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Bringing Back the Magic: A Transformational Memior
By Tammy Parker DVM

The November Camelot Grey conference was definitely one of the best highlights of 2001. There was such an energy and enthusiasm among the attendees that spoke of even bigger and better lives for our African Greys. The First Aid workshops were lots of fun and, hopefully, helpful for any emergency situations. The following first aid tips are a synopsis of the information from the workshops, in case you need a refresher, or were not able to attend. Be sure to practice restraint occasionally and remember to watch the breathing of your companion.


The primary goal of any bleeding episode is to stop the blood loss as quickly as possible. Clotting time for most healthy birds will be around 60 seconds or less. Pressure is the old standby and very reliable, sometimes as a first means of defense, and sometimes by default when other ideas are not working.


It's easy for a nail to get broken, especially if they're too long. It is also easy to "quick" a nail if using traditional nail clippers. For larger birds, I recommend using a dremel. Have someone well-versed in its use show you how it works. Several things may work to help the clotting of a bleeding nail. They are:

Styptic powder (I fill tuberculin syringes with styptic to facilitate application)*

  • Silver nitrate sticks
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Bar soap (Ivory has fewer chemicals overall)

* NEVER apply styptic powder to a blood feather or to an open wound on the skin, as it can cause tissue damage, and even possible death, EDITOR.


While new feathers are growing in they have both an artery and a vein running through them. Often, a clumsy bird, such as a baby or a bird such as a cockatiel prone to thrashing, will break a new feather. These feathers can bleed profusely (enough in some birds to be life-threatening), and it can look like they are bleeding even more, as the bird spatters blood with its movements. The best method for stopping most of these occurrences of blood is to have handy a pair of hemostats, fine needle nosed pliers or another instrument to provide you with a good grip and pull the bleeding feather. This is done by grasping the shaft of the feather above the tear. Hold firmly and pull straight out in the direction in which the feather is growing. Do not jerk or pull out at an angle as this may cause further tearing. Make sure no skin is in the grip so no skin tearing will occur. If you have problems still and need assistance, hold pressure if possible and get to a veterinarian for assistance. Peroxide works wonders when trying to locate which of several blood stained feathers is bleeding. Make sure you know proper restraint to decrease chances of injury to yourself and your bird. And yes, unfortunately, this procedure does hurt. But if the feather is left in place, the scab could dislodge and result in further bleeding.


The primary goal is to control the bleeding. Often pressure is the best approach. Do not immediately try to flush or clean the wound, after the bleeding is stopped. Wait 30-60 minutes before doing anything. This will also allow your bird a rest after presumably a great deal of stress. Once the clot has had time to organize and the small vessels time to constrict and seal, you can proceed. When in doubt, do not put anything in a cut or wound that you would not put in your own eye. Many chemicals can cause cellular (tissue) damage and delay healing. Some acceptable solutions are: water (warm, not hot), 1% chlorhexadine (Nolvasan), or betadine diluted to a "weak tea" colored solution. Be sure to contact your avian veterinarian to determine what, if anything, else needs to be done. Large cuts, wounds or blood loss amounts need to be seen ASAP!!! All trauma induced by animal attacks is a "right then" emergency. Sepsis (systemic infections) can occur in a matter of 12-24 hours and can be deadly. Do not put any oil based cream, ointments or other solutions on the bird. These can destroy their thermoregulatory abilities.


Fractures most commonly occur in the wing and leg bones. Fractures are not usually fatal unless other conditions or complications are involved. The wing and leg bones are hollow and when they break, are likely to splinter into several pieces. These pieces often have sharp edges that could cause considerable soft tissue damage that may be more problematic than the fracture itself.

Your goal is to stabilize the fracture and get the bird calm and in a location that will prevent further injury. Your first aid kit should be stocked with the appropriate materials for immobilization of the fracture. A basic orthopedic principle is to stabilize the joint above and below the fracture site for the best stabilization.


Place the injured wing in the normal resting position near the body. Starting inside near the top edge, roll your bandage material around to the top of the wing and diagonal to the opposite edge. Roll it around the underside of the wing in a straight line to the opposite underside edge. Then bring the bandage out and roll diagonally upwards and directly opposite of the starting point. This will produce an X shape on top of the wing and a = = configuration on the underneath side of the wing. Usually 2-3 wraps that are firm, but not extremely tight, will suffice.

