptic powder.
BROKEN BLOOD FEATHERS
Grasp the bleeding feather shaft firmly with hemostat or
needle-nose pliers at base of feather close to the skin, holding
wing firmly and pull shaft out smartly. If follicle bleeds apply
pressure for 1 minute with thumb and index finger.
Look for shock symptoms (see Shock). Wings-cut toe out of
appropriate size sock allowing bird room to expand chest while
breathing. Place over bird with head through cut hole and cut
opening for feet. BROKEN TOES-wrap gauze into ball. Put foot
around ball. Wrap foot to gauze ball with gauze.
Spray or flush with cool water. Glaze burns twice daily with
small amounts of antibiotic ointment. BY ACID: put on a thin coat
of baking soda paste. BY BASE (like bleach): treat with vinegar.
BY GREASE: sprinkle with flour or cornstarch before rinsing with
water. Be careful not to get any in eyes or nose.
Wash out with hydrogen peroxide. Apply antibiotic ointment. Take
to vet for shot of injectable ampicillin. (Cats transmit a
bacterium called pasteurella with their bites or scratches. In
birds, this causes Pasteurella septicemia, which means death
within 24 hours if not treated).
Place in a quiet, padded box. Can be caused by poisoning,
nutritional deficiency, epilepsy, or infectious disease
(bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasitic).
If you realize in time, flush the crop with cold water. If crop
appears swollen and discolored (many days after) apply vitamin A
and D ointment and feed small meals.
CROP EMPTYING PROBLEMS
A few drops of Maalox or Digel, or a few drops of mineral oil
(orally) and message crop.
Remove fresh fruits. Feed cooked white rice, peanut butter, baby
pabulum, canned baby foods, Chamomile tea, or a few drops of
Put bird in steamy room (like bathroom with shower on). 85-90
degrees Fahrenheit, humidity 60%. Put bird on wet toweling. Give
high calorie, high calcium food.
Keep bird away from intense light. Flush eye with clean water,
use cotton ball or syringe. OBJECT IN EYE--float it out with KY
Jelly or Ophthalmic ointment.
FOOD FOR SICK BIRDS
Mix one pint of water, one pint of Gatorade, 1 teaspoon of honey
or Karo syrup, 1 level teaspoon of baking soda, 1 level teaspoon
table salt. Caution: Measure with care; inaccurate measurements
can cause severe diarrhea.
Spray feathers with cold water. Put feet in cold water. Place in
cold room. Watch bird for shock. Wrap loosely in towel to prevent
HYDRATION FOR BABY BIRDS
Lactated Ringers solution--for compacted or sluggish crop. You
can use the solution instead of water to mix the formula.
Pedialyte--(can be found in baby food section of grocery)
electrolyte replacement therapy in case baby isn't doing well.
HYDRATION FOR SICK BIRDS
Orange or cherry juice.
OIL CONTAMINATION OF FEATHERS
Dust bird with cornstarch or flour (keep away from eyes and
nose). Suggestion--fill pillowcase with flour, cut hole for head,
stick it through, gently shake it. Then fill sink with 3 or 4
inches of warm water and mild detergent (like Dawn). Work soap in
directions of feather growth and rinse (sink spray attachment
helpful). Dry and keep warm. Wait until next day to repeat (if
If by acid, alkalis, or petroleum product: make it swallow milk,
mixed with Pepto Bismol, eggwhite, or olive oil. DO NOT MAKE BIRD
If by other: induce vomiting. Use mustard and water solution put
at the back of the throat.
If known: call poison control center.
If burned: see burns.
Note: mushrooms, crayons, some fruit pits, nicotine, chocolate,
mirror backing, foil, etc... are bird poisons.
Symptoms: fluffed feathers, not moving, rapid shallow breathing,
head may be turned with eyes partly closed.
Place bird in warm (86-90 degrees F), secluded, dimly lit
environment. If accompanied by life threatening injuries, treat
A few drops of Pepto Bismol.