Sick Pet Bird Care

The article is directed specifically to pet bird owners and is intended for their use as a basic how to guide on caring properly for a sick or injured bird. Please always follow the advice of your veterinarian & do not use this article as a means of avoiding a hands on veterinary examination. The key idea of this article is to reduce any and all stress to your recovering bird.

1. WARMTH: Ill birds will sit with their feathers fluffed in an attempt to conserve heat. The effort to conserve heat places an additional burden on the already debilitated bird. Your veterinarian will determine if your bird requires hospitalization, but if home care is acceptable, I recommend creating a tent to keep your bird warm. A birds natural temperature is much higher then ours at anywhere from 103F-106F. Therefore, what often feels warm to us can be chilly to them and this is particularly true in sick birds. A simple way of providing heat is to cover 1/2 of the cage with a blanket and place a heat lamp on the other side as a heat source. Generally speaking we keep our sick birds at environmental temperatures ranging form 85-95F. This will vary greatly with the individual bird so it is important to monitor your pet to ensure that you are providing the correct temperature and of course seek your veterinarian’s advice. A bird that is too hot will have very sleek feathers held tightly to the body, will hold its wings (shoulders) slightly away from its body and may pant. If you see any of these signs your bird is much too warm and the environmental temperature should be reduced accordingly. For night warmth I recommend using a red light. Ill birds, just like ill people, require rest and if kept under bright lights all night they will become sleep deprived. Also, during the day it is important to provide light so that they may be encouraged to eat and can be monitored. Therefore, the entire cage should never be covered during the day. I don’t recommend heating pads because it is very difficult to regulate the temperature. If a bird is not perching and sitting directly on the pad they can easily become overheated or burned. And in my experience baby birds that are raised on heating pad quickly become dehydrated and again are subject to burns.

2. STRESS: Debilitated birds must be kept in a stress free situation. Often what appears normal to us can cause stress in our feathered friends. I suggest taking a close look at your bird’s environment with a critical eye to determine what may be stress factors. Some common ones include, the bird in the center of house traffic with no chance to rest, cigarette smoke or aerosols in the birds environment, lack of darkness/sleep time at night, other pets, small children, too much visual stimuli (cage directly in front of a window), competition from cage mates, too much handling, poor nutrition and temperature extremes (such as birds kept in kitchens). I recommend that sick birds be left in their cage and allowed to calmly recuperate. Think of this as bed rest for your pet! Too much handling can stress the bird and will require the bird to use additional calories. If the bird is housed with other birds, it is usually best to remove the bird to a single cage. Some birds can become too stressed when separated from the colony so you should seek your veterinarian’s advice on how to cage your sick pet. However, generally removing the bird from the group will reduce the stress of competition for nutrition and allow for medicating easily and better monitoring. Of course, if infectious disease is suspected, then the pet must be moved into an isolation cage and at least a separate room – preferably a separate house with no other birds.

3. NUTRITION: If your doctor made dietary recommendations, now is not the time to implement change. Changes in the type of diet will cause enormous stress to your bird and should be started when the bird has recovered. Always discuss how and when to made dietary changes with your pet’s doctor. Generally, I recommend offering all the bird’s favorite foods during illness because many ill birds become anorexic and can be lost due to starvation. If your bird is normally a seedeater but not currently eating, try placing millets sprays in the cage which most birds enjoy. The important thing to remember is that it has taken months to years for the bird to become malnourished and this cannot be corrected in a day or a week. Slow changes are essential for the ill bird. If you are unable to get your pet to eat he/she should be hospitalized for gavage feeding and further care. Birds have a high metabolic rate and can quickly starve. Thus, a pet bird that stops eating should always be assumed to be critically ill, certainly the potential for fatality is present. Lastly, if your bird is a hand reared baby and is not eating due to illness, you can often revert them back to hand feeding (syringe feeding) during the convalescent period. A good hand rearing formula should be used. The formula should be mixed with hot water as directed on the bag and offered to the bird. Do not force the bird to eat. Pet owners should never force feed their birds. A bird can easily aspirate (inhale food) and develop pneumonia and force-feeding causes enormous stress to your bird. Reverting to hand feeding is only of use for those birds that willingly accept feeding from the syringe. Also, if hand feeding, the formula must be warmed correctly (follow the advice on the formula bag and that of your veterinarian) to avoid food burns from too hot formula and crop stasis from formula fed at too cool a temperature.

