How do you medicate cockatiels?

Most bird owners are faced with the prospect of medicating their pets at some point in the birds’ lives, and many are not sure if they can complete the task without hurting their pets. If you have to medicate your pet, your avian veterinarian or veterinary technician should explain the process to you. In the course of the explanation, you should find out how you will be administering the medication, how much of the drug you will be giving your bird, how often the bird needs the medication, and how long the entire course of treatment will last.

If you find (as I often have) that you’ve forgotten one or more of these steps after you arrive home, call your vet’s office for clarification to make sure your bird receives the follow-up care from you that she needs.

Let’s briefly review the most common methods of administering medications to birds (which are discussed completely in The Complete Bird Owner’s Handbook by Gary A. Gallerstein, DVM). I know from personal experience that all the methods I describe here do work and can be done with minimal stress to both bird and owner.

Oral Medication

This is a good route to take with birds who are small, easy to handle, or underweight. The medication is usually given with a plastic syringe, minus the needle, placed in the left side of the bird’s mouth and pointed toward the right side of her throat. This route is recommended to ensure that the medication gets into the bird’s digestive system and
not into her lungs, where aspiration pneumonia can result.

Medicating a bird’s food or offering medicated feed is another effective possibility, but medications
added to a bird’s water supply are often less effective because sick birds are less likely to drink water, and the medicated water may have an unusual taste that makes the bird less likely to drink it.

Injected Medication

Avian veterinarians consider this the most effective method of medicating birds. Some injection sites—into a vein, beneath the skin, or into a bone—are used by avian veterinarians in the clinic. Bird owners are usually asked to medicate their birds intramuscularly—by injecting medication into the bird’s chest muscle. This is the area of the bird’s body that has the greatest muscle mass, so it is a good injection site.

It’s perfectly understandable if you’re hesitant about giving your bird shots. I was apprehensive the first time I had to medicate a bird this way, but we both survived the procedure. Wrap your bird securely but comfortably in a washcloth or small towel and lay her on your lap with her chest up. Hold her head securely with your thumb and index finger of one hand, and use the other to insert the syringe at about a 45-degree angle under the bird’s chest feathers and into the muscle beneath.

You should remember to alternate the side you inject your bird on (say, left in the morning and right in the evening) to ensure that one side doesn’t get over-injected and sore. Remain calm and talk to your bird in a soothing tone while you’re administering the drugs. Before you both know it, the shot is over and your bird is one step closer to a complete recovery!

Topical Medication

This method, which is far less stressful than injections, provides medication directly to a part of a bird’s body. Uses can include medications for eye infections, dry skin on the feet or legs, and sinus problems.

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