Quido being examined by Dr. Sakas
Cockatiels, Medical Emergencies and First Aid for Birds
By Eleanor McCaffrey Copyrightę Notice: No portion of this text or photos
may be, copied, printed or reproduced for redistribution without
permission from site owner

Cockatiels and other parrots love to explore rooms and every object in a room. It almost seems as if they are attracted to objects that can mortally wound them the way moths are attracted to a flicking candle in the dark. Far too many avian household accidents are the result of human forgetfulness or negligence, but even under the best supervision and care, pet birds can still get hurt. Flying accidents and accidents related to flying probably rank highest in the type of accident sustained by pet birds: flying into walls, mirrors, windows and ceiling fans, landing on hot stoves, hot pots with boiling food, water or grease, falling into dishpans, toilet bowls, bath tubs and aquariums. Other accidents are related to being wounded by a family dog, cat or ferret, leg bands or over grown toenails getting caught on fabric, carpets, threads or on toys, inhaling toxic fumes from chemicals and non-stick cookware, ingesting foreign objects and heavy metals etc.,for a complete listing Click Here. Although not a substitute for the emergency care of an avian vet by any stretch of the imagination, administering basic, avian first aid to an injured bird does serve a few purposes and those purposes are: to stabilize a bird until you get to the vet, to prevent immediate death from bleeding, to help prevent a bird from going into shock, to reduce the chances of infection, to reduce pain and to prevent the bird from further injury. 

All bird owners should have an avian first aid kit for their birds and they should know how to use the supplies that it contains. You can either purchase a kit like the one in the picture to the left or you can put one together yourself using a hard plastic food container and  by purchasing supplies at a pharmacy. Put your name, your bird's name, the  name and phone number of your avian vet as well as the phone number of the nearest 24 hour emergency veterinary clinic inside your first aid kit. Birds have an uncanny way of needing vets late at night, on weekends and on holidays when veterinarians are closed. Looking through the phone book a few seconds after your bird crashed into a wall is not the best time to be looking for a vet.  Keep your bird's first aid kit in a place where it can be easily reached. Don't hide it on the bottom of a closet or in the back of a kitchen cabinet. Check the expiration dates on supplies periodically because some will need to be replaced.

First Aid Kit

  • Alcohol pads for sterilizing.
  • Styptic stick for bleeding beak/nails.
  • Kwik-Stop for broken blood feathers, bleeding beaks/nails and minor skin cuts.
  • Cornstarch to stop other bleeding.
  • Antiseptic cleansing wipes.
  • Topical antibiotic cream.
  • Hydrogen peroxide.
  • Visine eye drops to wash wounds (not eyes)
  • Pliers to remove broken blood feathers,
  • Wire cutters for cage/toy injuries.
  • Scissors and nail clippers.
  • Sterile gauze pads and gauze bandages.
  • Surgical tape for binding broken wings/legs
  • Cotton swabs for use on small wounds.
  • Eyedropper and feeding syringes.
  • Hand feeding formula for sick birds.
  • Pedialyte for sick birds.
  • A supply of pellets and birdseeds, replace every 6 months.
  • New, unopened bottled water.
  • Magnifying glass to inspect injuries.
  • A few folded, white paper towels.
  • Hand Sanitizer gel or pads
  • A heating pad for source of heat.
  • A list of your bird's daily routine.
  • Phone number of your avian vet.
  • Phone number of 24 hour vet clinic.
  • Money for taxi or bus fare to vet.
  • Your name, address and phone number.
  • Book on cockatiel care and treatment.

  Medical Emergencies

 All of the conditions below require immediate medical attention from an avian vet. Call your avian vet if your bird is suffering from one of the following conditions.

