Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Parrot First Aid

All about emergency care for your parrot



When there is any serious medical emergency or disease this can cause shock. When shock occurs the cardiovascular system fails to supply adequate blood to the organs of the body, resulting in low blood pressure. The cells on the body then do not receive adequate amounts of nutrients or oxygen.

Shock can result from any serious injury to the body and usually leads to death if not treated immediately!

So what are the symptoms in birds?

  • Weak appearance
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fluffed up feathers
  • Not moving
  • Closed eyes or staring while head turned backwards.

Home care treatment?

None , there is no effective home treatment for shock , the best that can be done is put the bird into a travel cage , cover it so it's dark , keep the bird very warm at (30-32 degrees C/ 86-90 degrees F) and go to your veterinary office IMMEDIATELY!

When a bird is in shock it is a true medical emergency that needs immediate medical care.  Your vet then will treat the bird first for shock by giving it rehydration fluids, oxygen and shock - specific medication. He will then he will treat the cause of the shock i.e. Burn etc.


When a bird is sick or injured, the best thing to do is take him out his cage and place him in a hospital cage. This allows the bird to rest properly without being pestered by cage mates. It also allows you to then monitor him more closely, as well as the bird being able to receive adequate warmth, food, water and rest.

A hospital cage can be a small travel cage or a fish tank (around 10 gallons, would be suitable, depending on the size of the bird)

Do NOT add any toys in the hospital cage. If your bird is well enough to perch you can add a perch keeping it at a very low level. Or you can roll up a small hand towel for him to have the choice to perch on. NO perch would be ideal for very sick birds.

Place a soft towel at the bottom of the cage or tank. Place white printing paper or soft white kitchen paper on top of the towel. Having white paper allows you to read the sick birds poop more accurately.

Place food and water within easy reach and a stick of millet. Sick birds that don’t have much of an appetite will often still reach for the millet, so give them the choice of both. Please remember that weak birds can drown very easily, so don’t provide them with large deep bowls of water.

Hospital cages should have a heat source so ensure you provide a heating pad, blanket, hot water bottle (covered) or an avian heat lamp. Whichever heat source you choose to use, make sure that your bird can get away from the heat when he feels too hot, or he can over-heat.

Place the hospital cage in the quietest part of your home away from noise, other animals and drafts. Always keep hospital cages spotless.




A parrots tongue has many blood vessels and if injured, may bleed profusely. Seek a vet immediately!! Injury to the tongue is rare and usually heals quickly with the correct vet treatment!





(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

A parrot specific kit can be purchased online in the UK for around £25. It should include:

Angled scissors, small scissors, long bladed scissors, tweezers, splints, syringe, Sterowash (Sterile saline), styptic powder, hydration sachets, magnifying glass, micro- pore tape, conform bandage, gauze, cotton buds, cotton balls, gloves, low adherent dressings, antibacterial wipe and Sterowipe.

The kit needs checking for out of date items annually and replenishing after use. Perhaps scheduling this at the same time as the family kit will ensure it does not get overlooked.

Purchase and include long nosed pliers (which have been thoroughly sterilised) and corn flour. Keep the avian vet and emergency avian vet numbers readily at hand with the kit. If you are unsure what to do in certain emergency situations, familiarise yourself with the correct techniques for such emergencies as: stopping bleeding; head trauma; stabilizing a damaged wing; applying splints; and blood feathers. Agree with at least 2 friends/family members what the routine will be if an emergency happens, such as their ringing the vet to say you are on your way, helping you to put the vet’s advice into practice, and transporting you and your parrot.

Preparing the kit and familiarising yourself with basic emergencies will save valuable time and could avoid fatalities. Emergency first aid is just that- FIRST aid until you can get to the vet.


Description: Beak injuries can range in severity from a small crack to being ripped off entirely. Regardless of the amount of damage to their beak, this is an emergency situation. The beak has an abundant blood supply, so any injury to it is likely to cause excessive bleeding. Torn off beaks will not grow back.  However fractured beaks can often be repaired. There are bone and nerve endings connected to the beak, making any injuries in this area very painful.

How beak injuries can happen: Fighting between two birds can result in one biting the other that may lead to a beak injury. They may injure the beak on toys, and can even impale themselves on toy parts this is why it is extremely important to check the wear and tear of toys often. Supervise playtime when birds are playing with toys. Do not house or leave parrots together unattended when one species is significantly larger than the other or if they are known to not get along well together.

Immediate Care: If the beak is bleeding apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Contact an emergency clinic or your avian vet! Because beak injuries are so dangerous, it is important to seek veterinary ASAP, certainly within 24 hours. Rinse with sterile saline (preservative-free contact lens solution is perfect for situations such as this) flush the wound out for any debris and to help keep the tissue moist until your bird can be seen by your avian veterinarian. Do not be aggressive with flushing, NEVER REMOVE beak even if it is partially attached.

