First Aid

Wounds

Birds can be wounded in many different ways. Many common wounds are caused by loose-hanging wire mesh, unsuitable toys, other birds or animals. Bite wounds require professional medical attention, as large amounts of bacteria enter the body through the teeth. This often leads to sepsis (blood poisoning) and death of the bird.

Do not cover the wounds with ointments or sprays without consulting your vet first. These substances can make it more difficult to examine the wound and can sometimes worsen the situation.

When driving to the veterinarian, it is important to keep the wounded bird as calm as possible. Many birds are more relaxed in the dark, so lay a cloth over the cage or place the bird in a sealed box (remember to provide ventilation).

 

Bleeding

Bleeding wounds in the skin are not very common in birds because of their excellent blood clotting mechanism.

A more common occurrence though is the bleeding of feathers, nails or beak. If a blood feather (a feather in the developing stage, also called a pin feather) is broken or bitten off, it will bleed profusely. The veins that run through the feather's inner shaft are too wide to simply coagulate. A bird can even bleed to death as a result. Therefore, you must take immediate action. By pressing the base of the feather tightly between your thumb and fingers, you can reduce the blood loss on your way to the veterinarian. It can also help to apply corn starch or flour direct to the bleeding area. This will form an alternative scab and give you more time to find the definite solution.

The only real solution to stop the heavy bleeding of a broken feather is to pull it in its entirety. Because the feather is pulled from the follicle, the blood vessels can contract and stop the bleeding. It is sometimes necessary to apply pressure on the feather follicle for some time.

 

Torn nails or nails that are cut too short can also result in heavy bleeding. Once again, you must apply pressure to the bleeding extremity. If the bleeding doesn't stop, the vet can close the blood vessels by cauterization of the cut surface.

Bleeding beak wounds are always an emergency. It is crucial to call for professional help as soon as possible for more reasons than the blood loss alone. Quick intervention and treatment will increase the chance that the beak can be repaired and will fully heal.

 

Ring wounds

Birds with open foot rings can become stuck on something with the ring, especially if the two ends are far apart from each other. If a bird hooks its ring on a toy or the wire mesh, it can seriously injure itself when attempting to break itself loose. It is therefore always advisable to visit a veterinarian to determine what injuries the bird has. These can range from light bruising to broken bones.

Closed rings can also cause problems. Young birds with a foot ring that is too small can outgrow it. The ringed leg will constrict under the pressure and will grow abnormally. Please check the ring regularly and have it removed in time if needed. This becomes a lot harder if the leg has already grown 'around' it.

Fully grown birds can also have problems, for instance if a lot of dirt or skin flakes accumulate under the ring. The foot can die because of lack of blood supply. Please check regularly whether the ring can rotate freely around the leg. Large parrots can use their beak to squeeze a slightly weaker ring closed and thereby cut off the blood supply.

If the ring is cutting off the blood supply, it is important to take the bird to the vet immediately before it leads to necrosis of the foot.

Removing the ring can sometimes be difficult if it has grown into the leg. Small birds in particular have a greater chance of breaking their leg if too much pressure is applied. Inexpert removal of the ring can also easily cause the leg to break. It is sometimes necessary to put the bird under general anaesthesia in order to remove the ring, for instance if the ring needs to be sawed through in two places.

 

Burns

The most common burn accidents with birds occur during syringe-feeding formula to young birds. If the formula is too hot it can cause burning of the crop. The early signs are often missed by owners. The crop becomes swollen and the skin around it becomes red. A black crust can develop on the skin over the crop after a few days. Serious burns like these often result in a so called crop fistula, an opening from the crop directly to the outside world. The formula will discharge from the fistula in the lower neck region and leak on to the breast. Quite often this is the first time it is noticed. A fistula needs to be closed operatively. The bird's physical condition generally needs to improve first before it can handle general anaesthesia.

If you think your bird has a burned crop, you should contact a veterinarian straight away. Do not remove any crust from the breast as this protects the wound and partly closes off the fistula. If some time is needed before surgery can take place, it is important not to leave the bird without feed for too long. Give small amounts of formula at a time so the crop isn't stretched.

If you have a bird that flies around the house a lot, hot pans or cups of tea can also cause burn injuries. Feathers often provide some protection, but if the heat penetrates onto the skin it will give rise to severe burn symptoms very quickly. Cool the burnt area well, but make sure your bird doesn't get too cold. Go to a veterinarian immediately. It will often be necessary to treat the bird with antibiotics, because burnt skin is very susceptible to bacterial infection and lowers the level of resistance.

 

Fractures

Birds can break their bones relatively easily because they are hollow. This often happens after the wings have been clipped. If a bird's wings have been clipped on one side or if a lot of feathers have been clipped, it won't be able to fly any more. A bird needs time to get used to this. Problems occur when the bird jumps off something (a cage, for example) in an attempt to fly to something else. In the worst case scenario it will plummet straight to the ground, causing all kinds of injury. Sometimes they can fly into other objects because they have no control over where to fly or land.

This is why it's important to allow the bird to get used to the new situation, for instance by first placing it on the floor and observing its movements carefully.

A bird that has flown into an object or has fallen to the ground can break several bones in its body. In its wings, legs or even breastbone. It is therefore always recommended to consult a veterinarian. Keep the bird in a small, darkened box or cage during transportation to the vet. This will keep the bird as calm as possible and minimise the chance of further injury.