injured parrot

Pet Bird & Parrot Injury Care When You Can't Find a Vet

"Guide to Sick Bird & Parrot Injury Cares" offers practical strategies for handling critical situations with your feathered companions. From essential stabilizing techniques to creating a bird first aid kit and hospital, this guide equips you to respond effectively to avian health crises. Dive into expert advice and ensure prompt and efficient care for your birds during emergencies.

Table of Contents

Medical Disclaimer:

This blog post offers general information about sick bird care. It is not intended as medical advice and should not replace professional veterinary consultation. Always consult a qualified veterinarian for diagnosis, treatment, or any medical concerns about your parrot. Do not delay seeking professional advice due to information read on this website. In case of a medical emergency, contact your vet immediately.

Introduction:

When a sick bird or a parrot injury occurs, it is critical to act fast because birds can decompensate very quickly due to their high metabolism and small stature. Complicating matters, bird hide their illness as a matter of survival, so unless you know what to look for, it is very likely that by the time you notice that something is wrong, your bird is critically ill and that it is having a medical emergency.

In this blog post, I'll address what you need to look for, top avian accidents so that you can plan to avoid them, preparing for avian emergencies, and how to stabilize your bird so that you can try to save its life.

Subtle signs that your bird is in crisis

If you have a pet bird, it is likely that it will have a medical emergency in its lifetime. A major complicating factor is that birds only offer very subtle symptoms when they are in distress and most bird owners don't know what to look for so by the time they notice a problem, the bird is already critically ill.  Another complicating factor is that due to their high metabolic rates and their small statue, bird can decompensate very quickly due to handling and stress.  

Having the ability to recognize the subtle signs and symptoms of a sick bird is one of the most important skills you'll need as a bird owner. Make it a point to check your birds demeanor every single day to catch the early signs of a health concern.

Here is what to look for:

signs of a sick bird
  • Tail bobbing with each breath
  • A fluffed appearance
  • Sitting on the floor of the enclosure or laying on its keel (breast) bone
  • Clenched feet and toes
  • Food particles around its mouth
  • Reduced activity and signs of general weakness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Squinted eyes

INSERT VIDEO OF SUN CONURE & JENDAY CONURE

Take a moment to compare a healthy bird and a compromised bird in this video.  What subtle differences can you identify?

The Top Ten Avian Vet Emergencies

Emergencies are common with pet birds. For one thing, they are prey to other typical household pets like cats and dogs. Second, they are very curious and active. They want to be involved in what ever is going on in the household. The more that you can understand the most common household danger, the better prepared you are to preventing accidents. Let's look at what prominent avian vets and even the World Parrot Trust have identified as the most common accidents that parrots encounter.

Water

Parrots can face serious dangers from water accidents at home, such as drowning in open toilets, sinks, or buckets. For instance, a parrot might accidentally fall into a toilet if left open, or into a kitchen sink full of water. To prevent these accidents, always keep toilet lids closed and ensure that no containers with water are left open where your parrot can access them. When not supervised, it’s safer to keep your parrot secured in its cage.

Additionally, kitchen accidents can occur if a curious parrot flies into pots of hot water or food on the stove. To avoid this, keep your parrot out of the kitchen while cooking or ensure it remains in its cage during these times. Taking these precautions helps protect your parrot from dangerous and potentially fatal accidents. 

Flying out open doors

Parrots can easily find themselves in danger by flying out of open doors, especially when startled. For instance, during a lively summer barbecue, a loud noise might frighten a parrot, causing it to instinctively fly towards the brightest exit, which could be an open door leading outside. In another scenario, a parrot might simply be curious and fly out an open door when new guests arrive, not realizing the risks outside the safe confines of its home.

To prevent such accidents, it’s important to strategically place your parrot's cage away from doors and large windows where it might see outside light as an escape route. Additionally, during the summer months or when hosting guests, make sure your parrot is safely secured inside a locked cage. This practice ensures that even if doors are frequently opening and closing, your parrot remains safe from the dangers of an unexpected flight. Implementing these safety measures can protect your parrot from getting lost or injured. 

