An important component of supportive care is nutritional support. Most birds that have not been eating well and are losing
pectoral muscle mass should be tube fed or receive other nutritional support. Common tube feeding diets include commercial
hand-feeding formula and other critical care diets. Consider adding dextrose or hetastarch to intravenous or intraosseous
fluids, particularly in smaller patients. Patients that have marked gastrointestinal stasis or severe respiratory distress
should not receive nutritional support through gavage feeding. A primary focus on initial stabilization, other supportive
care, and prompt referral for diagnostics and treatment will often be indicated.
Offer a variety of foods to an ill bird in a calm setting, and allow it to eat on its own before force-feeding. If the hospital
environment that the bird is kept in is maintained somewhat lit through the night, many birds will eat on their own overnight.
Offer food at the same level the bird is perched at. Birds that can see and have easy access to their food will be more likely
to eat. However, not all birds should have a perch available, depending on their physical strength and clinical condition.
Regardless of the diagnosis and treatment, most avian emergency patients should be referred to a primary care provider sooner
than mammal emergency patients. Because of the interwoven nature of the avian emergency presentation and the potential primary
causes involved, a controlled system of follow-up in most cases will effectively resolve the problem, prevent its recurrence,
and improve the patient's quality of life.
If a patient dies or is euthanized, it is more common to recommend and perform a postmortem examination in avian practice
than in small-animal practice. For this reason, most experienced avian practitioners request that the emergency clinician
hold the body, refrigerated, pending the recommendation of the primary care veterinarian for the client. Necropsy is often
warranted because of contagious disease concerns and the risk to other companion birds in the home, needed changes or improvement
in husbandry, or zoonotic risks to the owners.
Brian L. Speer, DVM, DABVP (avian practice), DECAMS
Medical Center for Birds
3805 Main St.
Oakley, CA 94561
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