First Aid Kit for Birds

avian history for Veterinarian and exotic pet clinic Putting a kit together

Having a few items on hand for when a situation arises can mean a world of difference for your bird.  We recommend putting a kit together of these items so they are handy if you ever need them.


First Aid Kit

1. Phone number of avian veterinarian including after hours contact numbers (tape to outside of kit)

2. Towel to restrain your pet safely

3. “Birdy-Binder” to free up your hands to deal with any problems

4. Bandaging material – masking tape, gauze pads, gauze roll

5. Cotton tipped applicators

6. Styptic powder or cornstarch – for hemorrhage control

7. Hemostats or needle-nosed pliers, tweezers and scissors

8. Betadine – to clean wounds

9. Hydrogen peroxide – removes blood from feathers

10. Karo syrup – quick, simple, energy source

11. Pedialyte – for hydration and energy

12. Eye droppers or syringes without needles

Sugar Land veterinarian pet clinic bird syringe

Emergencies – What can you do? What should or should you not do?

Administering first aid in an emergency situation can make the difference of life and death for your bird. When in doubt, contact your avian veterinarian.

DO NOT apply ointments to your bird.

DO NOT try to give an unconscious bird anything orally.

DO NOT ignore persistently fluffed birds.

Almost all sick or traumatized birds will benefit from supplemental heat.  This is most easily done by placing a 75-100 watt light bulb outside the cage approximately 7-10 inches from the bird’s perch or resting position.  Turn it on. :)

** None of the above items will substitute veterinary care.  A good tip is that if you need to use something in your emergency kit, you need to follow up with veterinary care.

1. Bleeding – The most common source will be a toe nail, the tip of the upper beak or a blood feather (new growing feather).

Treatment: stop the bleeding from a toe or beak with styptic powder or corn starch.  Be careful not to drop excessive amounts of styptic powder into the mouth of your bird.  One can always apply direct pressure first with a gauze pad to stop bleeding while gathering your wits.  Occasionally, super glue can be used on the tip of the beak if all else fails.  Turn the bird’s head to the side and make sure that the end of the beak does not get glued to the tongue, the lower beak, or your fingers.  Blood feather – clean off the blood with warm water or hydrogen peroxide to allow visualization of the offending feather.  Using your needle-nosed pliers or hemostats, grasp the feather near its base and while supporting the wing (if a wing feather), pull the feather out the direction of its growth.  Pinch the follicle from which the feather was removed.  Continue pinching for several minutes until all bleeding stops.  Other sources of bleeding – Bleeding from the vent, see your veterinarian.  Bleeding from a cut, scrape or puncture, clean with betadine, apply pressure to control hemorrhage and see your veterinarian.

2. Animal Bites – Control hemorrhage as described above, then transport to a veterinarian.  Virtually all bite wounds to a bird will require antibiotic therapy.  This should NOT be postponed until regular office hours.

3. Burns – Good first aid can make a significant difference with burns.  Chemical exposure should be rinsed off immediately.  Baking soda should be applied in cases of acidic chemicals (ex. drain cleaner) and vinegar for alkaline toxins (ex. ammonia).  For thermal burns rinse with cool water.  Most burns will require additional care from your veterinarian which may include pain medications, antibiotics, special creams or bandages.

4. Fractures – Fractures of the leg can be suspected if a bird has the inability to bear any weight on a leg.  Wing fractures that are not obvious can be suspected when a wing droops or dangles lower than the opposite wing.  The first step is to access the injury for bleeding and control that if needed.  The next step is to prevent additional damage caused by excessive movement.  Placing the bird in a small container and darkening the environment will usually do the trick.  Sometimes a temporary tape sling or bandage will be necessary to help prevent movement at a fracture site.  The wing can be gently taped to the body or an appropriate sized sock may be placed around the bird for transportation.  It is critical that anything placed around the bird’s body DOES NOT interfere with the bird’s ability to raise and lower their chest (this is how they breathe).  Fractures of the lower portion of the legs can sometimes be stabilized with masking tape and toothpicks, cotton tipped applicators or popsicle sticks.

5. Vomiting and/or Diarrhea – The causes of vomiting and diarrhea in a bird are innumerable.  Your best emergency care will be to seek medical attention.  However, if you are unable to find appropriate care here are some tips to tide you over.

– Administer 1-5 DROPS of Karo Syrup to provide some quick energy for your bird then follow with pedialyte to help with hydration.

– Pedialyte can be given in small volumes frequently to our birds that either stress excessively with longer handling times or those that will not tolerate larger volumes of fluids at one sitting (0.5-3 mL for a parakeet up to 10-35 mL for a large macaw or cockatoo).  Dose frequency can be every 1-4 hours depending upon the bird’s fluid loss, hydration status and tolerance.  If vomiting precludes keeping anything down then this bird has a critical problem and veterinary care is paramount.

6. Anorexia (no appetite) – One way to determine if your bird is not eating is to place fresh newspaper in the bottom of the cage and watch for stool production or bowel movements.  If bowel movements are coming out then something must be going in.  Remember that birds deposit urine and feces from the same opening, so look for the brown, green or tan portion of the stool to confirm material coming from the intestinal tract.  Following the advice for “vomiting and diarrhea” will help your bird until you can obtain medical attention.

7. Seizures – Place your bird in a small towel lined container, box or travel cage and head to your veterinarian.

8. Respiratory Distress – Handle this bird as little as possible.  Respiratory distress can be caused from foreign body inhalation, infection, toxic exposure, cardiac disease, liver disease, kidney disease, reproductive problems and trauma, just to name a few.  A quick and quiet ride to your veterinarian is indicated.

9. Reference Book – First Aid for Birds: An Owner’s Guide to a Happy, Healthy Pet (Howell Book House) by Julie Ann Rach and Dr. Gary A. Gallerstein

Your bird’s veterinarian – how will you find one?

1. Get a referral from your dog or cat veterinarian.

2. Talk with breeders and pet stores specializing in birds.

3. Check the internet looking specifically for veterinarians that are members of AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians) or are Board Certified in avian practice (ABVP-avian).  Some helpful websites are: Association of Avian Veterinarians, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners,  Veterinary Partner.

4. Referral from friends and relatives with birds.

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