Below is an article I was working on for my tiel website and thought it would be helpful to birds in general. If anyone has anything to add to it, that would be great. And it would be nice if several mebers can post pix's of their hospital set-ups
Supplemental HeatWhen a cockatiel looks or acts off our first instinct is to provide it heat. The main goal of this is to help the bird to regulate itís body temps until we can either determine the problem or see a vet. Regulation of body temperature depends on several things, which you can use the listing below as a checklist.
The normal body temperature of a cockatiel is between 104-105 degrees (40-40.5 C) The easiest way to get the body temp is if you have a digital thermometer. It can be held under the wing with the tip placed into the wing pit, and the wing held down in place til the thermometer reads the temp. If the body temp is below 104 degrees (40C) then supplemental heat is needed. This same reading can be done on other species of birds to record their body temperatures when healthy, which would be a good reference for future use. I would like to note that if it is a handfed baby, it is always best to feed the chick formula that is itís normal body temp. This helps the body to conserve energy, rather than use it to warm up the food for digestion.
An excellent reference for emergency and supportive care: Supportive Care and Emergency therapy
Heat is lost from the body by 3 ways:
1...Radiation, which is from the surface of the birds body, such as any exposed skin. If heat is lost this way, adding humidity will help reduce the loss of heat through evaporation from the skin. Any exposed skin is porous and will absorb humidity to help maintain hydration. Humidity can be added by having a jar filled with warm water (with a top that is punctured with holes) placed in the corner of the container/cage. Or, if a heating pad is under the container/cage some of the bedding can be wet in a corner to get warm and evaporate to bring humidity levels up. If the cage/container is covered the covering can also be very lightly misted on the inside to increase humidity levels. NOTE: If using a heating pad under the bird make sure that you have 1Ē or more distance from the floor of the cage so that the bird does not suffer from hyperthermia. (Hyper means too much of something)
2...Convection, which is the air surrounding the bird should be equal to or just slightly under the birds normal body temps. I have found that (do a Google search) that T-Rex Cobra Heat Mats work very well as a source for convection air surrounding the bird in a hospital or supportive care environment. I have alittle info on my Mousebird site, and have to soon update with pixís: http://www.mousebirds.com/emergency-heat.html If it is a baby from the nest or a small bird a glove can be filled with warm water and used for a quick source of heat until a container can be setup: http://i525.photobucket.com/albums/cc331/Mousebirds-and-more/Other%20birds/Babies%20in%20Trouble/Glove-emergency-heat-ILLUS.jpg
Other alternative sources of heat can be provided from a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
Birds that suffer from foot problems or fractures should be in a wire enclosure to encourage them to use their beak on the wire for balance and the feet for something to grip. If perches are used they should be placed close to the floor to minimize on further injury. Avoid any contact to a heated surface.
If a bird has to be treated with a medication, it is best to have the hospital cage/container big enough so that you do not have to remove the bird. Ambient temps for adult birds should be 85 degrees (29.44C) with humidity at approx 60-70 %. Unfeathered chicks under 10 days old should have an ambient temp. of 94 degrees (35 C) , and older babies at 90 degrees (32.22C) Clinal signs of hyperthermia (over-heating) are panting and holding the wings away from the body.
3...Conduction, which is metal or wood surface which as colder than the bird, and these cooler surfaces will draw heat away from the bird, which is stressful and the bird has to use body reserves to generate heat to compensate. If the bird is able to perch at heated perch may be beneficial.
Below are several things to consider or address when a bird is placed in a heated enviroment or hospital cage.
