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First Aid for Parrots

Unfortunately, accidents can - and DO happen, so it's always a good idea to be prepared! While accidents usually produce obvious injuries, illnesses are often kept well hidden by birds. In nature, if you're sick you pose a threat in making your whole flock vulnerable to predators, so parrots have become adept at masking signs of illness. This is one reason that it's vital to have a "well bird" check-up annually. Needless to day, once a bird is showing obvious signs of illness, he's often very sick and needs immediate vet attention. First Aid is intended to help you get by until you can see the vet, or in treating minor injuries.

It's helpful to have a "hospital cage" for emergencies - a smaller, easily portable cage where you can isolate a sick or injured bird and easily move him to a warm, quiet, area of your home. It's advisable to have a quarantine area as well - for new birds coming into the home, as well as sick birds recovering from an infection. This area should be well separated from the rest of your birds to prevent air-borne transmission of germs, as well as those spread by direct contact.

Some of the signs of possible illness include: more time on cage floor, talking and playing less, fluffed feathers, lack of appetite, drinking more water, personality changes (such as becoming bitey or not wanting to come out of the cage), tail bobbing, puffy eyes, sleeping on both feet with head tucked, droopy wings, sneezing or coughing, "clicking" in chest, vomiting, diarrhea, soiled vent, etc. I won't go into specific diseases here, but hopefully you get the general idea - if things are "different," get to the vet! Other problems include broken blood feathers or egg binding.

It's a good idea to put together a first aid kit (Your Parrot Place has a nice one for sale!) Include:

? Eye and skin wash

? Styptic powder

? Corn starch

? Antiseptic wipes

? Cotton Swabs and balls

? Eye dropper

? Assorted bandages - gauze, adhesive, vet wrap

? Scissors

? Latex Gloves

? Forceps or hemostats

? Betadine or iodine swabs

? Adhesive tape

? Penlight

? Heating pad and/or lamp

? Hydrogen peroxide

? Pedialyte (Electrolyte solution for babies)

? Hand feeding formula and syringes

? Phone number for vets and poison control

Generally, with any illness or injury, remove the bird to a hospital cage and put him in a warm, quiet, dimly lit room (bathrooms can work). Provide fresh water (and Pedialyte if needed). Feed favorite foods (healthier things you know he'll eat) plus warm foods like cooked rice or oatmeal. IN addition, spray millet is often enjoyed by smaller birds. If he's not eating well on his own, offer some warm food with your fingers or a spoon. If need be, you may have to mix up hand feeding formula and give by cup or syringe. If you've kept your bird in the habit of eating from a spoon or cup, this will be easier. DO NOT use over the counter remedies from pet stores. It's too much of a guessing game. I know a Pionus who became psychotic after being given an OTC bird "remedy" and would not stop thrashing around her cage. A little chamomile tea can help the bird relax and ginger tea is good for digestive upsets. If you're familiar with herbal remedies, you can safely use those without causing harm to your bird. NEVER give antibiotics without knowing your bird actually has a BACTERIAL infection (and which bacteria!)

Broken blood feathers (or those accidentally clipped) can be hard to stop bleeding. Do not use styptic powder on skin or soft tissue - only on bleeding nails. Otherwise, use corn starch as a coagulant. If the blood feather (immature feather with live blood supply) won't stop bleeding, it has to be pulled or the bird can bleed to death.

A note on egg binding: If a hen is on the cage bottom, fluffed up and straining, she may be "egg bound". Put her in a warm, humid place (like the bathroom). You can rub some vegetable oil around her vent. Egg bound hens can die fairly quickly, though, and if the egg does not pass within several hours, she needs to get to the vet immediately (a good diet with extra calcium will help prevent this.)

So get in the habit of inspecting your birds on a daily basis, and being alert for signs of distress. Read up on diseases and gain a basic knowledge of illness in birds. "Bird proof" your home, avoid toxic fumes and unsafe toys. Have a first aid kit and hospital cage available. No what's "normal" for your bird and act quickly if things don't seem right. Find a good AVIAN vet and see them annually. Be sure your house and your bird's cage and play areas are as safe as possible. Feed the best diet you can to ensure your birds best possible health. Wouldn't it be nice if your first aid kit never gets used?!

The First Aid kit available at Your Parrot Place (under accessories) contains most of the essentials such as: Styptic Powder, Latex Gloves, Eye Skin Wash, 1"x6 yd Sterile Bandage, Scissors, Locking Forceps, Iodine Swabs, Antiseptic Towelettes, 2"x2" Gauze Pads, Cotton Swabs, Adhesive Tape, Hand Wipe, Emergency Info Card, Directions, and Case. Perishables, like hand feeding formula, should be stored in the freezer and replaced every six months.

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Your Parrot Place
Marilu Anderson, Bird Nutrition and Behavior Consultant, (503) 771-BIRD. Marilu is a regular contributor to the Your Parrot Place Newsletter. YourParrotPlace.com - Only the Best for Your Parrot!

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