Avian Emergency Preparedness

 For Per doves & other birds

Emergency Kit Bleeding Skin Tears Broken Bones Digestive Diarrhea
Burns and Scalds Limping Breathing Egg laying Infections Dehydration
ICU/Brooder Eyes Injections Germ Control Bites  





LEGAL DISCLAIMER. READ before using any information on this page or website:


Respiratory Emergencies:


Anytime a dove has its bill gaping wide open, gasping deeply for air, it is a medical emergency and it will die in less than a minute if the situation is not immediately resolved. These are the end-of-the-line last gasps for breath and you only have a few seconds to  calm it down. Don't hold the bird. Stop what you are doing. Allow the bird to relax and calm down and it might improve. Do not give it food or water or distress it in any way. Pain, stress, infection, respiratory problems, heart trouble, choking, illness, egg binding, aspiration of fluids, being laid on its back or held too tightly are all things that can cause this. Once you have calmed the bird and the problem has not been eliminated within a few minutes, 

go immediately to a 24 hour animal hospital or your vet. Take the dove in a pet carrier with a town in the bottom without stressing or upsetting the bird further. Every second counts. It is likely that you will not make it in time when a dove is in this condition so your efforts to calm the dove is the only chance it really has.


A second type of breathing difficulty is rapid, labored breathing with the mouth partially open, similar to panting heavily. The tail will bob up and down as the bird struggles to breathe, It is probably fluffed up and lethargic (weak) as well. Although it is not as bad a situation as the paging wide gasping, this bird is seriously ill and needs to see a vet immediately. By the  time it gets to this condition, it usually has a serious infection and less than a couple days to live unless seen by a vet as quickly as possible so it can get the proper antibiotics and medical care.


Panting is a different type of breathing in contrast to the 1st and 2nd situations aforementioned. Panting usually has the dove's tongue moving as it breathes through an open bill. Usually the wings are being held slightly out from the body to allow air to circulate. A dove can get overheated from being held or from having the environmental temperature too high. Cool down the area where the dove is, give it fresh cool water for drinking and a cake pan of water so it can bathe in it. I would get the dove wet with a spray bottle to help it cool off if it was too hot but careful not to send it into shock by having the water too cold. Sudden temperature changes are dangerous to the dove. If you use a spray bottle, make sure it has never had any chemical in it. A new, unused plastic bottle can be bought at any pharmacy or dollar store for about a dollar. Do not get water into the dove's mouth or nasal openings on the bill. A gentle mist is best or you can just gently splash slightly warm water on the dove in the sink. Warm water will feel cold enough to the dove because their body temperature is about 10 degrees higher than a human. Be prepared to be splashed back and pat it dry with a towel. Be careful not to damage the feathers or chill the dove in a draft.


Important Germ Control Practices:


Always be sure to disinfect your hands with antibacterial soap, preferably liquid type. This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of germs. If your sink faucet handles are not disinfected then you are right back to spreading bacteria each time you touch the faucet. A hand towel is a bacteria collection breeding ground as is a dish rag. A clean paper towel would be the best alternative. Surgeons do not dry their hands on anything that could contain bacteria, but since you are not performing surgery, the paper towel should suffice as long as it has not been used or handled.

When administering contents from a tube of KY or plain Neosporin (do not use the type combined with pain medications or hydrocortisone), wipe off the top of the tube with alcohol, squirt out a little of the tube contents to get rid of the surface bacteria and wipe it off with another clean alcohol pad before putting any of the gel on the dove. This will help reduce the transfer of bacteria significantly. Disinfecting the inside of the cap will also reduce bacteria.


Remember that your hands should always be disinfected immediately before and after handling any dove. This will save their lives even though you may not be aware of it. Especially on newborn baby doves, wash hands before and after each dove or you may carry staphylococcus or other bacteria from one nest to the next which is particularly fatal to newborns. By the time you can smell a staph infection, it is too late for a baby dove. See the infection section for more information. Don't use the same eyedropper for more than one dove or nest of babies. It is better to have a separate eye dropper for each cage. Using a common eye dropper will transfer germs from one cage to the next and you may end up with all of your babies dead. I have seen this happen from something as innocent as using the same dropper to give water to babies in different nests. One of the babies apparently had a staph infection of the umbilical and the eye dropper transferred it to the next. 5 newborn babies in 4 different nests died in two days. (Staph bacteria used to be the number one cause of deaths in human newborns up through the 1800's until Pasteur convinced the doctors to sterilize their hands and instruments. This is a good movie to watch and learn about bacteria contamination and prevention.) This is also a good reason not to handle any eggs. Bacteria will go through the shell as will any substance that touches it. There is not a waterproof membrane in a dove egg like for chicken eggs and is why you should never rinse off the dove egg even if it has poop on it. Do not help the baby remove the shell when it is hatching. It is imperative that the membrane be dried, yolk sack properly absorbed and the umbilical dried and abdominal opening healed before it hatches or you are inviting deadly bacteria directly into the baby's abdomen. 


