Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bird Emergencies: From Cockatiels to Cuckoos to Chickens

By Jean Maixner, DVM

Did you know that birds are the third most popular companion pet in the United States, behind dogs and cats?  The American Veterinary Society estimates there are over 10 million birds in this country, with the highest concentration of our feathered friends in the Pacific Coast Region.  Some birds are extremely social and bond with their owners; they mimic words and even and actions.  Others are just beautiful to look at.  Some birds are extremely intelligent and have remarkable memories and problem solving abilities.  In fact, some crows have learned how to use tools: “Using their beaks as scissors and snippers, they fashion hooks from twigs and make barbed, serrated rakes or combs from stiff leathery leaves.  And they don’t throw the tools away after one use–they carry them from one foraging place to another.” 

Yes, birds are remarkable and that is why their popularity as companion animals has grown.  Pet birds have brought new and interesting challenges to veterinary medicine; they carry some illness that are similar to their 4 legged counterparts, and some illnesses that they’re uniquely sensitive to.  Did you know the fumes from a heated Teflon pan can cause breathing problems and death to our feathered friends?

ACCES medical director, Dr. Davidow, is an Emergency and Critical Care specialist who has an interest in birds and who has owned birds.  She says, “Emergencies in birds are difficult because these animals often hide illness until they are quite sick.  Often, the first significant sign is that they are on the bottom of the cage, fluffed, or unwilling to perch.  Because birds hide their illnesses, any bird that doesn’t eat for more than 12 hours, is very fluffed in the cage or who is sitting and not moving on the bottom of the cage should be seen right away.”
Some of the most common emergencies include:
1.       Breathing problems from: viruses, bacteria, toxins in the air and seeds caught in the airway.
2.       Some birds even develop heart disease.
3.       Bleeding from injured toenails, beaks and broken feathers.
4.       Difficulty laying eggs or egg binding; this condition can be life threatening because it prevents stool passage and impairs blood flow.
5.       SEIZURES, yes birds can have seizures.  There are many causes of seizures including; toxins, trauma, cancer and more.   Seizures can be life threatening in any animal but birds are especially sensitive as their muscle spasms they use up their glucoses (sugar) stores and oxygen very rapidly. 

Emergency support for your bird will include oxygen, controlled heat support, fluids and often sugar replacement.  In addition, support may include pain medication, antibiotics or other medications.

If your bird needs to see a veterinarian on emergency basis Dr. Davidow has some suggestions:
1.       Call the emergency hospital to let them know you are coming and so they can be prepared.
2.       Transport them in their own cage and cover the cage if it cold outside.  This helps to decrease the birds stress and allows the veterinarian to determine a lot about the bird’s condition by examining the food and droppings that are in the cage.

For more information visit the ACCES website and read Dr. Davidow’s article on Avian Emergencies:

Brr! Prepare Your Pets for Cold Weather!

By Christina Ryan
Brr.  It’s cold outside this week, and the forecast is calling for a large amount of snow.  Although we have had a relatively mild winter so far this year, the next week or so the temperature outside might drop severely.  Are you ready to care for your outdoor pets?  Below are some quick tips to keep your pet safe and comfortable during inclement weather:
·         First and foremost your pet will need some sort of shelter.  Make sure that it is located in a spot that can shield your pet from rain, wind and snow.  You can add to the shelter by providing extra bedding, straw insulation, or a semi-enclosed area with a trapdoor that shuts behind your pet.  Warning: never use space heaters or electric heat lamps.  These things can be dangerous to your pet by causing burning, overheating, or by catching fire.  If you need an extra heat source, there are heated beds available at some pet stores, but use caution with these items as well.  Read all instructions carefully, only use them as directed, and make sure your pet will not be electrocuted if he chews on the chords.
·         Paws are susceptible to frostbite.  To protect them, you can purchase specially made “boots” at many pet stores.   If you do not cover the paws, just be aware that spending a lot of time in the snow can cause pads to crack or burn.  Keep the area between the toes free of any ice balls that may form there by trimming the hair between the toes and using a warm cloth to gently remove any built-up snow.
·         Always have fresh water available, making sure it doesn’t freeze.  Licking ice or snow is not enough to hydrate your pet, and can cause a drop in overall body temperature.  Heated bowls are available at many pet stores, but use the same caution with these as you would with heated bedding.
·         Watch out for de-icing chemicals and antifreeze.  Salt applied to sidewalks and driveways can be caustic to paws, and if your pet licks these chemicals they could get some GI upset.  Clean paws gently with warm water after coming inside from the snow to avoid this.  Antifreeze tastes sweet to pets but is deadly, and should always be cleaned up immediately if spilled.  If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, call your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. For more information on antifreeze see,
·         Cats like to hide in warm places, including car engines.  Be careful before starting your car, as cats can be injured by the fan belt or other parts of a moving engine.  Knock on the hood or honk your horn before you start your car to flush the cat out of its hiding place.
·         During the cold winter months, many people use space heaters and wood-burning stoves to heat their homes.  Do not allow unsupervised pets in areas with space heaters that could be knocked over by the animal.  Placing “scat mats” on the floor may be helpful in keeping pets away from the stoves and heaters.
·         Electric blankets and heated water bottles are designed for human use only.  Allowing your pet to lie on or near these items could cause burning, so beware and only use those items on yourself.
If possible, providing and indoor shelter for your pet during the worst weather is best.  Also, you may be unable to leave your home for a few days because of the weather and therefore need to have things such as medication and food on hand.   Remember that weather can change rapidly so it is best to be prepared BEFORE things get bad. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Welcome to our New Blog!

We started this blog as a service to the community. Within our hospital, we have 5 Core Values that drive us to be the best providers of veterinary emergency and critical care medicine in the Pacific Northwest. One of our core values is "Education" and it states: "We recognize the importance of continual learning and provide educational opportunities for the veterinary community, the public, & our team."
Because we also value our community and want to return the generosity they show us daily, we've decided to begin this blog. With weekly posts, our goal is to provide people with valuable information to help protect the health of their beloved pets. We also hope to be a resource for the veterinary community, as well as provide a window into the world of veterinary emergency medicine and pet care in general. We will share the touching success stories of incredible patients that stay in our hospital, great informational links related to our weekly topics, and anything else you need to know. We are always intersted in what our clients want to know to better help them care for their animal family members.
Although most of our articles will be written by our Medical Director, Dr. Beth Davidow DVM DACVECC, our entire staff has jumped on board. You will be meeting many of us throughout the coming weeks, and we look forward to serving you.
For more about ACCES, our doctors and staff, and our Core Values, visit