Long Term Care: Some beak injuries may result in permanent disfigurement requiring the bird to eat soft foods for the rest of its life. Minor injuries may heal allowing the bird to return to normal beak functioning. Your avian vet will give you instructions on how to care for your bird’s specific injury.



NEVER EVER lay a bird on its back when you are dealing with an injury, administrating medication or treating your bird in any first aid procedure. This is a sure way to cause death, especially if the bird is in shock. Laying a bird on its back not only drops your bird’s blood pressure quickly, it places your already traumatised bird in an extremely un-natural and vulnerable position. This causes additional high levels of stress and many birds have sadly died from this common mistake.



A concussion is brain trauma there will be swelling or bleeding inside the skull as a result of a violent blow. If you suspect that your parrot has a concussion please seek medical care immediately!


  • Staying on the bottom of the cage
  • Seeming depressed or disorientated
  • Head tilt
  • Circling
  • Weakness of a wing or leg
  • Blood in the mouth, ear or anterior or posterior chamber of the eye
  • Convulsions may occur
  • Listlessnes
  • Slight wing droop
  • Difficulty perching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluffed up/ shivering
  • Uncoordinated flight
  • Needing to sleep a lot (especially straight after accident)
  • Unconscious
  • Loss of coordination
  • Eyes rolling or cannot focus

Immediate Care: Move the bird to a dark quiet area. The bird should be evaluated as soon as possible by an avian veterinarian. THIS IS A TRUE EMERGENCY SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDITALLY. Do not give any medications that have not been prescribed by your vet.

Long Term Care: This depends on the severity of the injury, but the bird may make a full recovery, especially if help was given immediately. The vet will give after care advice, but placing the bird in a quiet dark area without any disturbances can aid in the recovery of head injury and help reduce convolutions.

For serious head trauma, the avian vet will give full instructions that should be followed to the letter in order for the bird to recover.



It is important not to confuse diarrhoea with ‘Polyuria’ with diarrhoea you will notice the birds poop looks like splattered pea soup, there will be no form to the faecal matter. Diarrhoea will leave your bird’s vent dirty and mattered. Your bird maybe lethargic, fluffed up and may have no appetite.

Polyuria is whereby the bird produces excess urine but the faecal matter will still have some form to it.

Diarrhoea is usually an indicator that your bird is very sick and needs to see the vet ASAP. If you notice that your bird has diarrhoea, quarantine your bird straight away.

Stop all fruit and vegetables for 24 hours. Feed your bird cooked white rice, whole grain toast and their usual dry diet (pellets, seeds) Watch carefully to see if your bird is still drinking. Birds can dehydrate very quickly when they have diarrhoea. Keep your bird warm and hydrated. If there is no improvement in 24hours please see your vet straight away. (If you notice any other symptoms of illness do NOT wait the 24 hour period, see your vet ASAP)

For more information on bird poop, you can read my article entitled ‘Parrot droppings’




1 Cup water

2 Teaspoons Sugar

1/8 Teaspoon salt

1/8 Teaspoon Baking Soda

Dehydration is the number one killer in birds, when a bird is poorly you want to make sure it’s drinking, if it becomes dehydrated you should give it an electrolyte and of course see your avian vet ASAP.

To tell if a bird is dehydrated the skin around the eyes will be wrinkled, you can also tell by pinching its skin in a non-heavily feathered area .Dehydrated skin will remain tented for several seconds, rather than bounce back down.

Below are GUIDELINES of how much on average a parrot species needs to be offered to keep them hydrated.

Finch or Canary – 4 to 5 drops
Budgie – 6 to 10 drops
Cockatiel – ¼ teaspoon

(Medium sized birds such as Amazon parrots) – 1 to 3 teaspoons
(Large sizes birds such as Macaw or Cockatoo) – 1 ½ to 3 tablespoons

If the bird does not take the full amount in one sitting, divide up the number of drops and offer every 15-20 minutes. The bird should however be offered the full amount several times during the day.






These are guidelines on how to medicate your bird orally. Please always ask your vet to teach you exactly how to medicate your bird. If you are not confident in medicating yourself, let your vet know, or you may injure or choke the bird.

To orally medicate your bird, will take two people, at least until a time when you feel confident enough to do it alone (also depends on the size of the bird)

  • Firstly, wrap your bird in a neutral colour towel. Not placing any pressure on its chest (or the bird won’t be able to breath), and support the head and the body in a three point hold.
  • Secondly, ensure you have the bird in an upright position (never medicate a bird lying flat)
  • Thirdly, while the other person is holding the bird in an upright position, place the syringe (needle removed) in the left side of your bird’s beak (your right, if you facing the parrot), with the tip of the syringe pointed towards the right side of the throat. Then ever so slowly give the medication, allowing your bird to swallow between drops.

