Sick Bird Symptoms
A major problem with sick birds is that they all tend to show similar symptoms, no matter what the disease. The typical sign of a sick bird is that it is usually quiet, drowsy, rests with both feet on the perch, has its feathers ruffled and the head tucked under the wing or drawn back into the chest, with the eyes partly closed. Some may squat on the perch or floor of the cage and show excessive stretching of the wings and legs, together with shivering.
Immediately a bird is noticed to be sick, it should be isolated and placed in a warm environment, preferably 30-32°C for twenty-four hours. This warmth is easily provided by placing an electric light bulb immediately below the floor of the cage; it will provide a constant source of heat but will not illuminate the cage. The exclusion OT draughts is very important. Note the droppings first. With the healthy bird these should be made up of a firm, black ring of feces with a white soft centre of urine. In inflammatory intestinal conditions, droppings will be watery or pasty when mixed with the urine. Where there is a temperature or infectious disease, droppings are frequently yellow, and in other diseases the feces sometimes change from yellow to green or sometimes bloody in terminal cases. Where these occur the bird should be taken to a veterinarian promptly.
Nectar and fruit-eating birds have loose droppings normally. Lorikeets and lories, if fed fruit and green feed, may also have loose, wet droppings without their being abnormal.
Observe whether the cuttlebone is being properly used. When the bird has quietened down after being moved, check whether the plumage is normal or ruffled. Note whether the bird is bright or listless and whether there is evidence of a good appetite. Is the bird at all emaciated or weak? If you are confident in handling the bird, it should be examined for abscesses or swellings, or abnormalities of any kind. The nasal openings should be pressed gently to express discharges. If the condition is not obvious, the bird should be taken to a veterinarian.
How to Treat a Sick Bird
An injured bird needs to be handled carefully and as little as possible. Place it on a soft surface in a warm cardboard box, cover the box, and transport it as soon as possible to the surgery for the vet’s examination.
Temperature is of critical importance in nursing birds. Sick birds should be excluded from draughts and should be kept in a warm cage. Cover the cage with two or three layers of cloth on three sides and heat it by placing a light bulb beneath the cage. Have a thermometer near the bird’s perch to check that the environmental temperature is kept constant at 30-32°C; keep the temperature high for one to two weeks or as long as the bird is ill. Birds under heated conditions such as this will drink more water.
Provision of heat for sick birds is of the utmost importance, particularly before they are handled or dosed. Before moving the bird to a colder environment, acclimatize it by reducing the cage temperature gradually over a period of at least six hours.
A good general antibiotic mix is 1:1 sulphadimidine (33.3 per cent sulphamethazine, I.C.I.) to chloramphenicol oral suspension, give two drops by mouth every four hours for seven to fourteen days or as needed. Ampicillin orally is also very useful.
Supportive therapy is important in nursing the sick bird. Fluids should be given orally. Depending on the bird’s size, give 1-4 milliliters of a glucose in- water mixture (flat lemonade is ideal) five times daily. In addition give 2-3 drops of a vitamin/mineral tonic once daily.