Click on the link below, for info on your concern.
  • General Wounds
  • Abcesses & Granulomas
  • Ulcers & Non-Healing Wounds
  • Puncture Wounds
  • Fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Subcutaneous Emphysema
  • Burns & Scalds
  • Poisoning & Botulism

    The causes of injuries are numerous and usually unexpected; nevertheless, many mishaps can be prevented by common sense and good management. Luckily the great majority is trivial and many wounds heal rapidly in birds, whether or not they are treated. The majority is the result of flying into the boundaries of the cage and entangling a wing, foot or the head in wire netting or fittings. Night marauders, while not necessarily attacking the bird, usually cause panic and result in the bird knocking itself about. With pets which are given the freedom of a house or room, other hazards abound, such as open gas or electric fires, bowls or saucepans of hot water, light fittings, picture cords, etc. A fire, may only singe feathers and burn off a few toes, but hot water and particularly fat have a penetrating heat which scalds the body as well.

    If death from shock does not occur in minutes or hours, infection of the damaged skin or pneumonia following the shock will probably kill in a few days. Accidents will always happen, but forethought can prevent many. Marauding animals are always a problem, both inside the house and particularly in outside aviaries. Sometimes rats, stoats and weasels, or even snakes may enter an aviary through a small hole in the netting, which has developed unnoticed.

    Special injuries occur under certain circumstances. Leg bands or rings, for example; may cause injury to the legs if they are the wrong size for the birds. Minor injuries may be manifested by ruffled plumage, patchy loss of feathers, small points of bleeding or simply dejection. Wounds, especially due to fighting are common and vary in seriousness, sometimes resulting in the loss of eyes, limbs or even evisceration. It is surprising, however, how even free-living birds can survive quite severe injuries, including amputation of a leg or feet.

    Feather pecking is common in intensively raised birds. In an aviary of various species the larger birds are by no means always the culprits. Some, the Cardinals and Whydas for example, can be trusted with the smallest finches, weavers or waxbills, although less so with others of their own species. Cutthroat finches--especially in the breeding season will peck and bully most species and should never be kept with smaller or more peaceable varieties.

    General Wounds:
    Under this heading are scratches, cuts and bruises of the skin or deeper tissues. Where only a small area of skin is damaged, little more is necessary than bathing with a weak antiseptic solution or with salt water--approximately one teaspoonful of salt to the pint. If the wound is dirty, badly bruised or its extent is in doubt, it is wiser first to cut short or to pluck all the feathers around it. After cleansing the wound, an anti-bacterial cream or spray should be applied. Ointments must not be used because the body heat makes them soft and sticky; when this happens the bird becomes uncomfortable and bedraggled in appearance, whilst the heat-insulating property of the feathers is lost. As a result the bird is easily chilled and becomes susceptible to respiratory diseases. For similar reasons, oily creams must be used very sparingly: they should be gently rubbed into the wound until they disappear, and should have a base of "vanishing cream". It is usually unnecessary to give antibiotics, except when wounds are extensive, of doubtful depth, or liable to involve an important structure like an air sac, the crop, the abdominal contents, the eye or ear. Self-inflicted wounds sometimes appear to be the result of boredom, especially with a parrot kept alone in a small cage.

    Irritation due to ectoparasites, excessive molting, skin in-flammation, tumors, open wounds or sticky dressings may also be responsible. If such causes are removed or alleviated, then self-inflicted injuries will often heal in a few days. It may be necessary, however, to fit an Elizabethan collar, which is a lampshade-like ruff made of cardboard, polythene or thin aluminum to prevent the bird reaching the offending part.

    After two or three days this often breaks the habit. The bird usually resents the collar but it will do no harm providing that feeding is easy and the collar does not chafe its neck. Covering wounds with bandages or other dressings is often liable to do more harm than good. In the feathered areas, such dressings may interfere with preening and with movement; they draw the bird's attention to the affected part, keep the wound excessively moist and usually retard healing.

    Not least, they are difficult to apply properly and unless tough and bulky, can be pecked into pieces; threads may then twine around a limb or the neck and interfere with movement and circulation, even to the extent of strangulation or amputation. But for some injuries as explained later, dressings may be necessary. If dressings are applied to legs, they must always be carried down to and include the toes. An even, gentle pressure must be maintained over all the area they cover, otherwise a part tighter than the rest may cut off the circulation and act like a tourniquet, especially if any inflammatory swelling develops under the dressing. Should this occur the entire lower leg may die and become gangrenous within a period as short as 24 hours. To prevent such a happening, sticking plaster should be folded around the limb in short pieces instead of being wound round and round. Where required with fractures, splints can be placed parallel to the shank and included in the fold of plaster. Open wounds heal most quickly. They can be cleaned easily and drugs applied without difficulty.

