are five important elements to consider in
supportive care of a sick (or injured) bird, listed
in order of importance:
Birds use a
considerable amount of their energy and metabolic
resources in keeping their body temperature up (at
around 104 degrees.). Therefore, the single most
important thing you can do for a sick bird is to
artificially support its temperature, thus freeing
as much of its energy as possible for dealing with
the illness. The correct temperature is at least 85
degrees, and 90 degrees is preferable. Turn up the
heat past 85 until the bird begins to pant, then
slowly back it off just until the panting stops.
When the bird begins to recover, remember to lower
the temp gradually, no more than 5 degrees per day,
until back to room temp.
extremely important in cases of respiratory
involvement in the illness, as it eases the
breathing and helps the bird keep the air passages
clear and moist. A vaporizer is best, a humidifier
will work, and in a pinch placing the bird in the
bathroom and periodically running hot water in the
shower is better than nothing. If there is NO
respiratory involvement, or the bird is physically
injured and not ill, humidity is not so important.
Respiratory involvement is indicated by any of the
following: wheezy, raspy, bubbly, or clicking noises
in the breathing; discharge from nostrils; breathing
heavily or with difficulty (if the tail moves
noticeably as the bird breathes, it is breathing
heavily); beak held open to breathe but not panting.
A sick bird is
easily dehydrated, especially since it may not drink
as much on its own, its temperature is elevated, and
its digestion may be disrupted. In extreme cases a
veterinarian may administer fluids under the skin,
but oral fluids are also very helpful. If your bird
isn't drinking a lot on its own, give fluids from
your finger, a spoon, or by syringe. Some
suggestions for fluids to give: Infalyte brand
infant electrolyte solution, apple or grape juice,
D5W (medical glucose/saline solution), bottled water
with a little sugar or honey. Don't use Gatorade,
it's too high in salt!
As you are
the amount of energy the bird can use in fighting
the illness by elevating the ambient temperature,
you should also ensure that food energy continues to
be available. The best things to give a sick bird
are high in carbohydrates and easy to digest.
Examples: hand-feeding formula, infant rice cereal,
baby food, Instant Ounces brand emergency food
for birds, cream of wheat, papaya juice or nectar,
fruit juice (except orange). If your bird doesn't
eat on its own while ill, you need to hand feed it,
or force feed it if necessary. Birds can starve to
death in 48 - 72 hours when healthy, and can go even
faster when ill. Inadequate nutrition will severely
impact the bird's ability to recover from the
Keep an ill or
injured bird quiet and inactive. Keep it in
semidarkness with no toys and nothing to climb or
play on, much as you would keep a sick child in bed
and encourage it to sleep. Limit noisy activities or
move the bird to a quiet part of the house.
Additional notes: If the bird regurgitates food or
fluids, you may be giving too much. Try smaller
amounts more frequently. If your bird is on
antibiotic therapy, remember that these drugs also
kill the "friendly" bacteria that help it to digest
its food. Give yogurt, Bene-Bac, lactobacillus
supplement, or acidophilus to help digestion and to
prevent backlash Candida (yeast) infections. If you
see any sign of yeast (white spots in mouth or on
tongue), call the vet and get an antifungal
preparation to give with the antibiotic.
Please go over these procedures with your
Avian Vet before you need to use them.
Be prepared, not sorry.