Emergencies

The following emergency centers are available 24/7. The ones listed for avians and exotics MUST be called before heading there to confirm that they have an Avian and/or Exotics doctor on duty to see your pet. Let them know you are on your way with an emergency.

The following emergency centers handle avians and other exotics:

Angell Animal Medical Center - Jamaica Plain, MA 617-522-7282
Ocean State Veterinary Specialists - East Greenwich, RI 401-886-6787

For cat and dog emergencies:

VESCONE Waltham, MA 781-684-8387
Angell Animal Medical Center Jamaica Plain, MA 617-522-7282
Ocean State Veterinary Referral Center East Greenwich, RI 401-886-6787
Animal Emergency Center West Bridgewater, MA 508-580-2515

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Symptoms of Bird Emergencies

Bleeding

Bleeding or hemorrhage is often a cause for serious concern. Common causes of hemorrhage are: Broken blood feather shaft. (This is the most frequent cause of blood in the cage). Broken toenails or over trimming.
Injury from flying into objects such as windows and mirrors, or catching a leg band on something. Liver disease. This can cause spontaneous bleeding from the nostrils, lungs, intestinal tract.

STAY CALM, whatever the cause of hemorrhage. If you cannot emotionally deal with the problem, then get help from a friend who can. Secure your bird in a towel or blanket.

Apply pressure with a dry cotton ball until bleeding has stopped completely (usually within 5- 10 minutes by the clock). If direct pressure is not successful, then use pressure with flour, corn starch, or styptic powder.

If a beak or nail is bleeding, then stick the tip in a cake of soap or use clear nail polish. Your bird's chances for survival will increase if you can get the bleeding under control as quickly as possible. Once the bleeding has stopped, allow your bird to rest undisturbed in a warm, covered cage. The volume of blood lost and severity of the injury will determine whether immediate veterinary care is necessary. Iron supplements will help your bird to replace the lost blood cells. Blood transfusions may be necessary and are possible in severe cases.

If a broken feather shaft is the source of the hemorrhage, then the shaft must be removed to prevent further bleeding (often broken feather shafts involve blood feathers, which are new growing feathers). Identify which feather is bleeding, then using tweezers or needle nose pliers, grasp the feather at the base and pull steadily until the feather comes out. Then apply pressure for about one minute to the skin. If you do not remove the entire shaft, bleeding will continue.

Broken Bones

If your bird breaks a leg, keep your pet warm and quiet. Ideally your bird should be kept in a small carrier to minimize the risk of further injury. However, if this is not possible, move all perches and food and water dishes to the bottom of the cage. Have the bird examined as soon as possible. Broken bones are usually the result of injury.

Many fractures in small birds are easily repaired with simple splints. More serious fractures require hospitalization and surgical repair. Some injuries may not only cause a broken bone, but also damage the blood vessels and nerves resulting in gangrene and paralysis. In these cases amputation may be necessary.

Egg Binding

Egg binding can occur in any mature female bird. The presence of a male bird is not necessary for the female to lay an egg. The symptoms are an enlarged, hard abdomen, penguin-like posture, straining and if very serious, fluffing and sitting on the bottom of the cage. The causes are usually low calcium and low vitamin D3 or an abnormally large egg.

Sometimes warmth and calcium supplements given orally will result in passage of the egg. Placing the bird's hind end in warm water (no warmer than your hand can tolerate) will sometimes work. Increase environmental temperature to 90 degrees. If the egg does not pass, then veterinary attention should be sought before the bird becomes weak. Gentle manipulation by an experienced person is often all that is necessary in small birds. Sometimes X-rays are necessary to confirm the diagnosis, if the egg cannot be easily palpated. In serious cases, the bird will have to be hospitalized and treated. General anesthesia may be necessary to remove the egg and in some instances surgery is required.

Regurgitation

Regurgitation is normal in some birds when displaying affection toward an owner, another bird or a mirror. Usually this type of regurgitation consists of food and does not have mucus or an abnormal odor.

Ingestion of plants, toxins (such as lead, including lead-based paint) and foreign bodies can cause regurgitation. Infectious diseases and metabolic diseases may also cause regurgitation.

If regurgitation persists, then your bird should be examined as soon as possible. It is easier to perform diagnostics on a bird that has some strength rather than a severely compromised bird. The sooner a bird is correctly diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated appropriately.

Seizures

Seizures usually indicate a serious problem and often require immediate attention. The two most common causes of seizures are lead poisoning and calcium deficiency. The bird usually falls off its perch and flaps uncontrollably around the bottom of the cage (while screaming.) When a bird is having a seizure, protect the bird from injury by removing perches, toys and dishes from the cage. You may consider placing the bird in a smooth-sided box. If the seizure lasts more than 2 or 3 minutes, seek immediate veterinary care. A sugar water solution made by mixing 1 teaspoonful of honey or sugar in 8 ounces of water and giving small amounts with an eye dropper may provide some temporary help. If calcium deficiency is a problem, giving some milk in an eye dropper may help.

Sneezing and Wheezing

Sneezing, wheezing, and other breathing noises indicate respiratory problems. All respiratory diseases are potentially serious and require examination to determine whether the problem is just a mild upper respiratory infection or a more serious problem such as pneumonia. Some respiratory problems are caused by viruses, like our common cold, and do not have any specific treatment. Deficiency of vitamin A is a common cause of respiratory problems in Amazon parrots. Vitamin A is necessary for maintaining a normal lining of the respiratory tract. When adequate vitamin A is not present, the lining breaks down and bacterial infection with abscess develops. Canaries can have mites in their respiratory system which results in wheezing and failure to sing.

Caring for a Bird in an Emergency

Provide heat - A heating pad wrapped in a towel and placed under the cage (remove any metal tray if you can) will provide heat. A light bulb placed 6-8 inches from the side of the cage or a space heater will also provide heat. Cover cage on top and three sides with a towel or blanket. Place a thermometer near the cage to monitor temperature; keep it at 80-85 degrees.

Avoid stress - Keep bird cage covered on three sides and quiet.
Maintain adequate nutrition - You may have to feed baby cereal or soft foods with an eye dropper.
Seek veterinary help early in the course of any illness or problem.

Nutrition and Stress are two important factors influencing your bird's health. Poor nutrition is the underlying cause of many diseases! A good quality diet of fresh vegetables, pellets, fruits, and a complete bird vitamin and calcium supplement are a must. Stressful activities such as showing, travel, breeding, change in environment, or molting may result in illness and disease that under normal circumstances the bird might have been able to resist. Certain stresses such as molting and breeding may require additional nutritional supplementation.

Early observation of abnormalities and prompt attention improve chances for successful treatment and recovery. Learn what is normal for your bird! Most birds are brought to their veterinarian late in the course of an illness because symptoms are ignored or not noticed and proper advise and care are not sought.

Home Remedies and Antibiotics can be detrimental to your bird. For many reasons owners often opt to treat their bird at home. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics may result in the development of resistant bacteria. This may also interfere with cultures that can be beneficial to diagnosis and treatment. Long term use may also result in fungal overgrowth.

However, if you do decide to treat your bird at home, first consult with your veterinarian. Although it is difficult to make a diagnosis over the phone without examining the bird, you may at least be prevented from making some serious mistakes.

Autopsy can be done to help determine the cause of death and determine additional treatment for surviving birds (however, on some occasions no diagnosis can be found on autopsy.) Ideally, the autopsy should be performed within 24 hours of death. Keep your bird's body refrigerated until autopsy. Do not freeze.