    Abcesses & Granulomas:
    Abscesses do not occur very commonly in birds when compared with mammals. Wounds sometimes become infected, but the infection is usually more likely to spread into the blood stream and internal organs causing a septicemia and death, than to localize into areas of pus. Pus is a mixture of body fluids, living and dead white blood cells, and bacteria or other pathogenic organisms. Most of the organisms are engulfed by the specialized white blood cells known as phagocytes, which help to give pus its light color. As stated previously, the blood and the lymphatic tissues and systems of birds are different from mammals and more like those of reptiles. Birds, for example, produce lymphatic cells in small specks of lymphoid tissue scattered throughout the body.

    These and other differences probably account for the different response by birds, compared with mammals to bacteria, which usually form pus. Pus is nevertheless sometimes produced, but the localized response to infection tends to give rise to the production of diseased tissue in the form of chronic abscesses and so-called granulation tissue. The latter tissue is of the connective type and made up of fiber-producing cells and minute blood vessels. Sometimes it appears as quite large swellings or thickenings--called granulomas because of their similarity to tumors, the suffix "oma" meaning tumor.

    Abscesses can occur anywhere on the body; they arise from infected wounds, damaged feather follicles, blocked sebaceous glands, pressure and friction points, or beneath damaged skin. Abscesses can also form in internal organs as well as in the skin, occurring most frequently in the liver and spleen. They are often fatal and not diagnosed before examination, because their clinical signs are usually vague and typical of any sick bird affected with general malaise. On the scaled parts of the leg, abscesses can easily be confused with gouty swellings. Both appear as ivory-colored bead-like pimples which when cut open, yields creamy or sometimes-crumbly contents: gouty deposits, however, are mainly around or near the joints.

    The type of abscess commonly found on the toes and ball of the feet of birds, is referred to by bird keepers as "bumble-foot", and usually represents a chronically infected corn. It is essentially a normal abscess or granuloma, but owing to its position and continual pressure from beneath during perching and walking, the tissues are constantly irritated. The horny skin becomes undermined with infected granulation tissue, often becoming partly or completely surrounded by a thick fibrous capsule. Very little resolution occurs and normal healing is prevented. Dirty conditions favor the development of bumble-foot, which is caused originally by bacteria entering small scratches or wounds in the skin. It is particularly common in birds of prey used in falconry and probably commences from infection of punctures in the ball of the foot produced by the bird's own sharp talons. This is most likely to occur when perches are too narrow and the toes insufficiently extended. Drastic cutting away of the tumor-like mass is usually necessary so that no raised rim remains. Hemorrhage is a danger here, but a powdered antibiotic or sulfonamide helps to sterilize the cavity, aids clotting of the blood, and keeps out dirt and infection. In some cases it may be necessary to plaster over the toe or foot.

    Granulation tissue is not confined to the skin. A ruptured abdominal muscle wall, the cere, a split beak, fat-covered breast in continuous contact with the perch, are all common signs. The avoidance of predisposing causes and removal of the affected tissue are the first steps in treatment. The fresh wound thus created is treated in the usual fashion.

    Ulcers & Non-Healing Wounds:
    An ulcer is an open, infected area on the skin or a mucous membrane, which exposes the underlying tissues. It is usually a slow or non-healing area, a stalemate between the disease process and the body's defenses.

    As time passes, the edges of an ulcer often thicken into a rim. Bacteria or other organisms, especially those disliking a free supply of oxygen, flourish in the crater produced, but they are not necessarily the primary cause. Injuries, burns, penetrating foreign bodies or infections with such organisms as poxviruses or Mycobacterium (the cause of tuberculosis) may start the disease process. Dietary or other debilities may prepare the way for formation of an ulcer or help its progress. Tissues poorly supplied with blood, are common sites, such as the cornea of the eyeball or the surface of large growths over which the skin is tightly stretched. Typical internal sites are the lining of the crop in budgerigars, birds of prey and many other species, and the intestines in coccidiosis of gallinaceous birds.