NOTE: The syringe should barely enter the bird’s mouth, and remember to syringe very slowly, too fast and you can choke your bird.




The cage needs to be kept “meticulously clean” -- this is especially important when it houses a sick bird that cannot deal with germs as well as a healthy one might.

·UNLESS the bird is running a fever, WARMTH IS CRITICAL! Provided your pet is NOT running a fever, its environment should be kept at around (90 degrees Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius) in cases where a bird does have fever, you don't want to increase the (room) temperature further as it would raise your bird’s temperature even more - and could be lethal.

To tell is your bird is running a temperature:

·A chilled bird will be fluffed up.

·An overheated bird will raise its wings away from its body and potentially pant.

Place your bird in a hospital cage to keep the temperature at the level you want. A small travel cage can be used or a new fish aquarium and covered with a blanket. But ensure one side is left open for air and for the bird to see out. Monitor the temperature carefully, and don’t allow any drafts.

Potential heat sources that can be used for heating:

·A heating pad underneath the cage.

·Hot bottles wrapped in a towel.

·Heat lamps. Of course, the heat lamps shouldn't be used at night, as your bird needs to rest.

·Watch out for dehydration, DEHYDRATION IS THE NUMBER ONE KILLER WHEN A BIRD IS SICK! It often kills quicker than the illness itself.

·Please at this time do NOT put anything in the water such as vitamins etc. Unless you are instructed by your vet, birds in general will not touch water that has been flavoured with anything and if you have a sick bird you’ll be speeding up the dehydration process as they may not drink at all. Vets usually when giving antibiotics or other medications advice you to give it orally not in water for the reason stated above. There are exceptions of course for example if you treating an entire Avery, but just follow your vets instructions.

·Make sure that all food and water dishes are within easy reach , seed scattered on clean paper at the bottom of the cage too is easier to access than a bowl but always supply both so the bird has a choice.

·Cage paper should be changed often at this time, usually a good bird owner will change paper twice daily, but for a sick bird in order to monitor poop and to keep cage clean change often throughout the day. This task takes seconds to do so no excuses!

·Reduce stress as much as possible! This may mean minimizing handling and removing other birds from the cage. It is vital that the sick bird gets at least 12 hours of undisturbed rest per day.

·Keep any perches low to reduce injury from falling, remove all unnecessary toys if you have no travel cage the, last thing you want is all your toys contaminated plus a sick bird will not be interested in playing but resting to recover.

·NEVER use over the counter medicine, this can interfere with the treatment that the bird is already undergoing not to mention can give false diagnosis and testing.

·Antibiotics and other medications should be given roughly the same times daily, this is VERY IMPORTANT. Doing so really helps the body adapt to the new medication and it ensures that the bird has an effective amount of drug in its body at all times!

·When a bird is sick it is imperative to weigh them daily, this helps your vet with a diagnosis and shows what level of recovery your bird is at. A record of medications , treatment, behaviour, weight , eating and drinking , activity and any other clinical signs should be noted down to show your vet, this really helps the vet reach a diagnosis plus again level of recovery and if any other illness that may be present too.



If your bird lands in oil, this is an emergency situation because a bird cannot regulate its body temperature when feathers are greasy! If the bird actually falls into oil they can suffer breathing problems, eye problems and poisoning if any is ingested.

FIRST AID: The very first thing you do is ring your vet for an emergency appointment. While waiting for the appointment unless the vet has given other instructions, is to place flour In a pillow case and place the bird in side, leaving their head outside the pillow case, then wrap the pillow around their body being careful not to get the dust in their ears, eyes or nose and gently dust the flour over the bird, this will soak up excess oil!

Dust off any excess powder! This will not get rid of all the oil completely but will help to soak up excess oil from the feathers. Then take your bird immediately wrapped in a towel (to preserve heat) to the vet, who will complete the process of removing the oil and give your bird an examination.


Below I have listed potential life threating emergencies and Urgent emergencies , with any emergency seek medical help immediately!


  • Bites (especially from a cat is a true emergency)
  • Deep cuts
  • Active / uncontrolled bleeding
  • Broken blood feather
  • Bleeding toenails
  • Burns
  • Poisoning
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Collapse
  • Choking
  • Blood in droppings
  • Constipation / struggling to poop
  • Egg binding
  • Prolapse
  • Heat stroke
  • Head trauma
  • Beak injury (especially if bleeding)


  • Eye injury
  • Swelling
  • In-appetence/anorexia
  • Broken bones
  • Puffed up
  • Diarrhoea
  • Contact with cat or dog saliva (even if the skin is not broken)
  • Polyuria (excess urine)
  • Foreign body constriction
  • Oil on feathers


In an emergency the worst thing you can do for your bird is panic. The parrot will immediately pick up on your body language and start panicking too, which will make the situation a LOT WORSE!