4. MEDICATING: Routes: 1. Injectable, 2. In water or Food, 3. Topical, 4. Oral I prefer not to medicate in the pet’s water or the food. Medication given in this way often causes a change in the taste and can potentially cause the bird to reduce their food and water intake. Also, when medication is placed in the food or water it is very difficult to determine how much of the medication the pet has actually ingested. Thus, in my opinion the best routes are injectable and oral. Topical medication often is not of use to the pet and will cause oily feathers.

Prior to taking your bird home, you should be shown how to appropriately medicate your bird by the doctor or technician. Briefly, the patient should be held in an upright position and the syringe containing the medication should be gently introduced from the left side of the mouth and angled to the right side. Most birds will attempt to bite the syringe allowing it to be easily introduced into the oral cavity. Slowly depress the plunger on the syringe to dispense the medication into the lower portion of the beak. If the pet struggles while medicating, stop for a few moments and then try again. You should advise your veterinarian if you are unable to medicate your pet. Medication can be mixed with a flavoring agent (FlavorX), which will help to reduce some resistance. Occasionally, depending on the reason for treatment, your doctor may be able to give a long acting injection in place of oral medication but this has limited uses and thus is not available for every pet.

5. FOLLOW-UP EXAMINATIONS: As soon as illness was detected in your pet he/she was taken to the veterinarian for a through physical examination and diagnostic work-up including laboratory testing. Unfortunately, many people will see that their pet is improving and don’t realize that a follow-up exam is necessary. I always suggest rechecking the patient at variable intervals depending on the state of debilitation. The recheck exam allows your doctor to assess the patient’s response to treatment and the owner’s compliance with instructions. Many times in the course of treating an exotic pet the treatment must be altered somewhat to ensure the best response. These rechecks are also used as a way of reinforcing the changes needed for the bird to remain healthy. Additionally, lab values can be rechecked to ensure that the patient is truly recovering and not just feeling well enough again to resume hiding any weakness. I can’t stress the importance of this follow up enough, it is extremely important to the health of your bird.

Most importantly, follow the advice of your veterinarian and ask questions to ensure that you completely understand what is needed of you to get your pet back to health.

Looking for a Pet: Consider a Rabbit

They may be cute and cuddly. They may be as playful as a puppy or kitten, but they’re also curious and mischievous, and they love to chew. If your kids leave their clothes on the floor, if you have tassels and strings hanging from your drapes or furniture, you’ll quickly learn that chewing is one of your new pet’s favorite pastimes. If bunny’s a house pet, don’t leave bunny home alone without supervision. And if your computer or any of your appliances quit working, it’s a good bet to check electrical cord for teeth marks.

You’ll most certainly have a little expense in preparing a home for your new friend. You’ll need a hutch or cage to keep him or her out of trouble during the night or when you’re not watching. Your pet supply store will probably have an assortment of housing facilities in an assortment of prices. Or if you’re handy with tools, build one yourself. Just don’t use chicken wire, or put slats too close together; be careful there’s nothing with which the rabbit could hurt itself. Don’t keep your rabbit confined too long. They’re sociable critters and get lonely.

Other expenses may include normal health care that you should provide for any pet. Spaying and neutering, vaccinations, treatment for fleas. And don’t forget to watch for other health problems, especially those that are specific to rabbits.

Rabbits usually don’t like to be held so they’re not a lap sitting animal or a child’s playmate. They are quiet, clean, and for the most part, like to be left alone. They do, however, like a large area where they can move around and explore. Make sure they have room to exercise. Provide a door to their hutch to allow free access. They’re more comfortable if they have a safe place to go to.

Rabbit owners are unanimous in the praise of their pets. Like most other pets, all have different personalities, bond well with their owners, and are easily trained using treats and the same techniques as for training a dog.

We cannot emphasize enough though, do your homework. And if you think a rabbit is a pet you could live with, check with a pet shelter near you. They frequently have rabbits available.