    It is important to understand before attempting treatment the many factors, which favor the formation of ulcers. Careful observation of the bird in its cage and examination in the hand can help in finding the cause. The healing of many ulcers is slowed up by movement of the adjacent tissues, so prevention of such irritation is the first step in treatment. Many of the diseases associated with ulcers are discussed elsewhere. Assuming that the causes are eliminated, an external ulcer overlying normal tissue should be scraped until it bleeds, the lips of the ulcer trimmed off with scissors and their undersides also scraped. Caustics such as silver nitrate, ferric chloride, or a copper sulfate crystal may be rubbed into the wound to destroy the remaining infected granulation tissue and to check bleeding. A suitable anti-bacterial drug should then be applied. Chlortetracycline in powder form in a urea base is desirable to begin with, since it draws out infected fluids. Later, an oily antibiotic cream will help to maintain a clean wound both by killing bacteria already in it and preventing the entry of others. The application of a plaster bandage may be indicated for a short period or an Elizabethan collar can be used, depending upon the site of the ulcer. This should ensure quick, unhindered healing in birds, which are used to being handled and tolerate a collar without undue distress.

    Puncture Wounds:
    Lesions inflicted by teeth or claws, projecting pieces of wire, air-gun pellets or lead shot produce deep wounds, often-severe internal injury and considerable hemorrhage. Such damage to the heart, lungs or intestines frequently causes sudden death and without careful examination of the carcass such deaths may variously be dismissed as "heart failure", "fright" or "chilling". In birds, which survive, wounds of this type soon produce severe bruising and sometimes slow hemorrhage. Bacteria capable of causing disease are often deposited in the depths of the wound by the agent and become sealed in by congealed serum or blood. Although pus is relatively infrequently produced in birds, the usual pus-forming bacteria can still infect wounds and produce death of the local tissues. If virulent, the bacteria can spread and multiply in the blood, causing death by septicemia and result in damage to any or all of the vital organs. Infection of deep penetrating wounds can often be avoided by the timely use of anti-bacterial drugs. Administration by mouth may be the safest route in some cases if the patient will drink and the breathing is not impaired. Subcutaneous injection is preferable to intra-muscular, in birds, which may be shocked. Antibiotics are indicated and suitable preparations are listed later.

    Fractured Bones:
    Fractured bones are a common feature in numerous types of serious injury and are dealt with on this linked page.

    Dislocations resulting from injury are much less common than fractures, although occasionally the two can occur together. The chief joints to suffer are the elbow, the stifle (knee), and the hock (heel), although the shoulder, the hip and the joints of the foot can also be displaced. In a dislocation, those surfaces of the joint which normally slide over one another become displaced and stretch or tear the supporting tissues, that is the ligaments, tendons and muscles. As a result, the limb is deformed to a greater or lesser degree and may project stiffly at a bizarre angle, or become locked in an odd position. The muscles then cease to operate normally. Stretching or bending the limb, coupled with gentle squeezing across the joint between finger and thumb is often sufficient to replace the articular surfaces and produce an audible click, after which the joint resumes its normal movements. Reduction is more difficult, however, if ligaments are badly torn or fragments of joint surfaces have been broken off during the violence, which produced the dislocation.

    In such cases, although replacement may still be possible, a further dislocation occurs when the bird is released. Under these circumstances, the limb should be fixed with adhesive dressings in such a position of rest that recurrence of dislocation is unlikely. Dislocations of the elbow and hock joints need for example, to be immobilized with the joint flexed to less than a right angle. In this position, the tendons, which extend that joint, tighten and assist in holding the articular surfaces together. Reasonably satisfactory repair usually occurs within six to fourteen days, depending on the bird's condition and size. Congenital dislocations are not uncommon in budgerigars.

    Subcutaneous Emphysema:
    This term merely means, "gas under the skin". The gas is usually air, which has penetrated the subcutaneous tissues through a skin wound, or as the result of damage to part of the respiratory system. Some writers have described how air has been pumped into the surrounding tissues by the tongue and other muscular movements associated with swallowing, from a wound caused by something sharp in the pharynx or the throat. The accumulated air then diffuses down the neck and produces a puffiness of the overlying skin.