I also change the nests every day or two with a fresh nest container which has been cleaned in Clorox and insert fresh nest materials. Sticks can also be soaked in Clorox water and dried for reuse. Cages can also be cleaned with water and a small amount of Clorox and antibacterial dish detergent, taking care to use only a tiny amount of soap and Clorox. Do not get it on the birds and be sure the cage is rinsed and dried before allowing the doves back in the cage. The bacteria is still there no matter how much you clean the cage and nest, but at least you can reduce the levels. Daily paper change in the bottom of the cage is also imperative for cleanliness and bacteria control. Remember that the parents step in poop with their feet and then into the nest. It might not hurt to clean the feet of the parent that is not on nest duty when there is a newborn in the nest. A little hand soap on a wet cloth or rinsed off in the sink without getting the entire dove wet. Keeping the bottom of the cage and perches and food and water dishes disinfected will be a great help. When a parent has been sitting on the nest all day, their poop is voluminous and very smelly, teeming with bacteria and is best promptly removed. However, never use anything on the cage and nests except soap and a small capful or less of Clorox in a half gallon of water. 


Never use Lysol (which contains Phenol), Pine sol, or any other cleaning agent on or near the birds and their cages. Phenol is DEADLY to birds and small animals such as kittens and puppies and possibly human babies as well. Do not use the powder type carpet products or any type of pesticides or air fresheners in the same room where you have birds. 


A very dilute amount of Clorox or a very dilute amount of Mr. Clean in a bucket of water can be used to mop the floors in the room. Not too strong. Just a capful. A steam or rinse and vac is the best thing to use for cleaning clean the carpet. There are several mild brands that you can buy at the local pet store that are safe to use in your shampooer in very dilute amounts. Use at least half or 1/4th the recommended amount around birds.


Another big help with bacteria control is to keep your sinks, faucet handles, counter tops, toilet seats and handles and door knobs disinfected with a little Clorox diluted in water. It only takes a couple capfuls in a sink of water. You will be amazed at how much that will reduce the spread of common cold germs and food poisoning among humans as well.


Doves tend to poop in their food and water. Be sure to keep the dishes clean and try to change the location of the dishes if the dove continues to poop in them. Especially when the parents are feeding a baby. Using a dishwasher to clean the bird dishes will kill more germs than hand washing in the sink (unless you add Clorox to the dishwater) because the dishwasher uses hotter temperatures to clean than hand washing. The dove's water needs to be changed daily. Not only does bacteria grow to huge proportions on any food and liquids, but a layer of clear slime (from algae and/or bacteria) will develop in the bottom of the water dish in a single day, so it is important that this be cleaned out, not just add water to it. Equally as important is to be sure that no residue of detergent is left on the dishes. Soap residue or Clorox residue can be just as dangerous as the bacteria. Always thoroughly rinse the dishes and eye droppers in hot running water.




If giving the dove an injection, the top of the injection solution bottle should be wiped with alcohol before inserting the needle to draw the fluid. The needle should always be new, unused, untouched and in a sterile wrapper. Then the injection area on the dove should be wiped with a sterile alcohol wipe before inserting the needle. 


If administering an intramuscular injection, the meaty part of the breast on either side of the keel bone would be a prime location. Alternating sides each time. Before injecting the solution, always draw back on the needle plunger after inserting the needle to ensure that you have not penetrated a blood vessel. If no blood is drawn into the syringe, then it is likely ok to inject the medication (if you have properly inserted the needle in the correct location). I prefer to use the short insulin type syringes to avoid penetrating too deeply but sometimes the vet will put the solution into a glass tube with a rubber stopper which is too thick to use the very short needles that only work correctly on the original solution container. If your needle is too short to draw the solution, it is better to purchase slightly longer needles and not to penetrate the tissue as deeply rather than to open the stopper on a sterile container. Remember to properly dispose of needles. After completing the injection, I usually dull the needle tip on a hard surface so some family member or addict does not try to reuse it and replace the cap so no one gets stuck accidentally. Be careful not to bend the needle when dulling it because if it is bent, it will penetrate the side of the cap like butter and stab your finger through the lid. Never reuse the needle and try not to restick the dove more than once unless you penetrated a blood vessel. The needle becomes amazingly dull and painful on the third stick.


Preparing an emergency kit  in advance: 


Don't wait for an emergency to build a kit. Get the phone number and address and directions to the nearest 24 hour animal hospital and a local veterinarian and have them available where you can quickly access them such as on the front of your refrigerator door and also in your first aid kit. Have a pet carrier handy with a towel in the bottom where you can quickly access it to take your pet to the vet. The plastic carriers are under $20 and there are cardboard carriers under $5 so there is never a reason to take your pet to the vet without using a carrier. Take no chances on a bird or any other pet escaping. The bird should only be handled in a carrier by an adult when taking it to the vet or anytime you are out. Do not give this task to a child. The loss and guilt of an escaped pet would be much harder on the child than having to relinquish control of the pet to an adult during a trip to the vet.