  • Egg Binding-Symptoms, bird sitting on the bottom of the cage floor, rocking back and forth, sitting on tail feathers with her legs spread apart, tail wagging or bobbing, abdominal distention, straining as if trying to lay an egg, labored breathing, lack of droppings, ruffled feathers, limbs may appear bluish white, paralysis of foot, leg. Results,  without treatment, death. Call vet and: Click Here  
  • Animal Bites-Results life threatening, internal injuries, fractures, systemic infections even from small puncture wounds.
  • Bee Stings- Results, possible fatality because of the amount of venom.
  • Bleeding-Results- life threatening. For a 90 gram cockatiel, losing 18 drops or 1 teaspoon of blood means losing 10 % of the bird's total blood volume. After losing 20% or more of total blood volume, the bird may not recover. 
  • Bleeding from nares-, (nose) mouth or vent or in droppings, Results- very serious, possible, internal bleeding, cancer, poisoning.
  • Burns-Results, excruciating pain, shock, secondary infections.
  • Broken Blood Feathers-Results, possible bleeding to death.   Click Here
  • Fractures-Symptoms, drooping wing, inability to move wing, bruising and swelling of leg, leg in an awkward position. Results, pain, disability, possible internal injury, infections, bird may go into shock.
  • Lead and Zinc Poisoning-Results, death, permanent neurological disorder. Symptoms, loss of balance, inability to fly, falling off perch,  twitching, abnormal head movements, muscle weakness, paralysis, blindness, loose, black or bright red droppings, pink urates, vomiting. increased thirst and increased urine.
  • Concussion-Results, bird may go into shock or suffer brain injury.
  • Overheating-Symptoms, panting, holding wings away from body, weakness, Results, shock, coma, high body temperatures can kill a bird.
  • Frostbite-Results, loss of toes, feet, or bird may go into shock and die.
  • Foreign Object Inhaled or Eating Foreign Objects-Results, respiratory or digestive damage.
  • Beak Injuries-Results, inability to eat and preen, infections from wound.
  • Eye Injuries Results, infection, permanent loss of vision.
  • Breathing Problems-Results, life threatening and an indication of illness.
  • Flesh Protruding from Vent-Prolapsed cloaca, uterus, lower intestine, tumor, Results- all life threatening conditions .
  • Shock-Results, death because bird's blood does not circulate.
  • Vomiting-PDD or other serious illness, ingesting foreign object, poisoning, digestive tract obstruction. Results, food deprivation, dehydration, possible death depending on cause, 
  • Seizures: Violent shaking, thrashing or twitching of  wings, legs or entire body from muscle contractions. Possible causes, heavy metal poisoning, low blood calcium, head trauma, infection, nutritional deficiency, neurological disorder, epilepsy. 
  • Joint Swelling- Possible injury, fracture, dislocated joint, arthritis, gout. Results, pain, disability, infection, shock.
  • Falling into Oil-Results, life threatening, breathing problems, eye problems, poisoning, loss of body heat, when feathers become coated with oil, bird is not able to regulate body temperature. 

  Shock and Why it's an Emergency: Just like their human companions, an injured bird, can go into shock. Shock is a critical condition because the cardio-vascular system fails to supply adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients to cells and vital organs. If a bird isn't treated quickly, this lack of oxygen can permanently damage organs in a bird's body or the bird can die. 

Emergency First Aid Care Until You Get to A Vet The purpose of first aid is to stabilize a bird so he doesn't die before you get to the vet. All of the above conditions are emergency situations and they all require treatment from an avian vet AFTER first aid at home. Use your judgment and don't waste valuable time if your bird has been injured. 