    The mechanism in all cases is similar. Puncture wounds and cuts involving layers of skin and muscles do not stay immediately opposite one another, since the layers slide over each other during movement. If the surface layer is concave and its elasticity allows it to lift, then air is drawn in. The air is then trapped and is pushed on the easiest course, which is along the planes between skin and muscle or between layers of muscles. After moving, the air becomes halted within the fat and connective tissues in the form of bubbles, which crackle when the region is handled. Common sites of emphysema are the groin, the 'armpits', neck, entrance to the chest and over the shoulders. This type of emphysema is harmless but can be alarming to the owner, especially when the bird blows up into a grotesque shape within a few hours.

    Once access of air is stopped, however, the gases are slowly absorbed. Part of the air can usually be removed with a hypodermic needle and syringe, but the tissues will refill if the point of entry is not closed. A purse-string suture can be used to close a small external wound, but throat wounds or air sac ruptures without skin wounds, are impossible to repair surgically. Time will slowly heal most of them, but there is always the danger that air, which carries dust and has not been filtered through the respiratory tract will result in inflammation and the formation of exudates which may block the air sacs and lead to pneumonia. Fungi, such as Aspergillus, and numerous bacteria flourish in these warm, moist and aerated wounds.

    There is no effective cure for aspergillosis, but for bacterial infections the usual treatments for wounds should be used. Creams and ointments are useful for such lesions as they seal the wound; further protection can be applied by using a plastic skin in a solvent form as an aerosol sprayed on the affected parts. Avian vets today have a few medications they can try, but there is no positive cure.

    Emphysema can also arise when certain gas-forming anaerobic bacteria related to those which cause the smell in gangrene, multiply in a deep and therefore airless wound. Such changes are preceded by obvious illness and loss of function of the part concerned, it showing reddish, green or black discoloration associated with coldness and insensitivity. This usually follows upon a very severe and probably painful inflammation. By the time the puffiness is apparent the bird is usually dying or dead. Although injections of penicillin, ampicillin or certain other broad-spectrum antibiotics are likely to be the most effective forms of treatment; they are usually administered too late for any hope of recovery.

    Burns & Scalds:
    Direct heat and chemicals mainly cause burns. The most usual source is flames from open coal, gas or electric fires and cookers with hot metal surfaces or bars. Feathers provide considerable protection because they insulate the body for a moment, allowing the bird to escape or at any rate survive, if removed immediately from the heat. The areas, which suffer most, are the feet, the scaled parts of the legs and the eyes. Whole toes may be destroyed in the initial second on alighting, although they may not actually slough off for a few days. Immediate application of an antibiotic cream is the best treatment, preferably with an antihistamine or cortisone drug incorporated to reduce pain and shock. In an emergency, Vaseline, olive or cod-liver oil is almost as useful. Oils should if possible, be kept off the plumage, otherwise the already badly shocked bird is liable to further chilling from matting of its feathers. A humid environment of 70-75F (21-24C) is preferable to a higher temperature with low humidity. When toes are lost, the perches should be modified to provide a flat upper surface on which the bird can perch satisfactorily once the foot lesions are healed.

    With chemical burns, the above treatment should follow after the corrosive has been removed as far as possible. Where acids are suspected, sodium bicarbonate (baking powder) solution will check further damage. With alkalis, such as caustic soda or potash, which continue to penetrate the tissues deeply, dilute white vinegar is a useful antidote. Carbolic acid, coal tar products, and most other caustics can often be washed away with copious water, brine, bicarbonate or magnesia solutions. Antidotes for internal and external caustic burns will be found in the chapter on poisons. Electricity is seldom the cause of burns because death usually occurs directly from electrocution. Scalds directly affect only the outer layers of the body, but they have far-reaching effects on its functions. Hot water and especially hot fat, penetrate the plumage rapidly and cling for some time, thus scalding the skin further. As a result, although the feet and head may be damaged, it is the extensive skin damage over the body, which produces most shock. The skin in this region quickly assumes a red, inflamed appearance, and the matted feathers allow rapid loss of body heat. When the body temperature is depressed, the lungs may become waterlogged as a result of lowered blood pressure, shock and other factors. They are thus susceptible to invasion by infectious agents and pneumonia may occur within a few days. In severe cases, it is the fall in blood pressure, loss of tissue fluids into the scalded area, and other aspects of shock, which can kill the bird within a matter of hours. If the hot water, or fat is inhaled in any quantity, death is virtually instantaneous.

