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DEHYDRATION IN BIRDS
by Ron Castaner

Dehydration is very important to recognize and understand. Most of the sick birds die of dehydration first before the illness that caused their problem. To dehydrate something is to remove the moisture. This is exactly what happens to sick birds, all the moisture is removed., and not replaced. When this happens the body and organs cannot operate normally and the disease will become stronger and harder to cure. A sick bird drinks very little water, or no water at all. Make sure to have water low in the cage specially when the bird cannot perch. You might, or should I say, you have to give it some electrolyte by crop needle or eyedropper feeding. Gatorade or pedialyte is good to administer. The liquid is only good for 24 hours after it is opened and if you can find powder electrolyte it is better, lasts longer and you will have very little waste. Birds are short of energy and they lose their willingness to live. This is why they will not drink which will escalate the illness. Electrolyte is very important as well as the heat lamp to keep the bird warm. It should be at 90� with 80 percent humidity. This is necessary so that the bird does not become dehydrated. When a bird looses body water the blood flows to the muscles and the fluid is withdrawn from the muscle tissue to compensate water loss. Once water is taken from the muscle, it cannot function properly and therefore, the bird cannot fly. Birds at this stage even without infections, toxins or starvation are less able to fly and they become more stressed. The sudden weight loss in sick birds is not protein loss, but in fact the loss of water . The bird is dehydrated. Birds can lose 30 percent of their body water (weight) and appear normal. By the time we notice the weight loss, the bird is in very serious condition and the chance to turn this around is very hard, if not impossible especially if it has been sick for a long time.

Prevention is cheaper than the treatment. Most birds taken to the Vet�s as emergencies have a history of inadequate water intake. Early fluid replacement will help the bird replace fluid without interfering with treatments. Veterinarians have several ways to administer fluids. Under the skin, into the muscle, intravenous and into the bone marrow. These are ways that the average birdkeeper cannot do, however, all bird keepers can administer oral supplements like electrolytes or Gatorade to prevent dehydration and the possibility of damaging any internal organs more than they already are. Keep the birds from becoming more stressed. The crop needle is the best way to administer fluids and medications. You can try an eyedropper but sometimes the bird can choke if not done properly. Crop needles are quick, safe and effective. The fluid is given directly into the crop and you are sure the bird is taking it.

Another necessity is the hospital cage. Rather than to try to determine if the bird is dehydrated, it is better to assume that all birds are and treat them as such. Sick birds pose a problem of what to do. Placing the sick bird in the hospital cage and electrolyte crop feeding are good places to start on the bird's road to recovery. The longer you wait the more damage will happen to the internal organs. To restore the birds to normal health after the effects of dehydration occur will take longer if at all. Sick birds stop eating, however they spend most of the day in the seed bowl and they drink little if any water. It is necessary to provide a high protein, easily digestible diet using the crop needle. In such cases handfeeding formula with a little papaya can be used for a few days then soft eggfood with soak seed. The high protein diet and water will be quickly absorbed supplying the bird with what it desperately needs to give it a better chance to start fighting any disease or infection that the bird might have. Contact your Vet if not better in a few days.

One way to detect or eliminate any potential problems before they enter your aviary is to Quarantine all new birds. You must observe all the birds in quarantine for any signs of diseases. Once they have settled down in the quarantine cage, it will be easier to notice signs of illness like wheezing, gasping, weight loss, soiled vent, eye or nasal discharge, prolonged inactivity, eating too much, drooped wings, "puffed" , or not eating or drinking. A few diseases are: External parasites (lice and mites) Internal parasites (worms) Protozoa (canker, coccidia) Psittacosis, nutrition and others. There is a new one that they are studying now for the last few years called megabacteria. You will hear a lot about this bacteria in the future.

A good observation, rapid first aid and professional help should save the birds. Ask for help from your birdclub. We are loosing too many finches from inexperience. Ask for help when needed.

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