What are Burns?

Birds can experience first, second or third degree burns (depending upon the extent of the tissue damage incurred) as a result of chemicals, electricity or heat. The burn can appear reddened and may or may not ooze fluid. In other cases, the damaged tissue can look pale. 

Birds that fly can accidentally land in hot cooking oil, boiling water or a hot cooking surface. The most likely place for a bird to experience a burn is his legs and feet. Birds also experience burns on their tongue from biting an electrical cord, as well as through contact with chemicals. In rare cases a bird can consume a hot food item which can lead to a burn in his mouth, esophagus or crop.

Burns from chemicals, heat and electricity are all possible in birds and can be experienced as first, second or third degree burns depending on the level of tissue damage experienced.

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Symptoms of Burns in Birds

Should your bird experience a burn, the affected area may be reddened and fluid may ooze from it. In other cases, the tissue that has been burned will appear pale. A burn can cause your bird to go into shock and quickly lose body heat. 

  • Redness of affected area
  • Paleness of affected area may result
  • Hypothermia
  • Shock

Types 

There are different types of burns that can be experienced by your bird. If your bird experiences a burn from a hot liquid, a fire or a chemical burn this will require different treatment than if your bird experiences an electrical burn. An electrical burn will be more difficult to view and can occur should your bird bite through wire. The burn may not be apparent on his beak however the damage can be found deep within his body tissues. Also, if he were to be jolted he may be thrown or fall back which can lead to additional injuries.

Causes of Burns in Birds

Your bird can be burned as a result of accidentally flying into a hot liquid or cooking surface, having contact with chemicals or as a result of contact with a live electrical wire.

Diagnosis of Burns in Birds

Upon your bird experiencing a burn, you will want to get him to the veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian will examine your bird and determine the extent of the tissue damage he has experienced and the best course of treatment for your bird.

Treatment of Burns in Birds

If your bird experiences a burn due to a hot liquid, fire or chemical, you can start by flushing the burnt area with cool (not cold) running water for ten to fifteen minutes; doing so will stop the burning, minimize swelling and lower the skin temperature of your bird. You can then cover the burn with dressings or gauze that are cool and sterile. Particularly in cases of third degree burns, you will want to make an emergency visit to your veterinarian. 

In an electrical burn, the first thing you will want to do is be sure he is safe to touch. If he is still touching the live wire that caused the burn, you will have to move him from it using something that won’t conduct electricity (like cardboard or plastic). You could also turn off the electricity at its source. Next, check to see if he is breathing and if he has a heartbeat. CPR may be necessary and a burn can cause your bird to go into shock quickly, so you will want to do what you can to keep him warm while you get him to the veterinarian immediately. 

Upon assessing your bird’s burn or burns, your veterinarian will determine what treatment is necessary. Supportive care is usually in the form of pain medication and fluids administered intravenously or subcutaneously. Topical ointments may also be recommended for you to apply to the area that was burned. Your veterinarian will likely clean and dress the burn and show you how to care for him during his recovery.

Secondary infections may occur as a result of the burns which will require additional supportive care like antibiotics. In the case of crop burns, surgery will often be required upon the wound perforating.

Recovery of Burns in Birds

As you are rushing to get your bird to the veterinarian there are a few things to avoid doing:

  • Do not pull out his feathers or try and get debris out of his burnt skin
  • Do not use greasy products on the burn (for example butter or ointment)
  • Do not put ice on the burn
  • Do not pop blisters
  • Do not wrap the bird in any towels or blankets as these can stick to the burn

It is important to be consistent in treating your bird as recommended by your veterinarian. Follow-up appointments will likely be recommended so that your veterinarian can check on your bird’s condition and make any adjustments to his treatment that are necessary.