Medicating Your Bird: Everything You Need To Know

Compared to our other pets, birds live a very long time. At some point you will need to administer a medication to your parrot and it is something that you will want to be prepared for when that time comes.

I won’t lie – the first time is not easy. Your bird is sick and grumpy and not feeling at all like being cooperative. You are nervous and without confidence in what you are trying to do. What if I do this wrong? Will I hurt my bird?

Let’s say your bird has been quieter than normal and has had watery droppings for a few days. Your vet determines that your bird has a bacterial infection, something not uncommon but which definitely requires a course of antibiotics if your bird is to get well.

It doesn’t have to be traumatic for you or your bird. Following is everything you need to know to get the job done right. Be sure to CLICK ON THE PROVIDED LINKS for more detailed information on the highlighted topics.

The DOs and DON’Ts:

At the vet’s office:

  • DO ask questions about the illness. What might have caused the infection? What should I do differently to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
  • DO ask for the vet or his technician to help you administer the first dose. Or you can use your phone to take a video of him doing it while he explains the details. Click here to learn how to physically medicate a bird.
  • DO ask about flavored medications. A good tasting medicine will make some birds much more cooperative.
  • DO ask for extra syringes. Even small birds can crush the tips and you will definitely need a working syringe.
  • DO NOT leave the office without knowing how to get this job done. This is not the time to worry about inconveniencing the staff at the clinic. This is their job.

At home:

  • DO learn what the markings on the syringe mean. Click here to learn how to read a syringe. If you have trouble with this, ask your vet to use a sharpie to mark the proper dosage line.
  • DO make sure your bird gets every dose, every day. Even after your bird appears to be better, it is ESSENTIAL that you continue with the medication until it is gone.
  • DO NOT double-up on a dosage to avoid having to medicate twice daily. A double dosage might be unsafe for your bird depending on the medication or the excess medication will be passed unutilized. Each dosage is calculated carefully to be the right amount at the right time.
  • DO wash the syringe after each use and only use it for that bird. If you have two sick birds, each should have their own medication and syringe.
  • DO NOT put medication in your bird’s drinking water. If you put a dosage into your bird’s water dish, he would have to drink the entire bowl of water the get the whole dosage. That will never happen.
  • DO NOT pour the dosage over food. As with the water dish, your bird would have to eat every bite of food in the dish (and then lick the dish clean) to get the full dosage. Further, this could be a reason for your bird to avoid those foods in the future. The best way to medicate is with a syringe.
  • DO call your vet if you are unable to medicate your bird or if the doses are not being swallowed. Your bird needs this medication and if you are unable to get it into him, your vet needs to know  – and sooner than later. Your vet is there to help you get your bird well. Ask for help if you need it!

Helpful tips:

  • DO syringe train your bird. Having your bird willingly accept liquid from a syringe will help immeasurably when the time comes that you need to administer medication. Click here to learn about syringe training.
  • DO know how to towel your bird. When a bird is sick, it can behave unpredictably and may not be the sweet-tempered little angel you are accustomed to. We hope to never need to towel our birds, but it is our duty to be prepared for whatever may arise. If it is the difference between getting the medication into your sick bird, or not, you should use the towel. Click here to learn how to towel properly.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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