Common Wildlife Conditions – Part 1



Presenter: Bev Panto BVetMed BSc (Hons) CertAVP (ZooMed) MRCVS, RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, Veterinary Officer. Honorary Lecturer at University of Liverpool

Dealing with injured wildlife is part of every practising vet’s job even though this may be an area of veterinary medicine which some us may not be particularly confident. Last week’s Platinum Member’s webinar aimed to offer advice and practical tips to help increase confidence in managing these patients and, as there is so much to learn about this subject matter, ‘The Webinar Vet’ has put together a series of webinars on ‘Common Wildlife Conditions’ with part one being aired last week.

Bev Panto led last week’s webinar and offered a fact-filled, fast moving discussion on the multitude of conditions seen within a vast array of wild birds. Conditions included sea birds having succumbed to the effects of oil spills and small garden bird having been victim to an attack by a cat or dog. The only way to really appreciate the breadth of knowledge delivered within this webinar is to watch it, but I can offer some snap shots of the discussion giving some idea of the invaluable and practical advice delivered by Bev, hopefully encouraging you to log in and learn more about this area of veterinary medicine.

Firstly, understanding how to handle and care for each particular species of bird is key, and can only be achieved by being able to identify a particular species. For example, a kingfisher can only feed properly by diving off a perch, and this needs to be catered for when being housed. It is also very easy to damage the tail feathers of a bird of prey, for example by placing them in cramped wire cages. Either their feathers need to be protected by using a simple in-practice utensil such as an autoclave bag, or appropriate housing needs to be provided.

Handling of a variety of species for human and bird safety is also imperative. Wearing gloves, for example, protects the handler from potential zoonotic infections whilst protecting the feathers of the affected bird. The use of goggles when handling long billed birds is also essential as they have a quick stabbing reflex when they spot anything shiny which could so easily be our own tapetal reflex. Bev also advises that when first caring for any species of bird it is always worth assuming they are likely to be dehydrated, and so to always rehydrate birds using electrolyte solution prior to feeding. The is because any degree of dehydration will slow down a bird’s gastrointestinal motility which can have deleterious effects particularly in birds with crops where sour crop could eventually develop and is often fatal for the affected bird.

The use of therapeutics such as pain relief and antibiotics were also discussed by Bev within this webinar. Meloxicam is Bev’s NSAID of choice for offering pain relief to wild birds and is administered at a dose of 0.5mg/kg once a day.  This dose is much higher than would usually be used in mammals as birds have a much faster metabolism. Birds also have an increased number of opioid receptors compared to their mammalian counterparts, so the use of the opiate, butorphanol can also be particularly useful in this species. Baytril or enrofloxacin was the participating audiences’ antibiotic of choice for treating birds with underlying infections, but Bev warned against the use of fluoroquinolones given concerns around the development of bacterial resistance and that some treated birds could potentially reach the human food chain.

Bev’s preference would be to use potentiated amoxycllin at a dose of 150mg/kg twice daily for five days and she advised this treatment should always be administered to birds involved in dog or cat attacks to prevent septicaemia and death occurring within a matter of days.

Throughout this webinar, Bev discussed a number of conditions affecting a variety of bird species, including birds of prey. She did however remind us that our aim for treating wildlife is different to our aim for treating peoples’ pets. It is an absolute necessity for wild birds to return to normal function in order to survive their return to the wild, and this must be taken into account when trying to ascertain the best management strategy. For example, birds which have compound, comminuted, or displaced fractures or fractures which involve a joint have a much poorer prognosis and are unlikely to return to normal function.

Bev also advises that there will inevitably be cases where our knowledge of the species and the underlying condition is not adequate to make an appropriate management plan, and that there is absolutely no shame in seeking advice from an expert in treating wildlife or referring on to a more specialist centre. Given the treatment of wildlife is an expected part of our job, Bev’s webinar provides a useful informative and practice relevant view on how to safely and confidently manage these cases. It also provides an invaluable reference point for use in practice when wild birds are presented by members of the public.

The Stethoscope (MRCVS)


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