  • NEVER give your bird medication intended for another bird. Doing so can mask the symptoms but not cure the bird. The vet will not be able to make a correct diagnosis if some of the symptoms are masked. Furthermore there are different strains of disease. Giving medication intended for another bird, may mean your bird is not getting the correct strength of the drug it needs. And of course the medication maybe the wrong drug for your birds illness.
  • NEVER give your bird human medication. Many human medications are toxic to animals, plus as it has not been prescribed by a vet means that you may overdose your bird.
  • NEVER try and perform any kind of surgery yourself. As this may sound silly, many people these days are watching "do it yourself" YouTube videos. Many ignorant owners try to perform all kinds of procedures on their pets. Besides this being classed as cruelty and animals left in severe pain, it’s very likely the bird will die just down to the shock of the procedure itself.
  • NEVER bathe a sick bird. When a bird is sick it can’t regulate its body temperature. Bathing your bird can bring its temperature down too low causing hypothermia.
  • NEVER give laxatives to your bird.
  • NEVER try dig anything out your birds nares, they have an operculum in the nostrils. If you damage it, you can cause major bleeding and other trauma.
  • NEVER APPLY oils or ointments to your bird, doing so prevents your bird from insulating heat.
  • NEVER try and induce vomiting if a poison has been consumed, unless instructed by your vet.


It is very uncommon for adult birds to fall off a perch unless there is an underlining problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible! Young birds may fall occasionally as they can be quiet clumsy and it takes a little while for them to strengthen the muscles in their feet. With that said if a young bird is repeatedly falling, the cause should be investigated by a vet.


  • Foot problems
  • Weakness
  • Lethargic
  • Illness
  • Seizures

Whatever the reason, a bird falling off a perch is NOT NORMAL and needs to be examined by a vet as soon as possible.


  • Lower all perches in the cage.
  • Place a soft towel on the bottom of the cage to help prevent injury.
  • Add an energy supplement to water, you  can buy avian energy supplements from your vet or online, but if you have don’t have one to hand , then you can add a bit of Gatorade, Karo syrup or a little sugar to the water for a quick energy boost.
  • Call your avian vet for an appointment.


There are many household items that are toxic to parrots, just like children parrots need to be supervised at all times when they are out their cages. These birds love to explore and they do most of that exploring with their beaks.

Below are ways in which birds may become poisoned and how to deal with it if heaven forbid that happened.

Ingestion (via mouth) – Inhalation (breathing in fumes) Tropical (via skin contact)


  • On set regurgitation
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhoea
  • Respiratory distress
  • Blood in droppings
  • Redness / burns around mouth
  • Convulsions
  • Shock
  • Paralysis


If the poison has come into contact with the eyes then you need to flush the eyes with lukewarm water.

If the poison has come into contact come into contact with the skin flush the area with tepid water.

If the poison has been breathe in then the room needs to be ventilated and the bird be removed from that room immediately – open all windows and put on a fan.

Call your veterinarian ASAP and take with you a sample of the poison, packaging of the poison and a sample of the birds poop. If you can’t get a dropping sample ensure you place white paper on the bottom of their travel cage, in order for the vet to examine the droppings.



If your parrot has a bleeding toe nail , put flour in a shoe box and let the bird walk around in it , this is less stressful for the parrot than being held down to stop the bleeding , therefore will not elevate the bird’s blood pressure and cause more bleeding.


Styptic powder/pens are used to stop bleeding it is an astringent that causes blood vessels to contract and seal. You can use this to stop bleeding toenails, but please use this very sparingly as it is TOXIC if ingested. Unfortunately many people use this incorrectly, IT SHOULD NOT BE USED DIRECTLY ON OPEN SKIN WOUNDS AND BLOOD FEATHERS! It is a caustic to the skin especially the sensitive and delicate skin of a bird.

Safe alternatives are, corn flour, flour, pepper, Aloe Vera (you can mix Aloe Vera and cornflour together which has the added benefit of antibacterial and pain relief).  


When birds are sick they are unable to regulate their body temperature, so they have to be kept warm. There are many ways in which to keep a bird warm such as coving the hospital cage, providing a heating pad, providing a hot water bottle and of course using avian heat lamps.

The problem with using heat lamps is that the lamp only heats focal points and does not warm the whole of the environment. Heat lamps should not be left on 24 hours a day, so the sick bird is unable to get the continuous heat that it needs. Heat lamps can cause burns to the more sensitive parts of the bird’s body such as the face, legs, feet and beak. It can cause dehydration, dry skin and dry eyes.

While a heat lamp is good to use in an emergency, if you have a bird in recovery a heating pad is the better and safer option. Heating pads distribute heat evenly and do not cause the same problems as heat lamps. Do NOT buy heating pads which have automatic shutoff functions, or your bird could be left cold for hours without your knowledge.  

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