It is inevitable that, at some point, a pet owner will have to administer first-aid to their pet. Being prepared for an emergency can often mean the difference between the pet surviving or being lost, and this is especially true with pet birds. Proper advice and products should always be available from any pet store, even one that does not sell livestock.
Working in the retail pet business means ensuring that pet owners know how to care for their animals properly, and this includes knowing how to deal with many emergency situations—especially since most bird owners will call their local pet store before even calling the veterinarian. Store staff cannot know everything, but they should know the basics. In almost all emergencies, it is a matter of keeping the pet alive and stable long enough to get it to the veterinarian—and employees should know the local exotic bird veterinarians and how to get in touch with them.
Accidents that cause bleeding are especially serious for birds, which have very little blood to spare. The most common injuries birds sustain are usually broken toenails, bills or blood feathers—a new feather shaft growing out that still has a blood supply going into it. For a shallow cut, or a toenail or bill that is broken or too closely trimmed, styptic powder, along with putting pressure above the injured area if possible, works the best and the fastest. Styptic powder is a clotting agent that causes the blood vessels to contract, thus stopping the bleeding quickly.
This powder can also be used on broken blood feathers, but if the feather shaft is a large one—such as those found at the end of the wings and tail—it needs to be pulled out, as it can be hard to stop the bleeding with these feathers, even with styptic powder. To pull out a broken blood feather, it needs to be grasped close to the skin and pulled out strongly and quickly in the direction that the feather is growing to minimize the bleeding. Pulling out the feather can sometimes cause more bleeding, which can be treated with styptic powder. In a pinch, a pet owner can use cornstarch or flour to stop the bleeding, but that will never work as well as styptic powder.
Note that if a cut or wound is deep, styptic powder should not be used. A pet owner should apply pressure to the wounded area to stop the bleeding and immediately take the bird to a veterinarian.
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Pet stores should always have styptic powder on hand, ready to use and available for sale. Mary Wyld, owner of Wyld’s Wingdom, a distributor of bird products in Norfolk, Va., notes that a few companies make this product including Bio-Groom, which offers Sure Clot Fast Acting Styptic Powder that is specially formulated to help stop bleeding from clipped nails, beaks and on minor cuts. It is safe to use on almost all pets, including birds.
Retailers should make new pet bird owners aware of common injuries and how to treat them. Pet stores should also sell styptic powder with every larger parrot they sell.
Of course, pet stores and bird owners need to be prepared for other types of emergencies that can occur with pet birds, as well. It is important to have supplies available that can help keep a pet stable until it can be brought to a bird veterinarian. Although a store or pet owner can put together products to use in a first-aid kit for birds, Show-Me Animal Products, based in Kansas City, Mo., is a company that makes complete first-aid kits specific for many different types of pets including birds.
The company’s Bird First-Aid Kit includes bandages, styptic powder, antiseptics, skin and eye wash, forceps, scissors and more. It also contains a care card that provides critical information, such as information on emergency treatments. These kits were designed by veterinarians and pet lovers to help treat minor injuries or to stabilize the injured bird before bringing it in for medical treatment. Because of the reasonable pricing, these kits can be kept for store use, as well as made available to bird owners.
Accidents happen and when they do, pet owners that have at least some knowledge and the right first-aid products will be the best prepared and the most likely to help their birds come through the crisis intact. An informed owner will be less likely to panic and be able to help their pet right away. Pet stores can help bird owners by advising them how to avoid problems, what types of injuries are most commonly seen in pet birds and what to do in an emergency. Selling styptic powder and first-aid kits will also go a long way in helping owners keep emergencies under control.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.
Thomas Labs (thomaslabs.com) offers Bird Biotic, a doxycycline antibiotic that treats infections in racing pigeons, caged pet and exotic birds. The company recently transitioned the product into a powder form—it was previously offered as a tablet or capsule—to offer more flexible dosing and application options for bird owners. The Bird Biotic Powder Packets have 100 mg of doxycycline per packet and come packaged as 12, 30 or 60 packs. The product undergoes regular batch testing to maintain FDA approved safety standards.
Soothing the Sick
Birds with injuries or illness may need a safe haven to decompress. With that in mind, Playful Parrot, Inc. (playfulparrot.com) offers up its Wingabago carrier. While it can be used during travel or as a time out room, the company touts it as the perfect soothing sick room. The lightweight, transparent carrier protects birds from wind drafts or auto air conditioners. It is made of FDA approved, non-toxic plastic and is impact resistant. The Wingabago carrier features three dowel perches, two stainless steel food and water cups, a toy hanger and a travel safety brochure.