    Local applications of medicaments to the scalded area are not advised--except to the shanks and feet--unless it is of a non-sticky aqueous base, because they cause further matting of the plumage. Moderate warmth is advisable, as described for burns. Careful attention should be given to provide a diet which the bird will accept; milk may be given to drink and possibly an antibiotic and prednisolone supplement mixed with soaked seed or other food for a few days. It is impracticable to attempt to inject blood plasma substitutes or blood proteins into the veins in an effort to increase the circulating blood volume and draw fluids back from the tissues to the blood, except perhaps in large species. The usefulness of the method, however, is unproven in cage birds, and control of the technique is far too difficult for an experienced veterinarian. The provision of rest, quiet, reasonable warmth, fluids and easily digested foods will achieve more than drugs or complicated methods. Birds are very fragile creatures and some medications can cause more harm than good.

    The study of poisons and their effect on the body is known as toxicology. It is a vast, difficult and fascinating subject. Toxin is the technical name for poison; but it is also used for harmful chemical substances produced by living organisms both animals or plants, including toxin-producing bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. Substances poisonous to birds can be divided into a number of groups as outlined below. You can also read about Chemicals & Biosafety In The Aviary.

    Some plants contain substances which make them poisonous when eaten e.g. the fungus ergot (Claviceps purpurea) and green plants such as hemlock (Conium maculatum), nightshade (Atropa belladonna), corn cockle (Agrostemma githago) or yew (Taxus baccata), to mention only a few. A healthy well-fed bird will often reject some of these plants or seeds and it may even show resistance to the poisonous substances they contain.

    Botulism is a blood poisoning caused by bacteria known as Clostridium botulism. Ingestion of the toxin produced by the bacteria gives rise to the disease known as botulism. It is not an infection but a poisoning caused by the metabolic by-products of the bacteria. The toxin is possibly produced in living animals but normally in rotting food, carcasses or other organic material and is often carried by maggots; it is primarily a disease of warmer climates where conditions are favorable for the organisms to multiply and produce the botulinal toxin. Man and probably all warm-blooded animals are susceptible to some degree. Certain species are more likely to suffer than others on account of their feeding habits. Some birds such as vultures, which eat rotting carcasses or its associated maggots, appear to be relatively resistant. Waterfowl are most commonly affected, becoming poisoned in hot weather when the bacteria in the mud of stagnant ponds produce large quantities of the toxin.

    Clinical Signs: The toxin has its first effect on the central nervous system, producing muscular weakness usually within hours of being eaten. The neck, wings, and legs of birds become paralyzed, and affected birds often droop their heads to the ground with eyes half-closed, before becoming comatose and dying. Trembling, diarrhea and shedding of feathers may also be seen. Mildly affected birds recover, although the toxin needs to be present in only minute amounts to be fatal to some small species. Cases in cage birds appear to be very rare.

    Treatment and prevention control of the disease lies primarily in avoiding spoiled food. The organism can only multiply in an environment without oxygen. Gentles, fish, meat or egg food kept in screw-top jars and tins, or even carcasses of dead nestlings or other birds, are potential sources of the toxin in hot countries or in cooler climates when they have been kept under warm conditions.

    Once the source of poison has been removed it is essential to give a good laxative. This will void the offending material and increase the thirst. A purging, saline solution such as Epsom salts is preferable to oil. Absorbent substances such as chalk, magnesium preparations or aluminum hydroxide can be given to take up any remaining toxin. After 8 to 24 hours, according to the species, light feeding can be resumed. In some countries, botulinal antitoxins are available for injection. These are available in various types, but for birds, only Type C is effective.

    Paints and wood preservatives include lead from fresh or flaking paint, also creosote and tar. Budgerigars may die from lead poisoning as a result of nibbling and eating the "leaded lights" of pseudo-tudor windows.

    HERBICIDES, FUNGICIDES AND INSECTICIDES cover a wide range of chemicals, which are mainly used as sprays on crops. They are liable to contaminate green food, seed or insects eaten by cage birds. Phenoxyacetic acid derivatives, paraquat and dinitro compounds, chlorates, chlorophenols, and T.M.T.D., D.D.T. and other chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as B.H.C., D.D.D., aldrin, endrin, dieldrin, chlordone and toxaphene, are or have been widely used. Many of these compounds are stored in the fat-containing tissues of the body, and are thus cumulative in effect.

    MOLLUSCICIDES such as copper sulfate and metaldehyde used for killing slugs and snails are of importance only in water birds and other species, which may eat quantities of poisoned mollusks.

