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Avian Practice
First aid and emergency care for the avian casualty
  1. Glen Cousquer

    Glen Cousquer graduated from Edinburgh in 1997 and worked in mixed practice for two years. He subsequently spent four years working for the RSPCA as a wildlife veterinary officer. Since 2003, he has worked in an exotic referral practice and gained additional zoo and exotic experience in South Africa and France. He currently works in an avian practice near Exeter. He holds a first class honours BSc focusing on avian respiratory physiology, and the RCVS certificate in zoological medicine.


MANY birds, whether wild or domestic, presenting to veterinary practices will require appropriate first aid and emergency care in order to stabilise their condition; this is, indeed, necessary for the successful medical management of the avian patient. First aid is the skilled application of accepted principles of treatment following any injury or sudden illness using the facilities available at the time. It is the approved method of treating a casualty until it can be placed in the care of a medical professional, and aims to preserve life, prevent worsening of the condition and promote recovery. Emergency care is also designed to stabilise a patient's condition, but is provided by the medical professional. While these distinctions may be based on human definitions, they are of direct relevance to the avian casualty. First aid is only provided until the casualty can be placed under veterinary care, at which point appropriate emergency care can be provided and the bird's condition further stabilised. These patients can then be subjected to a more detailed assessment and receive further treatment; alternatively, casualties may be referred to specialist avian and exotic centres, as appropriate. This article discusses the first-line approach to the avian casualty, and outlines the telephone advice that can be given by the veterinary surgeon to owners or finders of a bird who may have to provide emergency first aid.

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