1...Feather condition (Fluffed-up, molting, plucked)
Many times the condition of the feathers can be a clue to a problem. Such as stress due to changes or illnesses can result in stress bars on new feathers growing in during a molt. When a bird does not feel well it will find a corner or a perch and try to limit itís movement to conserve on energy and body heat. When conserving body heat the body plumage will appear fluffed. If a bird is suffering from a zinc (heavy metal) toxicity many times there is a subtle change of plumage and the feathers will appear slightly darker and have a satin sheen to them. If a liver problem, as it advances the white barring will get a yellow wash to it. If a bird is plucked, and has problems it is harder to maintain body temperatures due to evaporation through the exposed skin. Determining the cause of plucking needs to be resolved. Several common causes with cockatiels would be food allergies (corn), giardia, zinc toxicity, stress, boredom, environmental contaminants, intestinal parasites (plucking around the vent), and renal/kidney problems (plucking on the rump above the tail, and necrotic long down feathers on flanks)Öto name a few.
2...Fat and muscle content, (overweight, or losing weight)
When a bird is unwell and not active it needs to be monitored as to if it is maintaining weight or losing weight. Having a grams scales that weighs in increments of 1 gram is very helpful to monitor weight. It is best to keep some records on each bird to have a record of what their normal weight is. This way you have a base number to determine weight loss or gain. What you want to see is, if the bird appears unwell, is it maintaining the weight or losing weight.
When weight is lost what is happening is the birds body is drawing from the fat stores and muscles. The fat stores contain all the fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin A, C, D, and E, and many of these nutrients are helpful to maintain or boost the immune system in times of need. When the fat reserves are used up the body then starts to draw from the protein sources of the body which are from the muscles. When this occurs weigh gain can be rapid. A bird that has good weight can become emaciated within hours or a day. Weight loss is rapid and can be a gram or 2 per hour when the body starts to draw from the muscle, in addition to loss of body fluids.
Excessive weigh gain can also be a concern when a bird appears unthrifty. Many times when there is a problem with liver function or reproductive problems such as peritonitis the body will retain fluids (which is called ascites) which will accumulate in the abdominal cavity. This fluid can either be sterile, or septic (contain bacteria) and needs to be analyzed and treated if necessary.
When a bird is losing weight and its feet feel cool, and it is having a hard time maintaining body heat it is safe to Ďsuspectí that there may be a bacterial infection as the cause. If it is a hen, and has been setup for breeding, and showing signs of possibly being egg-bound, and no egg is felt then possible peritonitis can be suspect. But regardless of the problem, heat is beneficial until the bird can be seen by a vet. Heat helps the bird from further stress. Stress can trigger secondary bacterial or yeast problems and further compound existing issues.
Dehydration lowers blood and body fluid volumes and drops the core body temps. Birds that suffer from shock or trauma will also benefit from hydration. The normal distribution of fluids and water in the body are as follows. Total body water in an adult bird accounts for approximately 60% the body weight, and the percentage is even higher in young birds. Extracellular water constitutes approximately 18 to 24% of the body weight, depending on the method used to determine its volume from the birds age, sex, and lean body weight. Blood volume (cells and plasma) constitutes approximately 4.4 to 8.3% of body fluid volume in thickness. In other avian species percentages can be as high as 14.3%.
When a bird is losing weight part of this can be a result of losses with fluid volumes in the body, in addition to tissue loss. Loss of fluids frm the body include, urine, feces, respiration, not drinking. Sources of water for the body are by ingestion, water in foods, water produced through the metabolic process in the body, and from absorption through the skin from humidity.
A physical examination can be done to determine if a bird is dehydrated. You can look for an area of the skin that is unfeathered (usually under the wing near the flank) and pull on the skin between your fingers. If the bird is hydrated the elasticity of the skin will pull the skin back flush to the body. If the bird is dehydratated the skin will remain tented from the body for a few seconds. The skin may also look very dry, have a wrinkled look, and the flesh under the skin a reddened look. The eyes will appear dull, flat or sunken into the head. The feet and beak will feel cool. The heart rate will be increased. And the toes will have a thin stick-like look to them.
There are several degrees of dehydration that can be determined from physically looking at the bird.
1...Under 5% is very difficult to detect.
2...5 to 6% shows a very subtle loss in skin elasticity.
3...7 to 10% will show a definite loss of skin elasticity, prolonged filling time of the basilic artery and veins, dry mucous membranes, loss of brightness and roundness of the eyes, with a sunken appearance.
