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Concussion

Find out what to do when your bird suffers from a concussion.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 14, 2013, 11:15 p.m. PST

DESCRIPTION OF

A concussion is brain trauma, swelling or bleeding inside the skull as a result of a violent blow. It is fairly common for both free range and fully flighted pet birds to experience head trauma. Panicked birds may crash into a solid surface, such as a closed window or mirror.

SIGNS OF

cockatiel
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Anastasia Thrift
A fully flighted bird that has free range of the house may fly into a window or door, causing a concussion.
An injured bird may stay on the bottom of the cage, seeming depressed or disoriented. The bird may exhibit symptoms such as a head tilt, circling or weakness of a wing or leg. Blood in the mouth, ear or anterior or posterior chamber of the eye may also be present. With a concussion, convulsions may occur if your bird is disturbed.

Radiographs (x-rays) may detect fractures of the skull or scleral ossicles (bones circling the eye) and a bruise may be visible under the skin in some cases. There may be bleeding inside of the skull, causing pressure to the brain which may not be visible on the outside.

WHAT TO DO

The bird should be moved to a dark and quiet area. The bird should be evaluated as soon as possible by an avian veterinarian, as this is a true emergency. Do not administer any oral medications or over-the-counter preparations.

LONG-TERM CARE

Depending on the extent of the injury, a bird with a concussion can recover and may return to normal function. Support care, which includes moving the bird to a dark, quiet area where there will be few disturbances, is important for recovery, as this can prevent convulsions from the brain injury. More serious injuries can occur in conjunction with a concussion and a bird with head trauma should be handled carefully and checked by an avian veterinarian to ensure all injuries are being treated. Anti-inflammatory medications are often indicated, and the risk of using a steroid, such as dexamethasone, must be weighed against the risks from the immunosuppressive effects.

Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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