Getting stepped on or crushed

Parrots walking on the floor might seem cute, but it's a common cause of emergency vet visits. Parrots, being naturally curious creatures, often wander on the floor to explore, leading to accidents like getting stepped on. This risk increases during hormone season when parrots are looking for place to make a nest, like under furniture or in a closet.

To avoid these dangerous situations, training your parrot to stay on designated safe spaces like a play stand or the top of their cage is crucial. Whenever you notice your parrot on the floor, gently pick them up and return them to these safer areas. Consistently reinforcing this behavior teaches them preferred perching spots, reducing the risk of accidents.

If your parrot persists in wandering off or if you're unable to supervise them continuously, securing them in their cage is a safer alternative. This not only keeps them safe from underfoot accidents but also from other potential hazards around the home. By taking these steps, you can help ensure your parrot's safety and well-being, especially during more active hormonal periods.

Flying into windows or ceiling fans

Flying into windows and ceiling fans is another common and often dangerous accident for parrots at home. These collisions can result in severe injuries and are frequently fatal. Parrots may not recognize glass as a barrier and can fly into windows while trying to reach what they see outside. Similarly, ceiling fans pose a significant threat if they are in operation while a parrot is flying freely within a room.

To prevent such tragic accidents, it's important to take proactive measures:

  1. Window Treatments: Use decals, curtains, or blinds on windows. These not only make the windows visible to your parrot but also limit its view outside, reducing the temptation to fly towards them.

  2. Ceiling Fan Safety: Always turn off ceiling fans when your parrot is out of its cage. This eliminates the risk of injury from the moving blades.

  3. Supervised Free Flight: Only allow your parrot to fly freely in safe, controlled environments. Ensure all potential hazards are addressed before letting your parrot out to explore.

By implementing these safety measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of injuries from flying into windows or ceiling fans, keeping your feathered friend safe during flight time.

Other household pets

It's a tragic reality that birds can be quickly and fatally injured by household pets like dogs and cats. Despite the seemingly peaceful coexistence at times, it's important to remember that dogs and cats have natural predatory instincts, and birds are natural prey. Even well-behaved pets can have a momentary lapse where their instincts take over, leading to disastrous consequences.

Strategies to Minimize the Risk:

  1. Physical Separation: Always ensure a physical barrier between your bird and other pets. When your bird is out of its cage, confine dogs and cats to a different room.

  2. Supervision: Never leave your bird unsupervised with other pets, even for a moment. Always be present to monitor their interactions.

  3. Training: Train dogs especially to understand basic commands such as "leave it," which can be useful in preventing potential attacks. Reward them for calm behavior around the bird's cage.

  4. Secure Housing: Make sure the bird's cage is sturdy and secure, with no gaps or weak points where a cat or dog could potentially reach in. Position the cage high enough to be out of reach from curious paws.

  5. Introductions: If introducing a new pet into a home with a bird, do so gradually and under strict supervision. Gauge the reactions and adjust accordingly.

By taking these precautions, you can help ensure the safety of your bird and prevent the tragic consequences that can occur when natural instincts take over in dogs and cat.

Getting entangled in toys

Thousands of parrots tragically lose their lives each year due to accidents involving their toys. For instance, a parrot might get its foot or neck caught in the long strings of a hanging toy, or its beak trapped in the links of a chain, leading to severe injury or death. Another common scenario is a parrot's claw or toe getting entangled in exposed chains or frayed fabric, which can cause panic, injury, or fatal accidents if the bird is unable to free itself.

Regular Toy Inspection and Safety Measures:

  1. Weekly Inspections: Dedicate time each week to inspect all your parrot's toys closely. Look for any signs of wear and tear that could pose a risk, such as frayed ropes, loose threads, or broken parts.

  2. Trim Strings and Ropes: Keep all strings and ropes short and trim any frayed ends to prevent them from wrapping around your parrot. Strings longer than an inch can pose a strangulation or entanglement risk.

