When an owner presents a bird with a bleeding emergency, it is important to distinguish between frank external hemorrhage (eg, wing, blood feather, beak, toenail) and blood on the cage or on the bird but with no active bleeding. Continued frank hemorrhage requires intervention, whereas hemorrhage that has ceased is best left undisturbed.
Birds in respiratory distress are initially placed in an incubator with oxygen. Unless they are showing signs of overheating (panting, wings held out) or head trauma, the incubator should be warmed. SC fluids are administered as soon as the bird is able to tolerate their administration. This may be before placement into the incubator or sequentially. Hypovolemic shock, with the respiratory reserve being exceeded, is the initial concern. Septic shock or septicemia is of concern within a short period after stabilization in birds with penetrating or extensive wound trauma.
Minor or external trauma should be treated with the goal of the bird's survival first and treatment of traumatized tissue second. For example, a bird that has been struggling for hours with its leg band caught, and that may possibly have a fractured tibiotarsal bone, is in more danger of dying from stress related to the prolonged struggling than from the fracture. Attention to reestablishing homeostasis, with temporary stabilization of the traumatized tissue, should occur first. When this has been accomplished, the traumatized site can be treated.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Teresa L. Lightfoot, DVM, DABVP (Avian)