Have a first aid kit handy which is specifically set up for pets. Your kit should include Hydrogen peroxide, styptic pencil, plain Neosporin, 2 rolls self sticking gauze wrap, cloth tape, sterile gauze pads, 2 eye droppers with tapered ends, cotton swabs, cotton balls or makeup remover pads (sterile), super glue, clear wide packing tape (such as Scotch brand), new tweezers with angled and ridged tip, new cuticle scissors, small nail clippers, regular scissors. Tie the tools to the kit with a long string if necessary to keep others from carting them off. KY lubricant, Popsicle stick or cuticle stick for splints, artificial tears or other eye drops (preferably not medicated), a baby nose aspirator, large plastic tip syringe for irrigation, small syringes for measuring and administering medications, hand towel (for wrapping the bird to keep it warm and secure while tending to the birds needs), pliers (preferable needle nose type), thermometer that goes higher than 108 (hard to find), small strong flashlight, extra batteries.  Alcohol for sterilizing injections or tweezers, etc. Sterile strips and squares of white silk or white satin sealed in a zip lock which can be used to lay over very bad wounds without causing pain. Safety pins for securing gauze wrap in place. An old white cotton sock with a hole about the size of a quarter in the tip (for restraining the dove just slip it on them with the head exposed through the hole. This will prevent the bird from flailing and making its injuries worse). Keep the kit where it is handy to use on the bird but out of reach and out of sight where others wont be pilfering the supplies which you have stored for emergencies. Always replace any used supplies. Zip lock storage bags are good for keeping parts together and sterile. Fishing tackle boxes are great for first aid kits for both humans and pets. Paramedics use them in the ambulances. Be sure to keep the kit itself clean and sterile.


Home ICU/Brooder for Doves: (see photos below)


A temporary warm environment ICU works wonders on an ill bird. You can create one for under $50 or you can go to the Lyon Electric website and buy a fancy one for up to several hundred dollars. It is up to your personal budget and preferences. Their products are excellent if it is within your budget and you have the time to wait for delivery.


I use a small beta fish tank, normally designed for Japanese fighting fish. It is small enough to regulate the temperature and keep the dove from moving around too much. I remove the extra glass dividers, purchase a self-adhering reptile warming mat and glue it to the back of the tank (not the bottom as intended for reptiles.) You do not want the heat under the dove where it cannot escape or where the pad could become overheated and crack the tank, plus a reptile tank has an insulating layer of sand on the bottom so don't put the warming pad on the bottom. I put the pad off to one side of the back glass and ensure that the electric cord will come out at the edge where it wont get in the way when plugged in. I place a clean hand towel in the bottom of the tank for comfort. Also in the reptile section, for just a few dollars, you can buy thermometers and humidity indicators that will stick on the tank. I put mine on the inside of the tank on the upper back glass as far away from the heating mat as possible. Also in the reptile section, I bought a couple of small heavy ceramic, shallow dishes about the size of a jar lid. In these I put fresh water and food. It is just barely deep enough for the water since the dove drinks straight down like through a straw, so be sure to keep the water full (unflavored Pedialite is better than water). It would not hurt to warm the water to lukewarm before adding it to the dish. I like these little dishes because they wont tip over if the dove decides to stand on it and they are small enough to be set at one end of the tank. Plus the water will increase the humidity which is important for a sick bird, baby or female laying an egg.


In the reptile section, you can also buy a small clamp on lamp with a metal reflector in the reptile section, but don't buy the reptile light bulbs. Be sure to use either a 60 watt bird basking light or a 60 watt standard opaque red light bulb. Do not use clear or white lights or UV reptile lights unless you want your dove blinded. Have an extra bulb handy in case the first one burns out. The basking bulbs tend to be short lived. This lamp can be clamped onto the side of the tank and angled down to warm the ailing or baby dove. 


Be sure that you NEVER leave it unattended with the light on and watch the thermometer carefully to ensure that it does not rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for adult doves (and make sure you are not accidentally looking at the centigrade portion of the thermometer. It is easy to do and your dove will die.) I don't leave the light on more than 20-30 minutes or less if the thermometer reaches 80 degrees when used with a tank and no more than an hour out in the open. I don't like to take a chance on the fixture overheating and the metal reflector increases the concentration of heat. The tank comes with a glass lid and a plastic extension. I remove the plastic extension and put the glass lid in the center of the top where it leaves a 1/2 inch space on either side for ventilation. The basking light will still clamp to the front side of the tank and will still warm the tank. The lid keeps the dove inside as well as the heat & humidity which is why the air spaces are important to prevent over heating. If the dove is getting upset, you might want to put a little tape on the ends of the lid or better some Velcro strips that you can reuse. (those can be bought at a hobby store or home improvement center). 


I usually place the temporary tank in the same room that I plan to be in but away from drafts, noises and movement. The doves tend to get frightened seeing people moving around through the glass, and you want to be sure that other pets and children do not bother it. Remember that white sleeves and sudden movements will terrify the dove. Check on the temperature every half to one hour.


