When to take your bird to a veterinarian

Physical Assessment


Triage is the art of assigning priority to emergency patients and their problems based on rapid assessment of historical and physical parameters. The triage should take about 5 minutes. The goal is to quickly identify there is a problem so that they can be treated immediately. Perform a rapid, whole body exam looking for abnormalities.

Be Prepared

By being prepared for an emergency:

  • Having your avian vet’s phone numbers
  • Avian First Aid Kit
  • Knowing how to safely restrain the bird
  • Being educated on how to perform avian first aid
  • Having a heating pad, towel and carrier on hand to safely transport your bird

In the Event of an Emergency:

  • Stay calm
  • Gently restrain your bird
  • Assess the situation to see if it is something you can handle or if you need to stabilize your bird before transport to an avian veterinarian
  • If the bird appears sick, stabilize the bird
  • Keeping the bird warm in an incubator or a small, covered cage placed on a heating pad (set on low temp) or if necessary, a larger cage covered by an electric blanket.   Heat is a must for sick birds and the recommended temperature range is 80 – 85°.  It allows the bird’s bodily systems to work on fighting the infection rather than on maintaining its body heat.
  • Encourage them to eat and drink
  • Give them a chance to rest in a quiet, dark room. Sick birds not only need heat but up to 16 hours of restful sleep.
  • If bird is injured, take the appropriate level of action depending on the nature of the emergency
  • Call your Avian Vet as soon as possible for further advice.

Signs Requiring Veterinary Attention


  • poor general appearance (feathers look ratty)
  • fluffed feathers (looks fatter)
  • not eating, changes in eating habits, or reduced appetite
  • changes in amount of drinking
  • weakness
  • drooping wings
  • listlessness, inactivity, depression
  • reluctance to move
  • sleeping more
  • trauma or bleeding
  • changes in weight (increased or decreased)


  • any change in regular attitude, behavior, or personality
  • unusually tame behavior
  • irritability, agitation, biting


  • closed eye
  • eye discharge
  • red eye
  • cloudy eyes
  • swelling (around, or of the eyes)


  • labored breathing or open mouth breathing
  • tail bobbing with each breath
  • nasal discharge
  • blocked nostrils
  • increased or decreased nostril size
  • sneezing (excessive)
  • wheezing or wet breathing
  • coughing
  • cere (the skin around the nostrils) irregularity
  • staining of the feathers around the nostrils
  • change in voice or no voice

Skin and Feathers

  • abnormal feathers (dull color, texture, shape, structure, growth)
  • bleeding blood or pin feathers (new feathers)
  • prolonged molt
  • feather changes (color, chewed, plucked, damaged, baldness, or feather loss)
  • skin (flaky or crusty, or sores)
  • excessive scratching
  • abnormal beak (color, growth, overgrown, texture)
  • abnormal nails (color, growth, overgrown, texture)
  • trauma, cuts, bruises
  • lumps, bumps, swellings, or bulges on the body


  • sore feet
  • sore wing
  • lameness or shifting of body weight
  • swollen joints
  • paralysis
  • weakness
  • drooping wings
  • not perching, sitting on bottom of cage

Digestive and urinary

  • wet droppings
  • diarrhea (watery feces)
  • change in the color of the droppings (red, yellow, tarry, pale)
  • staining of the feathers around the vent (anus)
  • decreased droppings
  • straining to defecate
  • wet feathers around face and head
  • vomiting or excessive regurgitation
  • protrusions from the vent (prolapse)


  • balance problems
  • head tilt
  • falling
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness
  • paralysis
  • weakness

Always seek veterinary attention if a bird is seriously sick and/or injured.

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