  3. Remove Exposed Chains: Examine toys with chains and remove any that are exposed or have become loose. Replace metal quick links with safer alternatives like plastic baby links, which are less likely to catch a beak or claw.

  4. Opt for Safe Materials: Choose toys made from safe, non-toxic materials specifically designed for birds. Avoid toys with small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed, leading to possible internal blockages or injuries.

  5. Supervised Play: Allow your parrot to play with toys under supervision, especially when introducing new toys. This allows you to observe how your parrot interacts with them and identify any potential hazards.

By regularly maintaining and carefully selecting your parrot's toys, you can greatly reduce the risk of accidents. Ensuring that playtime is both fun and safe is crucial for your parrot's well-being.

Owner caused diseases

Several diseases in birds can be directly attributed to poor husbandry or practices by bird owners. Here are some of the most common issues:

  1. Transmittable disease from expose to an infected bird: Always quarantine new birds that are brought into the home. Avoid taking your bird to bird stores or bird fairs.

  2. Nutritional Deficiencies: Commonly seen in pet birds due to imbalanced diets provided by owners. For instance, a lack of calcium can lead to weak bones and beak issues, while a deficiency in vitamin A can cause respiratory and skin problems.

  3. Obesity: A frequent health issue in birds that is primarily caused by overfeeding or providing a diet high in fats and low in nutrients.

  4. Feather Plucking: This can be a result of stress, boredom, or anxiety, often due to inadequate stimulation or attention from owners. Environmental factors and lack of social interaction play significant roles.

  5. Bacterial and Fungal Infections: A fungal infection that can develop from poor cage maintenance, such as damp bedding or unclean living conditions.

  6. Respiratory Diseases: Often caused by exposure to toxins in the environment, such as cigarette smoke, aerosols, or Teflon fumes from non-stick cookware, which can be lethal to birds.

These conditions highlight the importance of proper care, diet, and environmental management in maintaining the health of pet birds. 

Heat exposure

Heat exposure in birds can lead to overheating or heatstroke, particularly dangerous conditions that can cause serious health problems or even be fatal. Birds don't sweat, so they must rely on other behaviors to cool down, such as panting, holding their wings away from their bodies, and seeking shade.

Signs of Heat Exposure in Birds:

  • Panting or rapid breathing
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Holding wings out from the body to dissipate heat
  • Appearing disoriented or stressed

Preventing Heat Exposure: To ensure your bird remains safe from overheating:

  • Shade and Ventilation: Always provide a well-ventilated environment with access to shady areas, especially if your bird spends time in an aviary or cage exposed to sunlight.
  • Temperature Control: Keep indoor temperatures at a comfortable level. Avoid placing your bird's cage near windows where direct sunlight can raise temperatures quickly.
  • Hydration: Provide fresh, cool water at all times to help your bird stay hydrated. Misting your bird lightly with water can also help cool them down in hotter weather.
  • Avoid Hot Times: Limit exercise and active play to cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

Immediate Actions if Overheating Occurs: If you notice signs of heatstroke in your bird, it's crucial to take immediate action to cool them down:

  • Move your bird to a cooler, shaded environment immediately.
  • Offer water for drinking.
  • Mist your bird lightly with cool (not cold) water, or place their feet in a shallow pan of cool water to help lower body temperature gently.

If symptoms persist or your bird seems distressed, contact an avian veterinarian immediately, as heatstroke can quickly become life-threatening.

Sleeping with birds

Falling asleep with pet birds is a surprisingly common and tragic occurrence that can result in serious injury or death for the bird. Due to their small size and delicate bodies, birds can easily be crushed if their owner accidentally rolls over or shifts position while sleeping.