It makes a great ICU for sick birds, brooder for babies and a place for a laboring female to lay eggs on the soft hand towel, if needed.


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Birds do not have much blood and will quickly bleed to death. Become accustomed to the normal pinkish color inside the bill, tongue, throat and inner eye lids of the healthy dove which is harder to see on dark billed doves. If the dove starts losing the pink color or getting pale in the mouth and inside the eyelids, it could be an indicator of internal bleeding or excessive loss of blood.  You don't have much time if the dove is losing too much blood. It does not take much to rupture the spleen of a bird and unless there is immediate surgery, it will die. 


Always keep a styptic pencil or styptic powder and Hydrogen peroxide handy for external bleeding. This works on Birds, animals and humans, but not for severely deep bleeding involving arteries and major veins. It is excellent for broken blood feathers. I use the cold water first. Then peroxide. I remove the remaining feather shaft with a quick jerk by tweezers which should stop or reduce the bleeding like plucking an eyebrow but if done incorrectly, you can break the wing bones or seriously injure the bird. If the bleeding wont clot, then I use a styptic pencil rather than the powder type which can get into the eyes and lungs of both you and your pet. These can be found in the men's shaving section at your local pharmacy. 


Try not to get the bird too wet or too cold which will put it into shock.  Peroxide will clot the blood and help kill the germs. For deep wounds, holding pressure over the wound with a sterile gauze to stop the bleeding will also help buy you some time to get to the vet . Don't use a tourniquet. A tourniquet is a guarantee that the limb will be amputated. It cuts off all circulation and all chance of saving functionality.


If this is a skin tear, see the section on skin tear for more info on closing the wound but only after you have stopped the bleeding. Vets don't like you to get any oil or grease in the doves feathers, but I use a minuscule dab of plain Neosporin to minimize chance of infection. There must not be any excess that will ruin the feathers and cause more problems. I don't use it on skin tear wounds that need to be sealed because it wont seal if there is any presence of grease.  


If the bleeding was from a substantial wound, the vet should see the bird within 24 hours to administer antibiotics to prevent infection. Injections of Baytril is an excellent  antibiotic for doves.


If the bleeding is internal from laying an egg, it is not uncommon to see up to a half teaspoon of blood if the dove was straining. Cool water with a syringe or eyedropper will help, but not too much or the dove could go into shock. Don't put the dropper into the vent or you will tear her inner lining. A small amount of blood from straining with an egg is probably not an immediate emergency but contact your vet to be sure. Cool water for bleeding. KY lubricant in the vent will help her pass the egg more easily. See more about this in the egg laying section. 


They don't have a lot of blood to lose. A tablespoon or more is too much. Get them to the vet or nearest 24 hour animal hospital immediately. If you have other doves, you might take them along in case you need a blood donor. They wont harm the other doves, only use a little of the blood to save the bleeding bird. 


After the bleeding is completely stopped, be sure that the dove gets plenty of water to drink. In fact giving an extra dropper of water every couple hours will help plump up the veins. Vitamins and food will help the dove rebuild their blood cells.


Tears in the Skin:


This is one of the most serious medical emergencies. Once the skin is torn, it will continue to tear, especially if it is near the leg. Even the veterinarians have a hard time working with tears in the skin. Tape will not stick to dove skin because it has a powdery coating. Even if it is cleaned the tape will not stick to the skin. Sutures will not hold dove skin. It is too fragile and tears too easily. Even the most delicate sutures smaller than a human hair will not hold doves skin. My avian vets have tried in vain. However, by watching the doves in the wild and my own, I saw how they attended to their own wounds and I was able to come up with a method to fix most torn skin areas which works.



If it is an adult dove, do not place any ointment on the wound. Take a piece of strong, clear tape... scotch or packing tape and tape across the wound so that the tape sticks to the adjacent feathers on either side at least an inch beyond the edge of the tear (or as much as possible), pulling the sides of the tear together as you apply the tape to the surrounding feathers. The principle is to stick the tape to the feathers in order to anchor the tape so the tear can be pulled together as much as possible. This is what the doves do in the wild. They will use feathers on the sides of a tear and stick them across the wound using their own blood as an adhesive. I have seen this. It is quite amazing. They use their feathers and blood as stitches to seal across the wound.


Leave the tape undisturbed on the wound for at least a week or two. Don't worry about the feathers. They will grow back and new ones will grow in under the tape. During preening the dove will remove the tape or it will fall off itself. Keep a close watch  on the wound. If it shows any sign of infection such as  oozing after the first initial 24 hour period or has an odor or redness or swelling, the dove must be immediately taken to the vet for an antibiotic injection. Keep the dove warm so it will not get a chill and calm so it will not damage the tear further.