4...10 to 12% Tented skin stands in place, possible signs of shock, muddy color to the scales of the feet, and thinness of the toes, dry mucous membranes, cool extremities, increased heart rate, poor pulse quality.
5...Extreme depression, signs of shock, death imminent if hydration is not corrected.
When dehydrated the bird is in need of fluids. In order for digestion and the organs to work efficiently they must have good hydration. Digestion and organs can get severely impaired or fail if hydration is not corrected.
If the bird will eat and drink this is one source of fluids. Below is a recipe for a homemade electrolyte solution that can be used for the water or be carefully fed orally. Other ways of getting fluids into the body can be done by gavage or tube/crop feeding about 1/2cc at a time. Or in extreme cases fluids can be administered Sub-Q (subcutaneously) under the skin. A vet can calculate how much fluid would be needed by the stage of dehydration and body weight. The vet can also show a client how to administer the fluids, amounts and frequencies needed. Note: The fluids should be warmed to body temperature.
Home Made Lactated RingersElectrolyte solution for re-hydrationMix the following in a jar:
8 oz. of warm water
Ĺ Tablespoon of sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
Still well, and refrigerate. This solution is good for 2-3 days when mixed. Initially the solution can be mixed 50/50 with water till the bird gets used to the taste.
When a bird is sick it is important to determine if it is eating or not. As good guide, is if it is eating it should be pooping. Foods like spray millet are good for convalescing birds because it is easily digestible, and a good source of energy. Of the bird is interested in eating, food and water should be placed close to the bird. If not eating, seeds, pellets, and veggies can be spread on the floor of the cage around the bird to encourage picking and eating. NEVER attempt to do a diet change when a bird is deliberated.
If a bird is losing weight, it is wise for a person to know how to tube/crop or gavage feed if the bird is not eating on itís own. Tube/crop or gavage feeding should be skills all person should learn how are safely done so that in times of need you would know how to do this. The toold needed for doing this would be a good addition into a birdie first aid kit. Many times when there is extreme weight loss the bird will need an easily absorbed source of protein and amino acids. I have found that dissolving several grains of bee pollen in Ĺ to 1cc water, and adding to a hand feeding formula to feed is very helpful. Adding a little probiotics or yogurt will also aid in good intestinal flora. If the bird is weaned or an adult the crop skin will be small and tight, so the capacity for food is small. The max that should be fed to is 2-3cc/ml at a feeding at a temperature of 104 (40C) degrees.
If a bird is very lethargic, it can be due to being hypoglycemic , and a drop of Karo Syrup or Honey can be added to 1cc of water, and orally fed. Or several drops of each can be can be added to the drinking water. If the bird is a female and a calcium deficiency (such as egg-binding) is suspected a drop of oral calcium (neocalglucan, which can be from a pharmacist), or a TUMS tablet can be crushed, and ľ tablet mixed with 1cc of water, and a couple drops orally fed will help get calcium into the body.
5...Respiration (normal or labored breathing)
When a bird has labored, open mouthed breathing this can be a source of moisture loss as it expels air. An environment that contains heat and humidity is very beneficial to respiratory problems,
Some primary respiratory diseases include: labored breathing can be from shock or trauma, a systemic bacterial, fungal, chlamydial, toxins, ingested foreign objects, parasitic infections, fluid accumulation (ascites) in the body cavity that put pressure on organs and the air sac along the side of the body, mycoplasmal, or neoplasia. Extraresiratory diseases include: thyroid, hepatic, renal, gonadal, oral masses, colelomic fluid, cardiovascular disease, and neoplasia.
When a bird has a bacterial infection this can lower body temps. Low body or blood volumes also contribute to a lower body temperature.
A vet visit would be in order and diagnosis can be determined by, a CBC, chemistry panel, radiographs, and abdominocentesis (drawing of fluid from body, if present) Therapy is based on the diagnosis and may include oxygen therapy, antibiotics, antifungal, vitamins, nutritional support, and fluids. During treatments, until the bird is stabilized keep in a heated environment.