Emergencies for the Birds

Every sick bird should be considered an emergency situation. Birds hide illness until it develops into near death conditions. If you notice changes in activity level, food and water consumption, elimination or feathers, your bird needs to be brought to your veterinarian as soon as possible. A bird that is not eating or is sitting on the cage floor, wheezing or tail-bobbing while breathing, is a critically ill bird.

If you have a pet cat, beware that some cats don't get along with birds and will attack them on occasion. Cat bites are very bad as they carry the deadly bacteria Pasteurella Multocida in their mouth. Birds usually die within 24-48 hours from the bite. Every cat attack is an emergency that needs immediate medical care.

Bleeding is a common emergency. Small birds do not have much blood to spare and even small amounts of blood loss are life threatening. Trauma to the nails, beak, tongue or other parts may cause bleeding. Traumas may be related to cage objects (wires, accessories, sharp edges, etc.), cage mate aggression, or panic attacks. Birds free to fly around the house are prone to injuries related to household objects. It is important to make the environment safe for pet birds. Blood feathers (new feathers in formation) may bleed profusely following damage to the blood rich structures. Bleeding birds need immediate attention. In some cases gentle pressure can be applied directly to the bleeding source.

Other common traumatic injuries include fractures of the limbs or beak. Fractures can be splinted or corrected surgically. Internal tumors may cause nerve compression and leg paralysis that mimic a fracture. Head and brain injuries are common and may heal surprisingly fast. Head tilt and twist as well as seizures can be caused by other brain disorders such as toxicities, infections and metabolic abnormalities (i.e. calcium deficiency).

Foreign bodies may be ingested or inhaled and cause digestive or respiratory problems. Cockatiels are prone to millet seed inhalation and acute respiratory distress. These problems are serious and require surgery. Respiratory infections also create similar symptoms and need appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Females with inadequate nutrition and calcium deficiency are predisposed to egg binding. Typically the bird will be straining at the cage floor without laying the egg until it is depleted of energy. These birds usually get stabilized prior to the egg evacuation. Abdominal tumors and masses can mimic this condition.

Hand fed baby birds can get crop burns from baby bird food that is warmed in a micro-wave oven. The problem often is not noticed until a week or two following the burn damage. These birds require surgery.

It is important to recognize emergencies in birds. The sooner they are treated the better the chances of recovery. In case of doubt, visit the avian vet. Play it safe.

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Naperville University Commons Animal Clinic- The-vet.net
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Veterinarians, Animal hospital