On featherless baby birds or on the leg of an adult dove, the problem is much worse because you don't have adjacent feathers to stick the tape to. Your chances of saving a baby or an adult leg wound are VERY SLIM. Parent doves are often responsible for causing the tears in their baby's skin by stepping on them with their sharp claws. I would recommend slightly filing and rounding just the points on the claws of a parent with an emery board. 


Tape will not stick to a doves skin which has a powdery coating, even if you clean it with alcohol. I have tried everything and have only found one thing that will mend a tear on a baby dove or on an adult dove's leg and you may want to confer with your vet before trying any of these methods. The chances of saving a new baby with a skin tear or an adult  with a leg tear are very slim. The vet does have a skin adhesive which you could try that can be used in the wound.



This is the only method I have found effective on bare skinned baby doves or bare dove legs with a tear. Once I have cleaned the tear with hydrogen peroxide (and these tears rarely bleed) and dried the area, the only solution I found that works is to cut a piece of strong clear plastic packing tape at least 3 times the size of the tear so it will extend well over the tear and over undamaged skin. Then I put superglue on the undamaged skin around the wound, But NEVER put it IN the wound. I then place the tape over the wound and glue while holding the tear together. The glue should only be on the undamaged skin around the wound. If it is the instant superglue and the tear is not too far gone, it should hold the skin in place.  It has to be kept still long enough for the glue to set. If any gets into the wound, it burns terribly and the dove has no vocal cords to cry out but you will cause it terrible pain nonetheless and this type of glue should not get into the wound. If the wound is on the leg, the  tape can be wrapped around onto itself... but must never be too tight where it would injure the dove or cut off circulation. 


Your vet will have skin glue that can actually seal the skin tear without causing problems. You also have to be careful not to glue your fingers or get the glue on anything else. I have done this with two doves. One was an adult who tore the skin around the leg which dropped down like a sock and the other was a baby. Both completely healed without a scar. I just left the superglue patch in place until it fell off or for at least two weeks. If you try this, you are taking a very big risk and assuming all responsibility for your actions because this is not sanctioned by any vet and could end up with terrible results. However, I do know what it is like to be desperate for a solution to stop & seal the tearing skin and to lose a baby dove before I came up with this idea. I later learned that a professor I know has also used the super glue method on his doves. I now have proper skin glue from a vet when this situation arises in the future.


A couple years ago, I found a white dove which had been injured on its breast with a big tear in the skin and all of the surrounding feathers were missing. This dove had used its own blood as glue to stick feathers crosswise across the wound in even spacing to close the tear. It looked just like stitches and was what gave me the methodology to treat dove skin tears. I thought this dove was quite ingenious as to how he stitched his own skin tear together by using his own anchored feathers and blood. He completely recovered and although over 10 years of age, is raising families of his offspring. This is an absolutely true story. I wish I had taken a photo of the injury repair he made.


Egg Laying problems:


If you see a female squatting or straining, she may be trying to lay an egg. She may be fluffed up and sitting on the bottom of the cage. For normal egg laying, this behavior should be very brief such as less than 20 minutes. If she does this for a an hour or two or more, she may have an impacted egg which would need a vet to express it. An impacted egg can cut off the blood supply to the kidneys and cause death. But do not mistake the fact that an egg can be felt in a dove for about 27 hours before she lays it, so just because you can feel the egg, it does not mean that it is time to lay it. Manual expression of an egg can be done by a novice but if you break the egg, she could die from a peritoneal infection. It is almost certain death within a couple days if the egg contents and shell are not properly cleaned out and antibiotics administered. Since your doves chances are better at a vet and the vet can do this very easily and quickly without a lot of time and expense, I will not describe how to express an egg. Do not allow the female to linger more than 6 hours. Less is better. She needs warmth and humidity and a generous amount of KY lubricant just inside her vent. If you have an ICU tank, it is an excellent place for her. If not, try putting her in a warm humid room such as a bathroom  with water in the sink or tub, or use a humidifier but she needs to be confined so she does not get loose and drown. Even a warm, damp washcloth will help increase humidity. 


When putting KY jelly into her vent, do not penetrate inside where you would rupture the lining. Do not use so much KY that you would rupture her, but an amount equal to a half teaspoon is not too much. Then keep her quiet and warm and humid. Give her 2 eyedroppers of water to drink as it will hydrate her and pass right through. These are all things that might help her pass the egg. Some eggs can get wedged and it will cut off the blood supply to the kidneys, so I caution not to wait too long to get her to the vet. 


If you see egg white being pooped out, get her to the vet within 2 or 3 hours because the egg has ruptured and she needs to be cleaned out and injected with Baytril antibiotic to prevent certain infection of the peritoneum. 


With more difficult eggs, there may be a small amount of blood and the vent may turn purple and swollen from straining. After the egg is laid, a small amount of cool water can be squirted in to clot the bleeding, but not too much because it might cause her to go into shock. KY jelly can be put into the vent to help her lay the egg and after to keep the tissues from over drying if her vent is swollen. If she is gushing blood, get her to the nearest 24 hour animal hospital without hesitation. They don't have a lot of blood to lose. A tablespoon or more is too much. If you have other doves, you might take them along in case you need a blood donor. They wont harm the other doves, only use a little of their blood to save the bleeding bird.


