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Keeping a Preventative and Emergency Health Care Kit for Birds

In caring for birds at home and in zoos, I have found that having emergency care items  Scarlet Macaw on hand has often prevented minor mishaps from turning into disasters.  Supplements that aid in preventative health care are also essential.  Today I have assembled a list of products that parallel those used in public aviaries, and which should be every private bird keeper’s possession.

Bird First Aid Kit

The VSI Bird First Aid Kit is stocked with powdered styptic, bandages, antiseptic wipes, forceps and many other useful products, this kit has everything you need to deal with minor emergencies.  The emergency card included in the kit is most helpful.

Nutritional Supplements

Lafeber Powdered Vitamins can be used on a daily basis, and are especially useful in that they can be applied to food or water.

Virbac Vita Flight Supplement is flavored with fruit and therefore well-accepted by many birds.  It is designed for use during stressful times, such as when a bird has been re-located or is molting, breeding or recovering from an illness.  Another of Virbac’s products, Ornabac, is fortified with extra Vitamin B, an important nutrient during especially stressful events.

Feather and Skin Care

Feather Glo Bird Bath helps to keep both skin and feathers in good shape, while Feather Brite Bird Bath Spray contains lanolin and aloe to assist in soothing irritated skin.

Scalex Mite and Lice Spray should always be on hand to address external parasites.

Bitter Apple has long been favored as a means of discouraging feather plucking.  It is most effective when applied as soon as plucking commences, and therefore should always be on hand.

Beak Conditioning

Disguised as an attractive toy, the volcanic pumice in Four Paws’ Pumice Kabob is one of the most effective materials for keeping bird beaks naturally trimmed and in prime condition.

Further Reading

I’ve written a number of other articles addressing bird medicine and health.  Please see The Diagnosis and Treatment of Ailments Afflicting Cage Birds and the articles referenced there for more information.


Scarlet macau image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by VC-s.

Parrot Emergencies – Steps to Take When a Parrot Bites and Hangs On

Even the smallest lovebird can deliver a painful bite, and larger parrots are capable of inflicting serious injuries. If a parrot bites and holds on, you must respond appropriately in order to limit the bite’s severity.

Do Not Pull Away

In a lifetime of working with animals, I’ve actually been bitten by more snakes than parrots, but the principals are the same. One’s first reaction – to pull away – must be stifled. Instead, push the bitten hand (as an example) towards the parrot’s head. This will relieve pressure on your hand and may force the bird to relinquish its grip. Pulling away will add to the trauma of the bite…I learned this when a concave-casqued hornbill broke my finger; pulling away from an anaconda left me with a souvenir – a tooth that remains buried in my wrist to this day!


You can also try to disturb the bird’s balance, forcing it to focus on that and to release you. This is best accomplished by tilting the hand or object upon which the parrot is perched (note: do not tilt your hand if the parrot is biting the hand upon which it sits).


When working closely with birds likely to latch onto me, I always carry an easily accessible object to force into an offending bill. Credit cards, butter knives and spoons will all serve well, depending upon the size of your attacker.

Additional Tactics

Putting the parrot on the floor and/or covering its head with a towel may also cause it to withdraw. A sudden loud noise can also be useful in distracting and startling an aggressive bird.

You might try smacking your hand on something, stomping your foot or turning on a radio if within reach.

In all cases, direct eye contact with the bird should be sought…this does not always work, but excellent results are sometimes forthcoming.

Medical Concerns

Be sure to seek medical advice after being bitten by any animal. Even the smallest of wounds can leave one open to dangerous infections. Do not assume that because your parrot is kept indoors there is no risk of infection – call your doctor!

Further Reading

Parrot screaming can be as dangerous to one’s mental health as biting is to physical health! For further information, please see my article Help! – My Parrot Won’t Stop Screaming.


Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by snowmanradio.

Lumps, Abscesses, Tumors and Swellings on Budgerigars and other Birds – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information on related health concerns.

Feather Cysts

Feather cysts form when feathers growing below the bird’s skin fail to emerge properly. They then curl back and continue to grow, forming elongated lumps at the base of one or several feathers. Secondary bacterial infection may set in, exacerbating the problem.

Feather cysts usually form at the base of the primary wing feathers, and are most commonly seen in budgerigars, canaries and macaws. They should be surgically removed by a veterinarian.

Swellings near the Cloaca

A swollen area just above the cloaca (the common opening for the digestive and respiratory systems in birds) is often indicative of a hernia. Usually related to stomach muscle atrophy, hernias are difficult to treat and require veterinary intervention.

Swellings below the cloaca may also indicate a hernia or, more commonly, a tumor. Egg-bound hen budgerigars and other birds will also appear swollen in this area, and may strain in an attempt to dispel the egg. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

Further Reading

Please check out the book Parakeets: a Complete Pet Owner’s Manuel for more information on parakeet care.

Image referenced from morguefile and originally posted by eviljeff.

Avian Medical Emergencies: Burns

Avian Medical Emergencies: What to do if Your Pet Bird Receives a Burn Injury


Birds at large in our homes, especially the ever-curious parrots, are at risk for burn injuries. If this happens, calm, quick and medically-appropriate action is absolutely essential if your pet is to survive.

First Step: First Aid

Areas burned by fire, liquid or chemicals should be flushed for 15-20 minutes with cool (not cold) water and then covered with a cool, sterile dressing. Use only medical dressings to cover the afflicted area, as the fibers from blankets, towels and other such materials may stick to the wound. If feathers or other debris have worked their way into the burn site, leave them in place…these should be attended to by a veterinarian.

Grease, butter and ointments should not be used, as they cause a rise in skin temperature and increased pain. Also avoid ice, and do not puncture any blisters that form.

Second Step: To the Vet
All burns require veterinary intervention. Be sure to call your vet with your estimated arrival time – injured birds often go into shock, and time is of the essence. Transport your pet in a warm (use a hot water bottle or plastic bag filled with warm water), dark container and disturb it as little as possible on route.

Electrical Shock and Burns – Your Own Safety Comes First!
Electrical burns are another matter, as CPR and assisted breathing may be necessary…I’ll address this in the future.

In the meanwhile, if your bird suffers an electrical shock (i.e. by biting an appliance cord), it is absolutely essential that you do not touch the bird until you are certain that it is no longer in contact with the current – no good will come from having 2 shock victims!

If the bird is in contact with the electrical current, shut the power from the source (i.e. circuit breaker) or move the wire or appliance away from the bird with a non-metallic object (i.e. wood, plastic, cardboard).

Further Reading
Burns are only one of the hazards that our avian friends may run into while under our care. For a discussion of the leading causes of pet bird deaths, please see http://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/topten.html.


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