The Startling Truth About Birds in Shock (& Treatment)

black and yellow woodpecker laying dead in human palm of hand

Have you ever come across an injured bird and didn’t know what to do? Apart from controlling any visible active bleeding, your next priority is to treat the bird for shock. Quickly recognizing the signs of avian shock is ultimately a matter of life or death.

Bird Shock: Causes

Shock is a life threatening condition whereby the cardiovascular system becomes dysfunctional and unable to circulate blood efficiently. Consequently, low blood pressure kicks in and organs are unable to receive oxygen or nutrients for normal body functioning.

There are many factors that can initiate bird shock but here are some common ones mentioned below:

  • Burns
  • Egg binding
  • Predatory attacks
  • Flying into a window
  • Hit by a motor vehicle
  • Prolonged malnutrition
  • Hypothermia (extreme cold temperatures)
  • Internal obstructions preventing breathing
  • Bacterial or viral illness manifestations
green ring necked parrot playing in palm of human hand

Bird Shock: Symptoms

Depending on the severity of shock, symptoms tend to become more prominent as the bird deteriorates. As a bird owner, please make yourself familiar with these early warning signs.

  • Weak/tired appearance
  • Unresponsive
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fluffed up feathers
  • Minimal or no movement
  • Unable to perch
  • Sitting at the bottom of cage
  • Eyes consistently closed
  • Unconsciousness
  • Uncoordinated/disorientated
  • Loss of appetite
  • Droopy wings

Bird Shock: First Aid

Urgent medical attention should always be your number one priority. However even before the emergency trip to the vet, there are a few things you need to do in order to stabilize the bird.

Firstly, isolate the bird in a quiet, humid and dim room to prevent unnecessary stimulation and energy consumption.

Secondly, you must provide sufficient warmth so they can they can maintain their normal body temperature at 41 degrees Celsius. Birds are highly susceptible to death from hypothermic shock, therefore warmth is key. In order to generate heat, you may:

  • Place the cage directly under a non-fluorescent light bulb
  • Wrap a hot water bottle in a hand towel and place on the cage floor
  • Partially cover the cage with a blanket to restrict cool breezes/drafts

Lastly, if you see no signs of improvement after 3 hours, it is best to seek urgent professional medical attention from your nearest vet.

pigeon in shock being held in hands of old man

Bird Shock: Recovery Phase

Recovery from shock is dependent on the severity of impact. It can range from a couple of minutes or anywhere up to a few hours. During this phase do not force the bird to eat or drink.

If you are experienced in handling birds, you may be interested in keeping a First Aid Kid dedicated for bird care. You can find more details of you what need in a kit here. Additionally, handlers should examine the bird from a distance for secondary injuries or conditions such as feather loss, breathing difficulties, posture abnormalities, eye responsiveness and trauma. Alternatively, if you require reassurance that your beloved pet bird has recovered from shock, your vet will gladly provide a checkup.

In summary, it is important to attend to any bird in distress with the first and foremost goal of bird survival followed by treatment of the injury.