If your dove herniates the inner lining of the vent when laying an egg and the protruding tissue outside the vent does not retract, put KY jelly on it to keep it moist and get her to the vet right away. She will quickly die if you fail to get her immediate help. It can be surgically sewn back in place. 


If the Egg breaks inside the bird,  she will need to be rinsed out carefully & egg shell removed. Their interior is very delicate & easily torn & damaged. She must  also have an injection of Baytril because this  broken egg inside will cause an infection. After 24 hours it will be too late in most cases without the shot. I can do these things & I keep baytril & a box of sterile insulin needles on hand & I know how much & how to give an injection. I know how to do this. But not without prior mistakes. So, unless you are an equipped expert, get your dove to a vet immediately.


Broken Bones:


The #1 cause of broken bones is lack of calcium in their diet. Especially baby birds.  Also, never hold a bird by the legs or wings.


Silkies and baby doves are the most at risk for falls although a bad landing or hitting an obstacle while flying can injure any bird. Silkies cannot fly because their feathers do not mesh together. The legs are most at risk in a fall but they can also damage their keel or pelvic bones as well.  Caged birds also tend not to get enough calcium and tend to have brittle bones that break very easily with the slightest pressure or fall.


Broken bones are usually a job for a vet. Although broken bones may heal, it will be impossible to get them to set properly and the bird will end up permanently deformed. Temporary splints can be made out of  cardboard & tape. Don't pull or move the broken appendage because you may be damaging nerves, blood vessels and tendons. Try to keep it immobilized but do not bind it too tight which would interfere with breathing or blood supply. Don't destroy the bird. Any Avian vet can set the bone. Please take it to the vet where they will x-ray and set the break.  I was able to set a broken bone so perfectly, the vet didn't believe it was broken from the X-ray. But it was a compound fracture snapped in two.  They sometimes get caught on something in their cages.  However, I was not able to set other bones as well.


The price you pay will depend upon how fancy your vet's equipment is. The more simple his office and tools, the less he usually charges. If you want the latest equipment and techniques, it will definitely get costly. Your dove is your pet, not a throw away toy, so please be sure it gets proper veterinary attention for broken bones. The functionality of legs are especially critical to the doves well being. Be sure that your dove is getting adequate calcium, proper nutrition and vitamins and do not allow it to fall or be handled by an unsupervised child. Be careful that the dove does not fly into a wall or window which can kill it or break bones.  While smaller birds might function with one leg, a dove is too heavy & walks rather than flies. So they need both legs & feet.




If the dove has runny eyes and does not have foreign matter in them, then it may have an infection, virus or an allergy which probably needs to be tended to by a vet. Especially if it also has runny naries (nose holes). But not necessarily. The dove will try to wipe its eyes on its feathers behind the neck and those feathers may start turning dark if it has been doing this a lot. There is a breed of dove called a "Bulge eye" which has very thick protruding corneas which constantly get irritated with feathers and foreign matter. If an infection or irritant is not relieved, then the dove could have permanent corneal scarring or blindness. Keep the natural tears type of eye lubricant handy to help loosen any foreign matter in the eye. Don't use too much because anything you put in the doves eye drains right into the mouth through the tear ducts and is ingested. A couple drops is good in each eye. A tissue can be used to gently wipe away anything in the eye. Don't damage the cornea or tissue around the eye. If it is not easily remedied, please have a qualified vet look at it. He may have medicated drops or other remedies that the dove needs.




If you see a dove leaning forward and doing violent vibrations with its wings, it is throwing up. Doves do this to feed their babies, but they also might do it to dislodge a seed or object in their throat or get rid of bad seeds. Do not interfere or pick the dove up. Let them finish. If you interfere, you can cause the dove to choke to death on it's own regurgitation and it happens in less than a second. I have seen it happen and you will not be able to clear the airway in time to save it and normal CPR does not work on a dove. Do not hold a dove upside down because their food will run into their mouth.


Baby doves can get a staph infection in their abdomen, especially if the umbilical did not dry before the baby hatched. The baby may have a bad smell and will die within a couple days. If the baby is getting weaker and not gaining weight or the food is not digesting, first try giving the baby several drops of water every few hours. Pedialite (unflavored) is even better than water for restoring fluid and electrolyte balance and can be purchased in any human baby food section of your local grocery or pharmacy. Dehydration is also a big killer of babies. If it does not work, it may need antibiotics, but there is not a lot of time to decide. The abdomen may get a yellowish color beneath the skin, but the odor is most significant and the baby will die by the third day.  Again, Baytril might save it if you get it to a vet in time. Be sure to wash your hands and any eye droppers or other feeding materials with antibacterial soap. Keep the nest clean. Clorox is a great disinfectant. Always feed fresh water and fresh baby food. Do not save it in the refrigerator or leave it on the counter to collect germs.