Just remember, any pet needs love and proper care. Because of their nature, rabbits need a little care more than a dog or cat. Make sure you’re committed.

The Pros and Cons of Having a Ferret For a Pet

My ferrets “dook,” do the war dance, and “skitter” between my feet, and make my husband, kids, and I smile. For my family, ferrets are excellent pets. My husband thinks they’re better than dogs, and the whole lot of us prefer ferrets to cats. Ferrets are very different from cats and dogs, however.Their behavior, smell, motivations, and shape are all different from cats and dogs. They are classified as exotic pets, and it is important that you consider the pros and cons of ferret parenthood before adopting one of these wonderful weasels.

The differences between ferrets and other pets create the pros and cons of having a pet ferret

Intelligence: I hesitate to say that cats and dogs are smarter than ferrets, but I readily acknowledge that ferrets have a significantly different kind of intelligence. Ferrets are pretty good problem solvers. As an example, for Christmas one year, I put an apple in a stocking for my ferret. (The ferret liked to steal apples and hide them. He didn’t actually eat them.) The apple was just a tad smaller in diameter as the stocking. Ernie put his head in the stocking, grabbed the apple, and pulled. It didn’t work. After only two tries he crawled out of the stocking and got on top of it. He pushed the apple out.

Tenacity: Every ferret I have ever seen has been far more tenacious than the most dedicated cat or dog. Ferrets are intensely curious. They must know what is behind closed doors. They must know what is behind a barrier. They need to study the backside of a dishwasher and the inside of a sofa. If a ferret somehow manages to get in your pots and pans cabinet, don’t be surprised to find them later in with your silverware. This tenacity makes it difficult to “ferret proof” and make your house safe for your beloved pets.

Thievery: Dogs tend to steal shoes and socks as puppies, but they outgrow the behavior. Ferrets “steal” throughout their lives. If an object appeals to a ferret, it will snatch that object and hide it in their stash. Ferrets do not grow out of this–humans learn to put up their keys and shoes.

Diet (Input): While dogs are omnivores, ferrets are like cats. They are carnivores. In fact, ferrets are obligate carnivores and they eat meat and fat. Ferrets need ferret food, and ferret food is a little more expensive than cat food.

Output: Ferrets don’t bury their excrement in a litter box. Dogs are easily trained to go outside. Ferrets, on the other hand, generally do their business in corners. While they can be trained to use litter boxes, it’s rare to find a ferret that will walk to another room to use a litter box.

Names: Cats and dogs quickly learn their names and dogs are easily trained to come to their name. Few ferrets know their names. Only two of my ferrets know their names. A woman I know who has operated a ferret shelter for 18 years tells me she has only ever seen one ferret demonstrate knowledge of her name.

Which of these are pros and which are cons? Well, the answer to that question is different for each person.

Before you get a ferret for a pet, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. If your pet ferret steals your keys, is it cute? If your pet ferret steals your keys twenty times, is it still cute?
  2. Are you willing to re-arrange your house to ferret-proof it?
  3. Are you willing to deal with magnetic locks on your cabinets?
  4. Are you willing to get rid of your recliners?
  5. Do you get bent out of shape if the bottoms of your doors have scratch marks on them?
  6. Do you mind cleaning litter boxes?
  7. Do you mind cleaning up areas that aren’t the litter box?
  8. Can you get over a two-foot tall Plexiglas barrier?
  9. Do you have a sensitive nose?
  10. If you leave a glass out, will you mind if it gets tilted over and a nose in it?

It’s not all bad though. As yourself these questions too.

  1. Do you like watching curious animals?
  2. Do you like playing with your animals?
  3. Do you like pets that will play with you and play on their own?
  4. Do you like cute animals?

Ferrets are not for everyone, but they are wonderful for some people

Ferrets can seem chaotic at times, but once you get to know the species, they aren’t.

Are you still considering a pet ferret?

Please visit a ferret shelter close to you and talk with the shelter workers. Besides the fact that almost every ferret shelter is overflowing right now, the shelter people can help you understand a specific ferret’s personality. The shelter people also have a vested interested in doing what it takes to make your home the ferret’s forever home. The American Ferret Association and Ferret Life both have directories for ferret shelters.