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Sick Pet Bird Care
This article is intended specifically for pet bird owners and is intended to be used as a basis for proper care for a sick or injured bird. Please follow your veterinarian’s advice and do not use this article as a way to avoid hands-on veterinary testing. The main idea of this article is to reduce any and all stress on your returning bird.
1. HEAT: Sick birds often spread their feathers trying to conserve heat. The effort to maintain heat places an additional burden on the already exhausted bird. Your veterinarian will determine if your bird needs hospitalization, but if home care is acceptable, I recommend creating a tent to keep your bird warm. Birds’ natural temperature is much higher than ours, anywhere from 103F-106F. So, what is always warm to us can be cold to them and this is especially true for sick birds. A simple way to provide heat is to cover 1/2 of the cage with a blanket and place a heat lamp on the other side as a heat source. Generally, we keep our sick birds at ambient temperatures from 85-95F. This will vary greatly from bird to bird so it is important to monitor your pet to ensure you are providing the correct temperature and of course seek advice from your vet. An overheated bird will have fluffy feathers held tightly to the body, hold its wings (shoulders) slightly away from its body and can breathe. If you see any of these signs your bird is overheated and the temperature should be reduced accordingly. To warm up at night I recommend using a red light. Sick birds, like sick people, need rest and if they are kept under bright lights all night they will become weak. Also, during the day it is important to provide light so that they are encouraged to eat and have supervision. Therefore, the entire cage should not be covered during the day. I do not recommend heating pads because it is very difficult to control the temperature. If the bird does not sit and sits directly on the pad it may overheat or be burned. And in my experience baby birds raised on a heating pad quickly become dehydrated and subject to burns.
2. PRESSURE: Sensitive birds should be kept in a stress-free environment. Often what seems normal to us can cause stress to our feathered friends. I recommend taking a close look at your bird’s habitat to see what could be stress issues. Some common ones include, a bird in the middle of the traffic of the house with no chance to rest, cigarette smoke or aerosols in the bird’s environment, lack of darkness / time to sleep at night, other pets, small children, visual stimuli (direct cage). in front of the window), competition from cage mates, too much handling, too much food and too much heat (like birds kept in the kitchen). I recommend that sick birds be left in their cage and allowed to recover quietly. Think of this as a bed rest for your pet! Handling too much can stress the bird and will require the bird to consume extra calories. If the bird is housed with other birds, it is usually best to remove the bird from the same area. Some birds can become very stressed when separated from the colony so you should seek advice from your vet on how to care for your sick pet. However, generally removing the bird from the group will reduce the pressure of nutritional competition and allow for easier treatment and better monitoring. Of course, if an infectious disease is suspected, the animal should be moved to an isolated habitat and at least a separate room – preferably a separate house without other birds.
3. DIET: If your doctor has made dietary recommendations, now is not the time to implement changes. A change in the type of food will cause a lot of stress on your bird and should be started when the bird returns. Always discuss how and when to make dietary changes with your doctor. In general, I recommend giving all the favorite food of the birds during the illness because many sick birds become anorexic and can lose from hunger. If your bird is normally a seedeater but doesn’t eat it now, try placing millets sprays in the cage where many birds will enjoy them. The important thing to remember is that it can take months to years for a bird to become malnourished and this cannot be fixed in a day or a week. A slow transition is important for a sick bird. If you can’t get your pet to eat it needs to be hospitalized for feeding and further care. Birds have a high metabolic rate and can starve quickly. Therefore, a pet bird that stops eating should always be considered very sick, with the potential for death definitely present. Finally, if your bird is a hand-raised bird and is not eating due to illness, you can return it to hand feeding (syringe feeding) during the convalescent period. A suitable formula for hand growth should be used. The formula should be mixed with warm water as directed on the bag and given to the bird. Do not force him to eat the bird. Pet owners should not force feed their birds. A bird can easily aspirate (inhale food) and develop pneumonia and force feeding causes great stress to your bird. A return to hand feeding is only used for those birds that voluntarily agree to be syringe fed. Also, if hand feeding, the formula should be properly warmed (follow the advice on the formula bag and your vet’s) to avoid food burns from too hot formula and plant irritation from too cool formula.
4. ADMINISTRATION: Methods: 1. Injection, 2. In water or food, 3. Topical, 4. Oral I prefer not to treat in pet’s water or food. Medicines given in this way often cause a change in taste and can cause the bird to put down food and water. Also, when the drug is added to the food or water it is very difficult to determine how much of the drug has been ingested by the pet. Thus, in my opinion the best methods are injectable and oral. Topical medications are often not used on pets and can cause greasy feathers.
Before you take your bird home, you should be shown how to properly treat your bird by a veterinarian or specialist. In short, the patient should be kept in a straight position and the syringe containing the medicine should be gently inserted from the left side of the mouth and at an angle to the right side. Most birds will try to bite the syringe which allows it to be easily inserted into the mouthpiece. Gently press the plunger on the syringe to release the medication from the lower part of the mouth. If the pet struggles while treating, stop for a while and try again. You should advise your vet if you cannot treat your pet. Medicines can be mixed with a flavoring agent (FlavorX), which will help reduce resistance. Sometimes, depending on the reason for the treatment, your doctor may be able to give a long-acting injection instead of oral medication but this has limited use and is therefore not available for all animals.
5. FOLLOW-UP EXAMINATION: As soon as an illness is detected in your pet, it is taken to the veterinarian for a physical examination and diagnosis which includes laboratory tests. Unfortunately, many people will see that their pet is improving and do not realize that a follow-up exam is necessary. I always recommend that I examine the patient at different times depending on the condition of the disability. A follow-up test allows your doctor to check the patient’s response to treatment and the owner’s compliance with the instructions. Often times when treating a strange pet the treatment needs to be changed slightly to ensure the best response. This inspection is also used as a way to reinforce the changes needed to keep the bird healthy. In addition, lab values can be rechecked to ensure that the patient is truly recovering and not just feeling well enough to resume hiding any weakness. I can’t stress the importance of this tracking enough, it’s so important to your bird’s health.
Most importantly, follow your vet’s advice and ask questions to make sure you fully understand what is required of you to get your pet back to health.
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