FIRST AID: BLEEDING
Obviously bleeding birds need to be seen immediately by an avian veterinarian in most cases. However, if you live in an isolated area, it may be helpful to know how to manage until you can find a way to get your bird seen by an avian veterinarian. Injured birds do not tolerate handling well, and it is essential that all items needed are in place before attempting to restrain the bird. Avoid handling until careful observation of the blood pattern has been noted. External surface, respiratory rate, movements, and behavior should be checked and noted. Do not pickup any bird with signs of respiratory distress - rapid breathing, squeaking, or clicking noises unless the bleeding is obviously continuing; leave those cases strictly to your veterinarian.
DIAGNOSING THE ORIGIN OF THE BLEEDING:
To check one of your own birds that appears to be bleeding, you should still be prepared to immediately release it should the bird show any signs of stress (drooping head, eyes that start to close, etc.). Never grasp the chest in any way -instead secure by gentle restraint of the head or neck. Birds have a calcified windpipe that makes it very difficult to choke them during neck restraint. However they lack a diaphragm and cannot breathe at all unless the chest is completely free to make its excursions. Birds that are actively bleeding should be transported immediately if you are not certain you can help quickly and safely do not waste time trying to look for the problem if you will be unable to help the bird when you find it. If veterinary help is not immediately available, you may wish to give fluids; use a small syringe (should be in your avian first aid kit) to open the oral cavity and give a few drops of juice, water, or electrolyte solution. Give only in cases where bleeding has occurred prior to your arrival on the scene or has been going on for some time (the bird may be dehydrated). Electrolyte powder can be obtained in advance of any emergency from your veterinarian or pharmacist and made up into oral fluids when needed. Good illumination and magnification should be readily available, as well as a helper. Have cotton swabs and tissues or gauze readily available, and work near a tap and sink with warm running water. If you suspect an injured limb, check each wing, leg and foot. For a bloody wingtip, you may wish to determine if a broken pin feather ('blood feather') has resulted in bleeding or if the wingtip base itself is crushed, bitten, or injured. Using a tap running with warm water to wash away the clotted blood may be of help. Keep the rest of the bird dry and keep the bird warm once handling is finished. For bleeding that seems to be originating elsewhere, gently blow the feathers away from the skin or part them to look for wounds, swellings, or lacerations. Check the tongue inside of the mouth and nostrils carefully with a flashlight (two gauze or cloth loops can be used by a helper to safely open the mouth of a parrot type bird).away. Check the vent carefully for any sign of protrusions or swellings that might be bleeding.
Bleeding birds obviously need immediate help. In most cases, a bleeding pin feather is involved and it can be pulled out after cleaning the area (use needle-nosed pliers for large quills). For a bleeding foot or skin injury, apply direct pressure with a clean cloth. Call a medical professional for detailed advice. Wounds on the chest cannot bear much pressure as respiration will be affected. Never apply first aid ointments - or any ointment - to any part of a bird without checking with an avian veterinarian. Most ointments will do irreparable damage to feathers, and many may have serious health effects as well (i.e. steroid ointments).
Louise Bauck BSc, DVM, MVSc.
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