On the last wrap, instead of going upward and diagonally, bring the bandage around the bird's body and under the opposite wing. Remember also that this layer will need to be firm, but allow for chest expansion (breathing). When the bandage is in place, and before you place the self-adhesive layer, check to ensure the bandaged wing is level with the non-bandaged wing when folded. This simple check is quick assurance the bandaged wing is in proper position.

If the wings are clipped, also check that the primary tips lie on top of the secondary feathers. If they are under the secondary feathers, the top of the wing is flexed too much and the bandage needs to be loosened.


This splint is good for small birds, such as finches and canaries, as well as for doves and pigeons.

Start with your bandage edge just inside the affected wing. Wrap the bandage around the body incorporating the top of the opposite wing. Attach the bandage to itself on the original side. Make sure the bandage is secure, yet loose enough for the bird to breathe.

A second strip of bandage material is connected to the first in the center of the bird's back. It is then run the length of the body and down the tail. It lies beneath the wing tips.

A third strip of bandage is placed below the legs and above the vent. Start this piece under the edge of the affected wing (as with the first strip) and wrap it around the bird and secure to the second bandage strip.

A fourth piece of bandage material would be placed where the tips of unclipped wings would meet. This bandage goes around the wing tips and tail to offer a counter balance for the remaining splint.


There are several things of which you should be especially aware when caring for a sick bird: temperature, food and water access, environment and mental status of your patient. A sick bird needs extra warmth at all times until fully recovered. An appropriate temperature would be 80-85 F. Make sure you are using a safe instrument to heat the cage or room. Some items that can be sources include: heating pads, light bulbs, incubators, ceramic heaters in small rooms. Examine each for safety with your particular situation- anything has the potential to be problematic. Monitor the ambient temperature to ensure the bird does not overheat. Monitor for signs of overheating (such as panting). I like to give most birds a choice of warmer or cooler, lighter or darker. (Note: 24 hours of light is stressful for any creature.)

Offer the bird's favorite foods (even if not nutritionally complete), along with healthy foods. The goal is to keep the bird eating!!! A bird that is not eating may need to be force-fed. If you are not experienced at hand feeding or gavage feeding, do not attempt to force-feed a sick bird. Aspiration could result. Make sure food and water are easily accessible. These birds do not feel like climbing to the top of the cage for a bite to eat and will forego it. Pedialyte helps with the electrolyte balance in those birds not wanting to eat or drink much.

Make sure the bird feels secure in a dimly lit and quiet room. Do not leave the dog, cat or any other predator-type animal for company, no matter how well they get along. The bird may feel pressured to "look good" instead of looking like dinner, using energy her/she may not have. Make sure the bird is protected from further injury. Most often this comes in the form of birds falling off perches and injuring a wing or leg. Get those perches low!!!

Monitor your bird's mental status from a vantage point from which he/she cannot see you. A bird will often "perk up" when someone is near and go back to lethargy as soon as they leave. Have all materials needed to medicate and restrain nearby and easily accessible when treating. The goal is to get the treatment done quickly, correctly and with as little stress as possible.

The best advice I can give when faced with an emergency is to stay calm. You do not offer anyone benefit when in a panic. Panic is for after it is all done. Practice what you would do in an emergency, if possible. Most of all, remember to take a deep breath and help when your companion needs you the most.


  • Styptic powder/silver nitrate sticks
  • Hemostats/fine needle nose pliers/tweezers
  • Gauze
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Roll gauze
  • Tape
  • Vet wrap or ace bandage with velcro (no safety pins, please!)
  • Nail trimmers
  • Scissors
  • First aid handouts
  • Peroxide
  • Towel
  • Betadine/chlorhexadine
  • Your avian vet's phone number
  • Your emergency clinic's phone numbers


  • Emergency lighting
  •  Power supplies (generators/batteries)
  • Communication devices
  • Transport
  • ID for your companion animals
  • Escape plans (also things like fitting everyone in the car)
  • Disease prevention ideas (example: keeping sick from well or clean water sources)
  • Phone numbers of emergency aid (be it relative, friend or government agency)
  • Travel cages in which the animals could stay for long periods, if needed

Dr. Tammy Parker works out of the All Creatures Animal Hospital in Dunwoody, Georgia. The above article outlines a few of the key points which she emphasized in her workshops on "How to Handle Emergencies" at the November Camelot 2001 conference.

This article was published in the Fall 2001 issue of the Grey Play Round Table® Magazine: ; ; ;

All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any part without the permission of the author.

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