With dehydration the skin looks wrinkled, the baby gets weaker and the food in the crop does not digest. Most of the time the parents will feed seed but not enough fluids. The crop will feel like dough. Start giving the baby water every 4-6 hours. It will poop out the water very soon after you give it so it does not last long before the baby needs more. The crop should feel soft and sloshy, not like dough. 1 eye dropper full each time works good.




Although excess water will cause diarrhea, be sure to have plenty of fresh water available for the dove because diarrhea causes rapid dehydration. If the dove is not drinking water, be sure to give it some two or three times a day to prevent dehydration. 1 dropper full each time should be adequate. Better than water is to purchase some unflavored Pedialite which you should give to the dove instead of water to restore its hydration balance. Do not be shocked if the dove poops water moments later. Diarrhea can be caused by bad or sour seeds or infection. If the seeds don't sprout, they are bad. Seeds can be kept fresh in a freezer which will kill any weevils or worms and keep out the bugs. Or use a completely sealed container, but seeds usually come with insects already in them so it is better to freeze them and then keep them in a sealed container. This is where all of the moths emerge from. If it is not bad food, or lack of vitamins, the diarrhea may be indicative of an infection or intestinal worms. The doves vent feathers may get messy. Try to get some fresh seeds or even a baby bird food mix to help keep the dove nourished until it gets back its appetite. Make sure that the dove has grit available or it cannot digest the seeds and that could be the cause of the illness. Fruit will also cause diarrhea, so discontinue if you are feeding it to the dove. Also, do not feed the dove human food or table scraps. If you decide to feed the dove baby bird mix, you can add Pedialite to the mix instead of water if available and then mix the baby bird food to a pudding consistency Use and eye dropper to feed it and try to squirt the food in the back of the throat past the air hole at the back of the tongue so it wont aspirate the food into its air sac and get aspiration pneumonia. Give it a chance to swallow the food. Because doves are raised different than other birds, the babies wont open their mouths to beg for food when they are hungry. I go by the fullness of the crop. Adult doves don't fill up their crops and eat rather sparingly. You will likely have to open its bill each time you feed, but remember that the dove has feeling in its bill and you can cause it pain. Don't fill it so full that the dove vomits or it could choke to death. Keep in mind that the baby bird food will also make the poop runny and change the color to yellow. If the diarrhea continues for more than a day or two, take it to a vet so they can examine it further. Diarrhea can kill the dove. Be sure to wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after you handle the bird each time. Also be sure to sterilize any droppers or tools or food dishes each time and don't save old food for reheating. Make fresh each time for sick and baby birds.


Burns & Scalds:


I am not an expert on this, but I know that cold water is the best for a burn, however, shock is immediately imminent. Wrap a cold, wet, soft, smooth cloth on the burn but try to keep the bird warm and calm. Take it immediately to the nearest 24 hour animal hospital without hesitating. Do not lay a dove on its back for long because they cannot breathe correctly. Gasping for air is a bad sign that the dove is about to die in the next minute unless you can get it to calm down.  Remember to not let the bird get chilled, but keep the burn cool and do not touch the burn or put any medicine on it. The dove has no vocal cords to cry out with when it is in pain. You have to judge by the breathing and behavior as to its condition. There is no hesitation on getting a bird with a burn or scald to the vet if you want to have any chance at all to save it.




It is really surprising how easily a dove can sprain, injure or break a leg. They are quite fragile and the slightest pressure or holding its feet when it is attempting to escape will cause damage.  About the same amount of pressure it takes to break a toothpick will break a doves leg or wing bones. Limping is usually caused by rough handling or catching its foot on something in the cage or a hard fall. A limp that does not appear to be caused by a broken bone is probably a muscle sprain, a tendon injury or possibly a hairline fracture. The dove will likely flap its wings to compensate for the injured leg. If the dove is still able to use the leg, it is probably best to give the bird room in its cage to flap its wings. Separate it from other birds and put its food and water dishes where it can access them with ease. A nest or a flat surface may be easier for it to rest in or walk on. Clearing out the cage and putting everything on the bottom may be the best. Make sure that the dove is on a smooth surface rather than a wire bottom. It can take 3 weeks for the limping to improve. More severe damage to the tendons could take 6 weeks to heal. A vet should take another look at it to determine if it is a sprain, tear or break. 




Infections can be respiratory, digestive, reproductive, neurological, dermal or caused by injury. Any infection can be fatal especially in a newborn. Baytril is a wonderful antibiotic that the vet can inject and there are several other types of antibiotics available. Anytime a dove is given an oral antibiotic, it must also be given Nystatin because they will get a fungal infection in their throat that looks like yellowish patches. On injections, it does not pose a problem. If you are up to it, have your vet show you how to give your dove injections. It is actually very easy to do. 


