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Basic First Aid for Pet Birds

Basic First Aid for Pet Birds

Accidents can, and do, happen. Be prepared by reviewing these first aid recommendations and having a first aid kit for your bird at the ready:

Prepare a First Aid Kit

Assembling a bird first aid kit in advance enables you to be better equipped to treat or stabilize your bird in the event of a minor emergency. Basic supplies you should have on-hand include:

  • A towel
  • Sterile gauze pads and bandages
  • Elastic bandage tape
  • Cotton balls
  • Styptic powder
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Iodine antiseptic swabs
  • Scissors
  • Nail clippers
  • A hemostat
  • Heating pad
  • Bird carrier or small animal pet keeper

Note that some items have a limited shelf life (for example, hydrogen peroxide expires 30–45 days after being opened), so check your first aid kit regularly and discard expired products.

Find an Avian Veterinarian

Should a medical situation arise, immediate action can be the difference between life and death. Take the time now to find a board-certified avian veterinarian, and have his/her contact information handy at all times. You might also want to have the phone number and address on hand for the nearest 24-hour emergency avian animal hospital.

Plan to take your bird to the veterinarian for a regular wellness exam. At that time, also discuss a first aid plan specific to your species of bird. He or she will be able to recommend specific bird supplies to keep on hand and advise when, or if, to use topical treatments, as some could be harmful.

For minor bird injuries, you may be able to successfully perform first aid at home, but you'll want to consult with your veterinarian any time your bird is sick or injured. Some injuries can become serious if not quickly and properly treated.

Treating Minor Wounds

For minor cuts, beak chips or broken toenails that are bleeding, stay calm around your bird to avoid upsetting him further. If he becomes anxious, his heart rate will increase, which could cause additional bleeding. Gently apply pressure to small cuts with a piece of gauze or a gauze pad to stop the bleeding. Be careful not to hold your bird by the chest or compress his chest as this can cause suffocation. In some cases, you may need to apply pressure for up to 10 minutes to stop bleeding. After the bleeding has stopped, clean the area with water.

For broken toenails or chipped beaks, apply styptic powder to the damaged spot. You can also use cornstarch, baking soda or flour if you don't have styptic powder, although this may not be as effective.

Treating Broken Blood Feathers

When your bird breaks a blood feather, it can be an alarming sight. Blood feathers are young feathers that are still growing, and the shafts have blood inside of them. First, apply pressure with a sterile gauze pad to stop the bleeding. After the bleeding stops, contact your veterinarian right away to see if it's necessary to have the feather removed. Carefully wrap your bird in a towel and put him in your bird carrier if you need to make a trip to your veterinarian. Do not attempt to remove a blood feather yourself.

Treating Heat Stress

On very hot days, your bird can become overheated. If your bird is panting and holding his wings away from his body, he may be suffering from heat stress and needs to be cooled off immediately in order to avoid heatstroke, which is a medical emergency. Move your bird to a cooler part of the house and mist him with a bottle of cool water. Avoid putting your bird in front of an air conditioner or fan. Make sure he has clean, fresh water available and closely monitor him. Keep your bird as calm and relaxed as possible and contact your veterinarian as a precaution.

Treating a Broken Wing

If your bird has a broken wing, you'll need to get him to your veterinarian. Use elastic bandaging tape to lightly wrap him and prevent him from moving his wings during the trip, but don't wrap him too tight.

When to See a Veterinarian

Medical situations that require immediate veterinary attention include:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Scratch or bite wounds from other pets
  • Egg binding
  • Shock
  • Eye infections
  • Fractures

One of the first signs of illness in your bird, and most pets, is a change in behavior. Regularly observe your bird's normal behavior. If you see a change, contact your veterinarian. Be ready to answer basic questions about your bird's age, diet and behavior—as well as any information you have about your bird's injury—to help your veterinarian make a diagnosis.