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Birds + Emergency Situations

  • Anorexia (a loss of appetite) and lethargy (a feeling of listlessness and general inactivity) are commonly seen in sick pet birds. While not diagnostic for any specific disease, these signs can indicate severe illness in a bird that requires immediate medical attention. Birds rarely get sick overnight. Usually birds are ill before pet owners notice outward signs of illness.

  • Blood feathers are a normal maturation process for all feathers on birds. When feathers first erupt from the skin they contain blood. Injury to the feather as it grows may cause the blood feather to become broken causing blood loss that at times may require emergency treatment by an avian veterinarian.

  • Egg binding is not uncommon in birds and may be resolved easily if treated early. Egg binding occurs when the female bird is unable to expel the egg from her body. If a prolonged period has elapsed since the bird began attempting to lay the egg, she may become critically ill. Birds with egg binding may or may not have passed an egg more than 2 days ago, are usually weak, not perching, often sitting low on the perch or on the bottom of the cage, and are straining as if trying to defecate or to lay an egg. Treatment varies depending upon how sick the bird is, as well as the location of the egg and the length of time the bird has been egg bound. Critically ill birds are first treated supportively for shock, and then attempts are made to extract the egg. If your veterinarian cannot see the egg through the vent, surgery under general anesthetic may be necessary to remove the egg from the abdomen. A hysterectomy (removal of the oviduct and uterus) is typically the last choice therapy, when medical and egg extraction through the vent are not possible.

  • Birds are naturally mischievous and if not properly supervised, will get into many predicaments. It is crucial that you bird proof your home. The bird's cage is its house and the confines of your home represent the bird's environment.

  • If your pet had an emergency crisis, how would you manage it? Ask your veterinary hospital how they handle after-hour emergencies. Use this handout to help you plan ahead and be prepared in the event of a pet-health emergency.

  • Many birds naturally eat plants as part of their diet. Some birds will chew on and possibly consume plants out of curiosity or during play. Many toxic plants will just make a bird sick if they ingest them, but some can kill them. Fortunately, rather than ingesting plants, most birds shred and play with plants with which they come in contact. This handout catalogues many of the indoor and outdoor plants that are considered to be potentially toxic to birds.

  • In the wild, a bird will endeavor to uphold a strong appearance when sick. This is called, survival of the fittest. By the time a pet bird actually shows an owner that it is unwell, it has likely been sick for some time. Many things contribute to ill health. This handout provides bird owners a categorized list of signs that should alert them that their bird is sick.

  • Telehealth is a broad term that refers to the use of telecommunications to provide health-related services. Telehealth services can be delivered by a variety of methods including telephone, text messaging, internet chat, and videoconferencing. Teletriage is the act of performing triage remotely, via telephone or internet and helps determine the urgency of your pet’s medical concern. Telemedicine refers to the practice of medicine at a distance. In the context of veterinary medicine, telemedicine refers to a veterinarian formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan for your pet without an in-person examination. Telemedicine is typically only permitted within the context of an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic and social/physical distancing requirements however, some federal and local governments have relaxed the requirements surrounding telemedicine.

  • Wellness testing, performed routinely on apparently healthy birds, screens for underlying, inapparent problems. Veterinarians also use test results in conjunction with physical examination findings and the owner’s account of the bird’s history to diagnose illnesses. Blood tests include the complete blood count and chemistry profile. Other tests your veterinarian may use to assess your bird’s health and diagnose disease include Gram’s stain, culture and sensitivity testing, parasitology, X-rays, laparoscopic surgery, cytology, histopathology, virology, and genetic (PCR) testing. Post-mortem examination after a bird dies may be recommended to determine the cause of death.

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