At some point in your parrot’s long life it is likely you will find the need to medicate against illness or administer a supplement of some sort. Before that happens, you should familiarize yourself with the procedure of giving medications to your parrot and understand what the lines and numbers on the syringe mean so you don’t run the risk of over OR under medicating your bird.
I feel that the appropriate syringe size for a parrot is 1cc. You can use a larger one if you like, but my experience with parrots tells me that the smaller and less obtrusive an object is, the less likely it will be rebeled against. A macaw can bite through the plastic of any sized syringe, so dont let that be a determining factor when it comes to size.
Further, I find the 1cc syringes more managable while trying to position a squirming bird for medication. Some measure of restraint is recommended even with a syringe trained bird. I hold my birds in such a way that I can control their head movements to a degree. I don’t want to lose a dosage because my bird decided to look away just as I am depressing the plunger, but I am careful that it isn’t perceived as restraint.
Medicating a bird isn’t difficult, unless your bird refuses to cooperate with the procedure. And, really, why would a bird cooperate? Think how frightening it would be to be restrained and have an object forced into your mouth! And worse, having it done by the someone that you always thought you could trust.
Preparing the dosage
You would think that veterinarians would make sure clients are taught how to give necessary medications before they are sent home to do so, but many don’t. Also, many clients are so worried and overwhelmed by their bird’s illness that they forget everything the moment they walk out the door. (Don’t feel bad, it is sometimes difficult to absorb it all.)
It is most important that your bird get the EXACT dosages prescribed every day. If the medication requires twice daily dosages, that doesn’t mean you can give a dosage in the morning and forget the evening dosage. Nor does it mean that you give a double dosage in the morning because you have plans later.
Medications are prescribed in dosages and at intervals that are carefully measured out to be safe and effective in combating your bird’s particular illness. You can’t make random adjustments to them if you want your bird to get better.
Shake the medication up in the bottle. Insert the tip of the syringe and draw up the dosage. Tap away any air bubbles as they take up room in the syringe that is meant for medication.
1 cc (one cubic centimeter) is equal to 1 ml (one milliliter) in that one milliliter takes up one cubic centimeter of space. This is 1 cc of medication (you will never have to administer this amount to a bird, fortunately!):
If the dosage for your bird is .3 cc, for instance, you will fill the syringe to this level:
If the dosage is .05 cc, which is half of .1 cc, you will administer this amount :
Each line on the syringe represents .01 cc. Each .05 cc is measured by a shorter dark line. If you are required to give a dosage of .5 1/2 cc, it would look like this:
If you are medicating more than one bird, NEVER use the same syringe. Two things can go very wrong: when you draw the dosages for two birds into one syringe it is easy to accidentally over-medicate the first bird. Sometimes the pressure needed to plunge the dosage wavers during an application and it is difficult to control the speed and amount of what comes out – the first bird medicated could be administered both dosages.
Secondly, if there is an illness in the flock and multiple birds are being medicated, you should always use separate syringes so that disease is not spread. Sometimes birds in flocks are all medicated as a preventative measure whether they show signs of illness or not. Sometimes one bird will recover more quickly than the rest. When you share syringes, you are also sharing the disease. Each bird should have its own syringe and they should all be cleaned thoroughly in between uses.
When you are syringing medications into a bird’s beak, the syringe should be placed to the LEFT side of the beak (your right, if facing the bird) and should be aimed toward the back of the opposite side of the mouth. This will direct the fluid towards the esophagus and not the trachea to help avoid aspiration. If your bird is struggling to get away and you are unable to safely restrain it, call your vet for assistance in learning how to administer the medication- when a bird is in motion it is difficult to keep medications from entering the air passages!
The tip of the syringe should barely enter the birds mouth and you should use slow, even pressure when plunging. As long as your bird is swallowing the fluid and nothing is dribbling out of the beak, keep the pressure steady. Otherwise, stop momentarily to allow the medicine to be swallowed and then continue.
Be sure to refrigerate medications that require it.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.