Handling Common Bird Emergencies at Home
Avian First Aid Kit
- Styptic powder (cornstarch or flour will work if these are not available).
- Various bandage materials.
- Triple antibiotic cream (ointments are oil based and will make the feathers oily where as creams are water based and safe for the feather).
- Eye irrigating solution.
- Heating pad/heat lamp/swing arm lamp.
- Small aquarium/box/plastic storage container.
- Hot water bottle.
- Small syringe or eyedropper (to force-feed Pedialyte, Gatorade, etc.).
- Needle nose pliers/hemostats.
- Super Glue.
Restrain the bird in a towel and find the bleeding shaft. Apply styptic powder (flour, cornstarch) with a Q-tip or Super Glue to the bleeding area. Several applications may be needed and you may need to hold pressure against the site for several minutes. If the bleeding continues, the feather may have to be pulled out. This should be done as a last resort. Two people are needed to pull a blood feather-one to restrain the bird and one to pull the feather. If there is no one to assist you, it will be in the bird's best interest to bring him/her to the clinic. Needle nose pliers or hemostats are needed at this point. The person doing the pulling should hold the wing so that it is supported as they pull. Grab the shaft with the pliers as close to the skin as possible without grabbing the skin. Give a little twist from side to side and PULL!! The bird will probably scream so do not be startled. If a remnant is left in the skin, that needs to be pulled out. Just grab the remnant with the pliers and pull it out. If there is any bleeding from the skin, just apply some styptic powder until it clots. Put your bird in a dark quiet room in its cage to allow the bird time to recover.
Apply styptic powder (flour, cornstarch) to the bleeding nail. Several applications may be necessary; rubbing a nail file briskly over the bleeding nail may stop or slow the blood flow. The heat and friction sometimes cauterizes the nail. Another method is to stick the nail in a bar of soap. A nail that has been torn off and bleeding is best handled by applying triple antibiotic cream and a pressure bandage. A veterinarian should see the bird the next day.
As with most avian procedures, having two people to work on the bird is optimum--one to restrain and one to work on the bird. If the wound is bleeding, apply some pressure until it has stopped or slowed. Apply some triple antibiotic cream to the wound. If the wound is small, just applying the antibiotic cream twice daily may be enough for healing. If the wound is large or the bird is chewing at the wound, it should be temporarily bandaged until a veterinarian can see the bird.
If a bird is showing some signs of illness (lethargy, decrease appetite, watery droppings, puffed up), but is not an emergency, there are some things you can do at home to help the bird. A sick bird needs extra heat. A heating pad under a cage, aquarium, box, etc. can supply this. Cover the cage except the front or place a cover on the aquarium or box. Monitor the temperature so the bird does not overheat. If a heating pad is not available, you can shine a swing arm lamp into part of the cage. Only shine it in part of the cage because if the bird overheats, he/she needs to have an area to move away from the heat source and cool down.
Purchase some Pedialyte (in the baby section of grocery store of drug store) or Gatorade and use this as drinking water. If the bird is not eating or drinking much, give the Pedialyte directly (a few drops given slowly several times) with an eyedropper or syringe. A veterinarian should see the bird the next day. Minimize the bird's stress by putting him/her in her cage and turning off the lights. Call us the next morning so that we can schedule an appointment if needed.