Prevention Strategies: To avoid such accidents, it's crucial to follow these guidelines:

  • No Co-Sleeping: Never allow birds into your bed while you're sleeping. Even the most well-meaning pet owner cannot control their movements while asleep, and the risk to the bird is significant.
  • Safe Housing at Night: Always ensure your bird is safely secured in its cage, a sleep cage, or a bird-safe room before you go to sleep. The cage should be comfortable, with appropriate perches and bedding, away from any hazards.
  • Routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine for your bird, which includes placing them in their cage well before you go to sleep. This helps the bird get used to sleeping securely in its own space.

By adhering to these practices, bird owners can significantly reduce the risk of accidentally harming their birds and ensure that both they and their pets have a safe and restful night.

Always be prepared for avian emergencies

Emergency vet readiness

When a bird faces an emergency, quick and correct initial management is critical, and it’s important to handle the bird as little as possible to avoid additional stress. General practitioners and regular clinics often lack the frequent experience needed to maintain high-level skills for severe avian emergencies. As a bird owner, knowing the right steps to take and where to find specialized care can be lifesaving for your feathered friend.

As a bird owner, it's crucial to be proactive about your bird's health. Make sure you establish a relationship with an avian or exotics vet long before any emergency arises. It's also important to know which local emergency clinics have an avian or exotics specialist. Being prepared and knowing where to turn for help can make all the difference when your bird needs urgent care.

If you're reading this, act now: find an avian vet today. It's equally crucial to prepare a bird emergency kit to stabilize your pet at home quickly if needed. Don’t wait—being prepared can save your bird’s life in a crisis.

Create a bird hospital cage

Always have a clean and stocked hospital cage ready for use in case your bird gets sick or injured. Creating a hospital cage for your bird involves several key steps to ensure their safety and comfort during recovery.

Here’s a comprehensive setup process:

1. Choose the Right Cage: Select a clear, solid-sided carrier, an empty aquarium, or a large plastic bin. If using a plastic bin, make sure to drill holes in the lid for adequate ventilation while maintaining a controlled environment.

2. Set Up a Heat Source: Install a heat lamp or heating pad near the cage to provide consistent warmth. It's important for your bird to use its energy for healing rather than staying warm. Ensure the heat source is safe to avoid burns or overheating, and adjust it as needed to keep the cage at a comfortable temperature. For most birds, maintaining the hospital cage at a temperature between 85°F to 90°F (29°C to 32°C) is often recommended during recovery periods.

3. Easy Accessibility: Place shallow food and water dishes inside the cage in locations that are easily accessible. This setup ensures that your bird does not have to strain to get nourishment, which is vital for its recovery.

4. Quiet and Calm: Position the hospital cage in a quiet, dark location or cover it with a light cloth to help your bird calm down and focus on healing. A peaceful environment can significantly speed up recovery by reducing stress.

5. Check on Your Bird Frequently: Regularly monitor your bird’s condition to observe any changes or improvements. Keep in close contact with your veterinarian, and don’t hesitate to call them if you notice any concerning signs. By following these steps, you can create a nurturing recovery space that minimizes stress for your bird and supports their healing process effectively.

Create a bird first aid kit

If, or when, your bird gets sick or you experience a parrot injury, having a comprehensive bird first aid kit can be life-saving. Not only that, a bird first aid kit brings you peace of mind.

A comprehensive kit can be a little pricey, so you may want to consider making your own. Here is a list of 20 items that can help you stabilize your injured pet until you can get to a vet:

  • First Aid Box: A durable, easy-to-organize box, ideally a toolbox with compartments for different items.
  • Saline Solution: For cleaning wounds and flushing out debris without causing irritation.
  • Antiseptic Liquid: Such as 1% hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine, or betadine diluted solutions for disinfecting wounds.
  • Aloe Vera Spray: For soothing skin irritations and burns, preferable to gels which can mat feathers.
  • Cotton Swabs and Cotton Pads: To apply medication precisely and clean larger wound areas gently.
  • Tweezers: For removing foreign objects from wounds.
  • Styptic Powder, Cornstarch, or Cayenne Pepper Powder: To quickly stop bleeding from minor cuts or broken blood feathers.
  • Clean Towels / Paint Tarp: Useful for restraining the bird, covering cages, filtering out smoke from wildfires, and providing a soft lying surface.
  • Emergency Contact List: Contact details for your regular avian vet, a backup vet, and nearest 24-hour emergency clinic.
  • Travel Cage or Carrier: For safe transportation during emergencies.
  • Heat Pack or Hot Water Bottle: To keep the bird warm during transport or when ill.
  • Food and Water Supply for a Week: Including bird-specific emergency nutrition like high-energy supplements or baby bird formula.
  • Pedialyte Powder Packs: Important to prevent dehydration
  • Bird’s Medication: Including any ongoing prescriptions, vitamins, or supplements, including UnRuffledRx Parrot Calming Formula.
  • Extra Bowls: For food and water, ensuring hygiene and convenience.
  • Disposable Gloves: To prevent contamination when treating wounds.
  • Scissors: For cutting bandages or modifying splints.
  • Nail Clippers: For managing overgrown claws that could pose a risk in emergencies.
  • Gauze and Bandages: To protect wounds and manage bleeding.
  • Micropore Tape: For securing bandages without damaging feathers or skin.
  • Eyedropper or Syringe: For administering medications or hydrating a bird.
  • Penlight or Flashlight: To examine wounds or the bird’s mouth and throat in low light conditions.
  • Magnifying Glass (or magnifying phone app): To better inspect small wounds or identify parasites.
  • Disinfectant Wipes: For cleaning surfaces, cages, and hands before and after administering first aid.
  • Rehydration Solution: Pedialyte packets to support hydration in cases of shock or severe dehydration.
  • Water-Based Lubricant: For dealing with cloacal prolapse or egg binding.
  • Saf-T Shield Bird Collar: To prevent birds from chewing on their injuries.
  • Cohesive Bandage Tape (Vet Wrap): To securely wrap wounds or splints without sticking to feathers.
  • Popsicle Sticks: Can be used as splints for injured limbs or wings.

Stabilize your sick bird (WINGS)

  • W - Work quickly to stop any bleeding using flour or cornstarch. Use topical disinfectants like diluted chlorhexidine and betadine on wounds, avoiding the mouth, ears, and eyes. Avoid applying salves, ointments, or petroleum jelly to birds without a vet's advice.
  • I - Isolate the bird in a confined, comfortable plastic bin with lid or solid sided carrier. Add 1 lowered perch. This can be used to transport the bird the avian vet emergency clinic
  • N - Nourish with easily accessible food and water
  • G - Give electrolytes or Pedialyte, if available, to reduce the chances of the bird going into shock from dehydration
  • S - Safeguard against chilling or stress by maintaining warmth and calm.

Always call your vet for next steps.

Prevention Before Accident

  1. Call emergency clinics to inquire whether they have an avian or exotics vet on staff prior to the emergency; update the list every 6 months as emergency vets change clinics frequently
  2. Invest in a bird first aid kit
  3. Invest in making a bird hospital

Related Posts:

 

 

References:

https://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/topten.html, margaret wiseman, 2006

Cravens, E. B. (2013, July 29). Frequently occurring pet bird accidents. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/worldparrottrust/docs/frequently-occurring-pet-bird-accidents

Lightfoot, T. L. (n.d.). Injuries and accidents of pet birds. Merck Veterinary Manual. Retrieved from
https://www.merckvetmanual.com/bird-owners/disorders-and-diseases-of-birds/injuries-and-accidents-of-pet-birds

Vetrano, L. (n.d.). The Avian Triage: Managing the First Steps. Retrieved from
https://www.vet.upenn.edu/docs/default-source/penn-annual-conference/pac-2019-proceedings/companion-animal-track-2019/nursing-track-tue-2020/liz-vetrano---the-avian-triage.pdf?sfvrsn=9af6f2ba_2

Wiseman, M. (2006). Top ten tips for avian health. Retrieved from
https://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/topten.html

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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

TAGS: #ParrotInjury #SickBird

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