  • Try to keep calm. Birds can sense when we are upset and this will cause even more stress for an injured bird. Keep your bird calm by talking to him softly and by having other family members and pets leave the room.
  • Keep other family members and pets away from the bird.
  • Examine your bird and look for source of bleeding.
  • Skin wounds, use cotton balls, gauze or Q-Tips to gently wash the area with 3% hydrogen peroxide or make a solution that resembles weak tea using  Bentadine and sterile water. 
  • Stop skin bleeding apply direct pressure with gauze pad or paper towel. If pressure isn't enough, use a coagulant. Dip a moist Q-Tip into cornstarch, flour or Kwik Stop then apply the dry powder to wound. Kwik-Stop, available at pet shops and vets, is a styptic product that contains Benzocaine, an anesthetic to stop pain and stinging.
  • Stop beak or nail bleeding by applying direct pressure with gauze pad or paper towel. If this does not work,  pack with cornstarch, flour or Kwik Stop, taking care to not get any in the bird's eyes, nares or mouth. 
  • Broken blood feathers should be pulled if bleeding is profuse. Click Here. Apply flour or cornstarch as a coagulant to the follicle then apply direct pressure. Skin follicles may need up to 10 minutes of direct pressure after the feather is pulled before bleeding stops. 
  • Heatstroke-Put bird in cooler, air-conditioned room. Mist with water until feathers are drenched to the skin. Turn on fan. Offer bird cool water to drink or drop directly into beak.
  • Treat burns from steam, hot water, hot pots, stoves, boiling food by misting with cool water or run under very cool water from sink. If it's a burned foot and leg,  dip in a bowl of very cool water.  Apply a non-greasy topical antibiotic cream. Do NOT use butter, grease or an oil based antibiotic cream because that will retain heat. For grease burns, apply cornstarch to absorb oil, then treat with cool water. For acid birds from drain cleaners or toilet bowl cleaners, flood the area with cool water to dilute the chemical then apply a light paste made out of baking soda and water. For alkali burns from ammonia and other products, gently rinse injury in cool water to dilute chemical than  gently apply vinegar to neutralize the chemical. There is no emergency treatment for mouth burns caused by chewing on electrical cords. 
  • Broken bones: Don't handle your bird unless it's absolutely necessary. Put bird in small travel cage to confine movement. If you don't have a travel cage, remove perches from the regular cage and line the bottom with a soft, non-looped towel. Unless you know how to make a splint or bandage a bird, trying to wrap the bird with gauze could cause even more damage.
  • For swollen, discolored or inflamed legs, check to see if a piece of hair or thread is wrapped around a toe or legs.  If there is, circulation is being cut off and the bird can permanently lose the use of foot and or leg. Call a vet. immediately because removing the string or hair is a very delicate procedure.
  • Prolapsed Organ.(flesh protruding from vent) Keep the tissue moist with KY jelly and call vet. Prolapsed organs can only be treated by an avian vet and sometimes stitches are needed.
  • Oiled Feathers from Cooking Oil or Grease- Call vet. Use first aid ONLY if vet is unavailable. Remove oil from nares, mouth and around eyes with moist cotton tip swab. Put bird in sink filled with warm water and very small amount of dishwashing liquid. Wash feathers gently with fingers, following direction of feather growth. Dip bird in and out of water for 1 or 2 minutes. Rinse feathers with clean warm water. Repeat as needed. Blot feathers with towel and dry with blow dryer set on low. Keep bird warm by raising  home temperature to 85-90░F until completely dry.
  • Keep your injured cockatiel very warm. Place a heating pad set on low, under the cage and cover the heating pad with a bath towel. Cover the top 3/4 of your bird's cage with a towel and keep temperature between 85-90░F.
  • Call your avian vet immediately and ask  staff who answer the phone to please TELL THE VET that this is a bird emergency and you need to bring your bird in for treatment. Sometimes tired and over worked office staff do not realize that treating sick, injured and bleeding birds need immediate care that same day.
  • Non-medical Emergency Situations can also be life threatening and a matter of life or death for our avian companions . What happens to a pet bird during catastrophic and natural disasters, such as fires, floods, hurricanes and tornados? Do our birds become victims of a tragic event or can we help them to escape safely along with other family members? Sometimes the answer is a sad one because there may only be a few precious seconds of advanced warning before the house must be evacuated. You probably have smoke detectors in your home and fire escape plans for your family but have you included your bird in those plans and in those practice home fire drills? One of the ways to evacuate a bird quickly is by using a small travel that is light enough to carry. Small travel cages for cockatiels are about the size of a shoe box and they can be purchased at any good pet shop. Keep the travel cage near the first aid kit. Also keep a towel and pillowcase nearby to cover the cage when leaving your home.  A cloth pillow case will protect your bird from smoke inhalation. 

    Note:: Suppose you yourself have a medical crisis? Does anyone else know how to take care of your bird? Keep a  book on cockatiel care next to your bird's cage. Keep a journal about your bird that explains her daily routine, diet, favorite foods, favorite words, songs toys and favorite activities. Also include the name and phone number of your avian vet as well as some photographs of your bird in your journal. Keep this information near the cage where it is clearly visible and make sure that you have your bird's name or picture on the cover. The person who will be taking care of your bird while you recover will be very grateful for all of this information and you will feel a lot better too.

    Source of First Aid Procedures
    The Complete Pet Bird Owner's Handbook,
    by Dr. Gary Gallerstein. D.V.M.

        Find a Vet Here  

    Graphics Courtesy Of
    Graphic Garden
    Mary's Little Lamb

Page Contents, Layout and Design Copyrightę Eleonore  McCaffrey Cockatiel Cottage,
All Graphics Copyrighted by Credited Artists and are Not Public Domain

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