The Avian First Aid Kit

By Sybil Erden, Founder and Carol Highfill, Phoenix, AZ – July 21, 1996

One of the most important items a responsible bird owner must have is a First Aid kit just for your bird. This is true whether you have one bird, or are a breeder caring for a hundred of more avians. Having a well stocked avian First Aid kit handy can prepare you to handle minor emergencies yourself or enable you to stabilize your bird’s condition while getting your bird to your avian veterinarian. In an emergency you will not have the time to run around your home getting the necessary materials or equipment, so this kit can be a life saver. Decide before hand where you wish to keep the First Aid kit. The kitchen, bathroom or the bird room are good locations. Wherever you place it, keep it there.

Have your regular avian veterinarian’s name, address and telephone number taped in the lid of the First Aid Kit, along with at least one 24 hour emergency hospital, clinic or doctor’s name and number. In an envelope, in the First Aid kit, you should also keep a copy of your bird’s medical records, particularly any chronic diseases or recent injuries/illnesses the bird has been treated for. You will want to take this with you to the doctor or hospital and it may be important in an emergency. A sturdy, medium sized, plastic or metal tool box makes an ideal Avian First Aid Kit. After careful consideration, we have decided to help you put together a very basic kit, containing emergency necessities under the heading “Basic First Aid Kit”. For those of you who feel more comfortable doing minor emergency procedures yourself, we will list a few more items under “Additional Supplies”. We will end this article with a few more other emergency “must haves” for every bird owner.

Basic First Aid Kit

There are some absolute “musts” for your kit. The following are items we suggest for inclusion in a Basic First Aid Kit, and a brief description of their uses. Please keep in mind size appropriateness for your bird or birds. If you have some large and small birds you may need to keep duplicate items in various sizes.

Towel – for wrapping and securing your bird.
Scissors – for cutting tape, bandages…..and strings which can wrap on birds toes.
“Quik-stop” and/or styptic pencil (silver nitrate stick) – to stop bleeding from broken blood feathers or cuts. Avian blood has very little clotting agents in comparison to human/ mammal blood. A bird can literally bleed to death from a broken blood feather.
Hemostats and tweezers – for removing broken blood feathers, and/or splinters
Pliers, needle nose – for pulling blood feathers or unbending chains and quick links which birds are known to injure themselves with.
Wire cutters – once again, birds are known to wrap themselves in chain and/or wire.
Gauze pads – for covering wounds, burns
Cotton balls – for cleansing
Q-tips – for cleaning out small wounds, getting stuff out of bird’s mouth’s/ throats.
Vet wrap (cut into strips and rolled) – for wrapping broken bones, wings, or binding gauze pads to wounds.
Micropore tape (paper surgical tape) – for holding gauze in place
Penlight or small flashlight (A head-mounted light is even better.)
Magnifying glasses or “jewelers hoop” – especially necessary for those of us at “that certain age”….but since birds are so small and delicate, a pair of magnifying glasses can come in handy for anyone trying to do detail work.
Sterile water – for flushing wounds or mixing with food
Pedialyte (or generic equivalent) – for rehydrating a dehydrated bird. Can be mixed with food. Pedialyte contains sugars and electrolytes which avians quickly lose when dehydrated or sick. Must be discarded within 24 hours of opening since it is a wonderful media for bacteria to grow in. An alternate to Pedialite such as gastrolyte, Rappolyte powders cam be used. These should be mixed with sterile water. Both are available through veterinarians. Pedialite, however, is readily available at any grocery store in the baby food section.
Hand feeding formula, jars of human baby food such as vegies, cereals or squash. – Often sick or injured birds will be too weak to eat on their own for a few days. During this period of time we may find ourselves having to spoon or syringe feed the bird to help keep their strength up.
Feeding syringes, spoon with bent up sides to facilitate feeding (for above)
Pellets/seeds – If your bird needs to stay at the hospital, they may not have the type/kind of food your bird is accustomed to. It is a good idea to have several baggies of fresh seed and/or pellets available to take with you.
Betadyne or hibitane (chlorhexidine) – non-irritating disinfectants. These are available from your veterinarian.
Aloe Vera – for very minor burns. Most creams and lotions are toxic to birds, so please make sure that your get 100% pure Aloe Vera

Additional Supplies

For those who are more experienced and/or less squeamish, or who simply live too far to get to the veterinarian quickly, you may want to add:

Popsicle sticks – for immobilizing broken legs
Ophthalmic ointment – for scratched eyes, minor conjunctivitis.
Suturing materials (surgical needles and thread) – Use only if you know what you are doing, or to save a bird’s life. Take to veterinarian ASAP.
Gelfoam -stops bleeding from flesh wounds. Available from your veterinarian.
Tegaderm dressing – helps healing for burns and certain open wounds. Encourages granulation ( healing/scabbing.) Available at any pharmacy.
Lactated Ringer’s solution – used for IV rehydrating of dehydrated avians and flushing wounds. (Available from your Veterinarian)
Syringes – for injectable medications and irrigation of wounds.
Oxygen – this requires a prescription from your vet to be put on file with a local supply house. This is only needed by the most experienced of bird owner/breeders.

© Sybil Erden and Carol Highfill,  Phoenix, AZ – July 21, 1996