    RODENTICIDES are for killing rats and mice. The older and simpler substances, such as phosphorus, arsenic, zinc phosphide, cyanides and strychnine, have gone out of general use. But they are still obtainable in some countries and are a danger to animals if the poisoned bait is left in accessible places. Newer substances widely used as rodenticides, insecticides and acaricides, include the organic phosphorus compounds, such as parathion, malathion, schradan, dirnefox and dipterex, some of which contain sulfur, fluorine or nitrogen atom groupings and are developments of some of the most revolting poison gases created during the last war. They are frequently used in agriculture as crop sprays. The commercial ones now in favor are a little more toxic to mammals than D.D.T., but some, for example parathion, are much more toxic to birds than to mammals; some in fact are very dangerous merely on contact with the skin.

    Some accumulate in the liver from repeated small doses and if other organo-phosphorus compounds are taken as well, their toxicity is increased. They kill by so deranging the nervous system that increased excitability and uncontrollable convulsive movements lead to paralysis of the muscles. Some substances also cause massive liver or kidney destruction and contribute to the nervous effect by creating toxic by-products in the blood and tissues. The danger of these organic substances is their ability to spread easily through many tissues on account of their similarity to the normal chemicals of the body. Many are chemically stable and persist in soil, vegetation and animal tissues.

    DISINFECTANTS AND DISINFESTANTS are numerous and valuable in the maintenance of hygiene, but they must be used sensibly. Some people when using disinfectants unfortunately work on the principle that "If one spoonful is good, five spoonfuls must be five times better!" This is exactly when trouble is likely to arise.

    Removal of all birds from cages and aviaries is essential when noxious paints; aerosols or gases are used. Hydrocyanic acid is one of the most poisonous substances to man, mammals and birds, but phenol or cresols, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and many others can be highly dangerous. Birds must not be replaced in disinfected quarters for some hours or days, depending on the persistence and toxicity of the chemical, which has been used.

    DRUGS in excessive quantities can virtually all be toxic-- as can even foods in excessive amounts. The safety of a drug depends on its "therapeutic index", which is the ratio of a lethal dose to a useful or therapeutic one. With some drugs, for example vitamins, the safety margin is very wide, but some antibiotics and many of the newer drugs need to be used with care. Anesthetics and some of the older worming or purgative medicines can be particularly dangerous and should never be used except under the guidance of a veterinarian. As cage-bird species differ in their ability to deal with overdoses, care is always necessary.

    GASES, such as carbon monoxide or anesthetics in excessive amounts are lethal. All except malicious poisoning is accidental and is usually due to thoughtlessness or simply ignorance. Untidiness, for example, after repairs to cage or aviary can lead to an inquisitive bird pecking at or eating toxic paints or other substances. Leaving the car running in a garage near to an enclosed aviary may result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Allowing labels to fall off packets or bottles, which contain pesticides or dangerous drugs, may result in poisoning if the contents are inadvertently used for the wrong purpose. Intentional poisoning is rare in birds. With dogs and cats, where disturbance from noise or dug-up flowerbeds result in campaigns of neighborly hate, for every case of deliberate poisoning confirmed there are many others where the owner is mistakenly obsessed with the idea that the sudden death of a pet has been caused by a pet-hating neighbor. Since cage birds are mainly harmless and unobjectionable, the proportion dying unexpectedly from deliberate poisoning is very small indeed.

    As far as chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds such as D.D.T. and organo-phosphorous compounds are concerned, the minute amounts of the tasteless and odorless chemical necessary to cause illness or death can only be identified by a few specialized laboratories and often only by the company of manufacture. The testing procedure is extremely expensive and such poisoning must often remain only suspected. It is essential, however, in all cases of possible poisonings to be able to suspect certain specific substances, if poison tests are to be carried out; contrary to popular belief there is no single test, which will demonstrate the presence of "a poison". A further complication in diagnosing poisoning is that some poisons are cumulative, being stored in the liver, endocrine glands or fatty tissues. The clinical signs may thus start long after the bulk of the toxic dose has been eaten or absorbed. The fourth or fifth batch of contaminated seed for example, may coincide with the first signs of illness. Similarly, there may be a long delay after crops or garden plants near an outside aviary have been sprayed several times, before any of the birds show signs of poisoning.

    A veterinarian should always be called in when poisoning of any type is suspected. When a specific substance is strongly suspected, a telephone call to the nearest chemist may reveal a specific antidote, this however, should only be administered under veterinary supervision since the cure may prove more toxic than the suspected poison!


    E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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