Five Ways To Avoid An Emergency Visit To Your Avian Veterinarian

Posted on: 15 January 2015

It's nice to know your emergency avian veterinarian is there when your pet bird needs urgent care. Some emergencies are preventable, however. As a responsible bird owner, you should know how to prevent a potentially life-threatening illness or accident. Simple measures, such as keeping your birds wings clipped, recognizing substances that may cause toxicity and familiarizing yourself with the signs of illness may prevent an emergency.

1. Keep Your Bird's Wings Clipped

A pet bird with clipped wings will not be fully flighted, making it less likely to escape through open doors and windows, or get into harm's way. Birds without clipped wings could crash into walls or windows during flight. Emergency veterinarians often treat injuries due to such household accidents.

You should have your veterinarian or professional bird groomer clip your bird's flight feathers. If you choose to do the procedure yourself, you must be trained and have an assistant to hold the restrained bird in a towel. The bird's wings will need to be clipped periodically, typically when new feathers grow back after completing a molt cycle.

2. Don't Burn or Overheat Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick coatings contain polytetrafluoroetheylene, a chemical commonly referred to as PTFE. While PTFE is generally not a major health concern for humans, toxicity from nonstick cookware is a cause of medical emergencies in pet birds. When these coatings become overheated, they emit toxic fumes that can cause serious illness or even death in birds.

To err on the side of caution, never allow your nonstick cookware to overheat. Better yet, avoid the use of nonstick altogether, by substituting it with stainless steel or cast iron. Also, be aware of other common household items that may have nonstick coatings, such as curling irons, space heaters, waffle makers and crock pots.

You should recognize the signs of I PTFE toxicosis in birds. Symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea, inability to perch upright and breathing difficulty. If you suspect your bird has been exposed to toxic emissions from burnt nonstick, open all windows and place your pet in a well-ventilated area. Seek emergency treatment at once.

3. Provide Only Bird-Safe Toys

Parrots love to chew and must do so to prevent overgrown beaks, as well as prevent boredom. However, you must be certain that all wood perches, branches and toys are untreated, to prevent ingestion of toxic substances. Also, check for frayed string, rope or thread on fabric toys. Any of these may be choking hazards or could cause injuries if feet or wings become entangled.

Here are a few other hazards to be aware of when choosing bird toys:

  • Chains with links that do not fully close: A toe or beak could become caught between the links, causing injury, especially if the bird panics in attempt to free itself.

  • Wooden toys with cracks: Cracks in the wood may become a trap for small toenails or beaks.

  • Metal toys containing zinc or lead: To avoid toxicity, be sure metal toys are made of stainless steel.

  • Dyed leather: Dyes may be toxic, therefore only offer your bird vegetable-dyed leather strips to chew.

4. Supervise Your Bird When Other Pets Are Present

All too often, pet birds are killed or seriously injured by dogs and cats. This is why you should never allow unsupervised interaction between your bird and other household pets.

If you own a large or powerful dog, provide a sturdy cage for your bird that cannot be knocked over by a rambunctious or disorderly dog. Also, don't allow your feathered friend to walk on the floor. Being accidentally pounced on by a curious puppy or cat could lead to serious injury.

5. Educate Your Bird Sitter

There may come a time when you leave your bird in the care of a pet sitter. Only do so with a responsible individual who has been instructed on your pet's care. You need to inform your sitter of all potential hazards and threats. Doing so could prevent an emergency.

Concluding Thoughts on Bird Emergencies

As a precaution, keep the phone number and address of an emergency vet on hand. Provide this information to all caretakers of your pet. Also, keep a record of your pet's medical history, leg band number and permit in a convenient place, such as a folder in your desk drawer.