It’s summer and that means hot days are upon us. While many birds come from tropical climates where heat is normal, they can become overheated and suffer heatstroke.
What is heatstroke? This condition is also known as hyperthermia, and occurs when a bird cannot cool itself down and lose extra body heat. Do you know the signs of heatstroke and what to do about it?
1.) Which of the following behaviors is not a sign of heatstroke?
a. Holding the wings out
c. Difficulty keeping balance
d. Feather picking
2.) If you suspect your bird has heatstroke, what step should you take immediately?
a. Lie your bird on its back.
b. Mist your bird with cool, not cold, water
c. Give your bird something to eat
d. Perform CPR on your bird
3.) Which signs do birds with heatstroke experience, but not those with heat stress?
b. Holding the wings out
d. Elevated heart rate
4.) What should you do to help prevent heatstroke in a bird that spends time outdoors?
a. Make sure your bird has access to shade and clean drinking water.
b. Hang your bird’s cage up high so it will catch a breeze.
c. Check your bird frequently for signs of discomfort
from the heat.
d. Both a and c
5.) How can you help prevent shock in a bird with heatstroke?
a. Feed the bird
b. After misting your bird, take it to a veterinarian immediately.
c. Keep the bird calm
d. Both b and c
1.) The answer is D. Feather picking is not a sign of heatstroke. A bird suffering from heatstroke will hold its wings out, pant, and/or have difficulty keeping its balance. In addition to the three signs listed, weakness, a dazed expression and dry skin also indicate possible heatstroke. A bird that starts convulsing due to heatstroke is in immediate danger and could slip into a coma and die, so immediate action is necessary. Obese birds are more prone to heatstroke.
2.) The answer is B. An immediate step to take if you suspect your bird has heatstroke is to mist your bird with cool, not cold, water. Also, take your bird to a cool, well-ventilated area. Place your bird’s feet in a shallow pan of cool water if it can stand, but do not do this to an unconscious bird. If you suspect heatstroke, contact your avian vet immediately.
3.) The answer is C. Birds suffering from heat stress do not have convulsions, nor do they lose consciousness. Heat-stressed birds might hold their wings out and pant. While heat stress is not as deadly as heatstroke can be, this form of stress can affect your bird in the long run and lead to infection or illness.
4.) The answer is D. Birds that spend time outdoors should be provided with shade and clean drinking water, and checked on frequently to make sure they are not suffering from heat stress. Birds that are acclimated to outdoor housing and have access to shade and water typically do not suffer from heatstroke.
5.) The answer is D. Keep your bird calm, and immediately take it to a veterinarian if you suspect it has heatstroke. If your pet bird starts to convulse, give it a cool (not cold!) misting with soapy water (dish soap mixed with water), as the soap will help get the water under the feathers to the bird’s body. (Do not use soapy water on your bird in other instances unless directed by a vet.) Take your bird to avian veterinarian for a checkup.
How to Keep Your Bird Cool
- Mist your pet bird
- Run a fan to keep air circulating. (Make sure the fan or air conditioner is not blasting air directly on your bird.)
- (If the fan is on, keep your bird inside its cage for its safety.)
- Run the air conditioner.
- Place your bird’s feet in a shallow pan
- of cool water.
- Provide shade for your bird.
- Provide water or an electrolyte solution.
The No. 1 Cause of Heatstroke
Leaving a bird in a car on a hot day is the most common cause of heatstroke. Birds can tolerate relatively high temperatures as long as they have time to acclimate. If the temperature suddenly shoots up without time for your bird to adjust (as it would in a car) it is more prone to suffer from heatstroke.