Emergency Bird Care: Burns and Scalds

It’s not every day that one hears about birds getting burn injuries and we may be at a loss to imagine how it might happen. The fact is that when things such as this happen, they usually happen pretty fast and immediate action is necessary to prevent serious injuries or death. With that in mind, it is definitely worthwhile learning a bit about the treatment of burns on birds.

The first thing to think about is what caused the burn in the first place since the treatment may differ somewhat as a result. If the burn is more of a scald from a hot liquid, a fire or even a chemical burn, it will usually help to flush the burnt area with cool (but not cold) running water for between ten to fifteen minutes. This will help to stop the burning, reduce the inflammation and will also help to lower the bird’s skin temperature. The burn may then be covered with cool, sterile dressings or gauze squares that have been moistened with sterile saline while the unfortunate creature is rushed to the vet. A visit to the vet is especially urgent if the pet bird has suffered third-degree burns.

An electrical burn requires a different approach and is harder to see. Usually a curious bird will bite through a wire, resulting in the burn. Unfortunately while that sort of burn may not show on the beak or skin initially, it can travel deep down into the tissues of the bird’s body. If the bird is thrown back or falls from the jolt he receives when he makes contact with the wires, he may also suffer from broken bones or other injuries. If you see this happen to your bird, the first thing you need to do is make sure that he is safe to touch. If he is still in contact with the live wire, you will have to either remove him from it with something non-conductive (cardboard, wood, plastic) or you may choose to switch off the electricity at the source. The next thing you’ll need to do is check if the bird is breathing and if there is a heartbeat. You may even need to perform CPR on your bird if his body isn’t functioning on its own. It may help to start rushing him to the vet as you start the treatment. If he revives, you would do well to place him in a warm, dark and secure carrier to minimize the stress of transportation. The warmth can be provided by a hot water bottle or some other creative item you may have on hand at the time. Treatment by the vet at this point would be essential and it would probably be a good idea to phone the vet in advance and prepare them for the emergency at hand.

With that in mind, there are a few other things you should never attempt when treating a burn. For starters, once you have done the basic first aid, make sure that you leave the rest of the treatment up to the vet. Don’t pull out feathers or remove debris from the burnt skin, don’t put any greasy products on the burn such as butter or ointment, don’t apply ice to the burn and don’t pop any blisters. It would also be a good idea to stay clear of blankets or towels as they may stick to the burn and, of course, do not try to give an unconscious bird any kind of oral medication. Your poor companion may be in need of some extended treatment and only the vet is qualified to be able to determine exactly what sort of treatment he will require. So make sure that you get your bird to the vet as quickly as possible to ensure that he gets the best medical treatment possible.