The most important thing to remember is to thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling each bird, especially babies. Washing your hands between clutches of babies can save you from wiping out several nests of babies by transferring staph bacteria from one to another. Same goes for feeding, eye droppers, etc should be sterilized and not use them from one set of babies to the next. Or have several sets, one for each cage and then wash them all at the end. All it takes is one baby with a staph infection of the umbilical to kill all of your babies. They are the most fragile and susceptible to bacteria for the first 3 or 4 days of age. Depending on the type and severity, symptoms of infection can include bad odor, weakness lethargy, not eating, not gaining weight, food not digesting, dehydration, unusual red or yellow skin color, especially near injuries or in the abdomen. Sitting in one spot fluffed up, runny eyes, runny nasal, diarrhea, seizures, gasping for air, vomiting, high temperature, shaking the head, are all possible symptoms. I recommend giving them water or pedialite every few hours to prevent dehydration and feeding them with baby bird food mix to keep up the doves strength to give it a chance for recovery. If you try to use the over the counter antibiotics, the dove will end up with a fungal infection, so you will end up having to go to the vet for that and chances are that it won't clear up the first infection either, so I don't recommend them. I do recommend saving left over medicines in case your dove needs them again....at my vets suggestion. Check with your pharmacist on the longevity of liquid drugs. Some will become spoiled or toxic in 6 or more months. Many have to be refrigerated. Some drugs lose potency with age, but I would rather have a less potent drug than none or a toxic one.


Bite wounds:


Bites are usually very serious even if they look minor. Usually a bite from anything with teeth, such as a cat, dog or a person, creates a deep puncture wound and the mouth is a haven for many nasty bacteria which will be carried deep into the penetrating wound by the teeth. To make the situation worse, the body will try to heal the surface first, leaving the deep wound sealed where it cannot drain or dry with air circulation. If the outer skin heals over it, this deep pocket wound will then start forming an abscess that you cannot see until it is very bad. Abscessed wounds are filled with pus and staph bacteria. Some of you may know what an abscessed tooth feels like. This is very similar. Cats  frequently get abscessed wounds if they get into fights with other cats. A painful lump is usually present as the abscess develops. The wound will have to be opened, drained and cleaned in addition to strong antibiotics. The wound will have to be kept open on the surface until the wound heals from the deepest parts first and likely would need to have antibiotics inserted directly into the wound (such as a mammary type of antibiotic solution) a couple times each day. Anyone that has dealt with this on a cat or dog may know how much effort it takes to heal up a bite wound once it has infected and become abscessed. So to avoid all of this and a much more expensive vet bill, don't wait to take the bird to the vet.


If the bite is seriously bleeding, take the bird immediately to the 24 hour animal hospital and put pressure on the bleeding if you are unable to stop it.


If the wound is not bleeding profusely, the best thing you can do as soon as you see a bite injury is to pour hydrogen peroxide deep into the wound immediately (not near the eye or mouth.) Betadyne also works on humans, I do not know about birds. You would have to ask your vet. Make sure that there are no feathers, hairs or other debris in the wound. Remove them with a tweezer that has been sterilized in alcohol. Foreign particles are guaranteed to start an infection. Remove any feathers around or touching the wound to keep a clean margin around the wound. I pour hydrogen peroxide into a wound like this and I personally use a tiny amount of Neosporin to keep out the bacteria, but most vets do not want you to use greasy products on birds because of the feathers. You may have a skin tearing condition and you wont be able to seal a skin tear if this is a puncture wound because of the abscess problem, but it cannot go untreated because it can rip open across the bird's body in a matter of minutes. The tear will probably need to be repaired after the wound is cleaned and then a small pin hole for draining and antibiotics to prevent the infection. Take the bird to the vet so he can administer antibiotics to prevent infection and if necessary add a drain and fix the tear. With a bite, the bird is guaranteed to get an infection if the bite punctured the skin, so antibiotics are a must and they should be given by injection as soon as possible. The sooner you go to the vet the better chance your bird will have and the less it will cost.




A lot of unnecessary deaths, especially in young birds are the result of dehydration. The dove will appear to be weak and continue to get weaker. The food will remain in the crop without digesting. The bird will not defecate as often as it should and may strain from constipation. It may be fluffed up and just sitting with its eyes closed. The crop may feel doughy instead of sloshy. Babies will fail to grow and skin will look dry. All easily remedied if the dove starts getting water, by dropper if necessary. Unflavored Pedialite (in any baby food section) is better than water if it is available. In a newborn, try to get at least a few drops of water every 4 hours. It will poop out what it does not need. Be careful that the dove does not aspirate the water. Do not lay it on its back when giving the water. In 4 to 14 days old, you can give a full eye dropper of fluid every 6-12 hours. An older dove can handle 2 droppers full but not more than that. They will likely poop out water shortly after. Water does not stay in the system very long. Even if the parents are feeding the baby, they usually don't give it enough water. You will notice the dove should begin to gain strength as long as it is getting food as well as water. If there is not a noticeable improvement in the next 24 hours then the dove probably has an infection that it needs antibiotics for and a visit to the vet is in order.


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