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How to Recognize a Bird Emergency

Bird emergency care is an important skill for any bird owner to learn. As with any other emergency> situation, being properly prepared and maintaining a cool head are keys to helping your bird. A well-stocked emergency first aid kit and some basic knowledge are critical; a comprehensive care book for your species of bird is also very helpful. A bird emergency care kit should include some of the same basics as any other first aid kit (tweezers, cotton swabs, sterile gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, and scissors), plus items like needle-nose pliers, clean towels, styptic powder, and a heat source such as a small heater or heat lamp. Keep your vet’s phone number handy in several locations, including in the first aid kit. If your bird is bleeding, this may or may not be a sign of a serious emergency. First, try to calmly determine the source of blood by cleaning the bloody area with hydrogen peroxide. Wipe the area slowly while talking to your bird in a soothing tone. Some of the most common causes of bleeding are broken flight feathers and broken toenails. Broken toenails can usually be treated with styptic powder (or, in a pinch, use flour or cornstarch). Apply the powder along with gentle pressure for around 30 seconds, until the bleeding stops. If the source of bleeding is a broken feather, the feather will need to be removed. Have someone wrap the bird carefully in a towel to restrain her. Using the pliers from your first aid kit, grasp the feather as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. Once the feather is removed, apply pressure to the follicle with gauze to help stop the bleeding. Bleeding should stop within a minute or two; if it does not, you have a potential bird emergency on your hands. Keep pressure applied to the area and take your bird to the vet. Since birds are small animals, significant loss of blood can occur quickly and be a serious problem. Vomiting, which can be caused by a variety of problems, can be a sign of a bird emergency. If you know your bird has been exposed to a poison (or a potentially poisonous substance) contact your vet immediately for emergency care. Do not induce vomiting if you suspect poisoning but do not know the cause. If your bird has rapid shallow breathing, fluffed feathers, is not moving, or has his head turned with his eyes partially shut, he may be in shock. Always treat this as a bird emergency. Warm the bird to an ambient temperature of around 85-90 degrees, dim the lights, and contact your vet. The better you know your bird, the easier it can be to know how to recognize a bird emergency. Any significant changes in the behavior or appearance of your bird should always be reported to your vet promptly.