Acute Trauma First Aid
The second a bird leaves your fist, anything can happen, it is just the name of the game. Whether it strains a muscle, gets a nasty squirrel bite, or suffers a break in the field, eventually something bad is going to happen and your next stop may be to the vet. For the most part, you will be able to treat the majority of problems and situations topically without further assistance but for those rare times, it is good to have a few items on hand to help. Now you do not have to be an experienced falconer or a rehabber to get your bird stabilized but taking actions ahead of time can mean the difference between full recovery or no recovery. While these tools and techniques can be helpful in preventing further complication, it is not intended to replace the licensed care that can be provided at a proper facility. Contact your licensed veterinarian or rehab facility ASAP should you have any questions or clarification.
While not ultimately required, a good falconer should have at least a small medical kit on hand to help take care of those nicks and scratches. Most of these you can pick up at a local pharmacy but a few you may be able to get from your veterinarian.
First, pick up a decent bag to keep stuff in with plenty of storage pockets. Picking up a few travel bottles to store some of the liquids in and containers will help to keep things organized. Once you have that, it is time to start assembling your first aid kit. The major items to make sure you keep on hand are:
- Gauze pads
- Rolled gauze
- Cotton tipped applicators (Q-tips)
- Cotton balls
- Antibiotic ointment
- Burn cream
- Kwik stop
- Tongue depressor (popsicle sticks)
- Surgical scissors
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Chlorhexidine solution
- Eye wash
- Vet wrap
- Waterproof tape
- Syringes (Large syringes)
- Distilled water
- Abba (casting jacket)
So let us start with one of the biggest and perhaps the most common injury we encounter, lacerations. No matter how it may occur or where on the body, most lacerations are able be treated almost the same way across the board. Start by prepping all of your supplies ahead of time in an area that you can easily work. You do not want to be fumbling for gauze in the back of your vehicle while your bird is bleeding. Once you have an adequate area to work, use a syringe with distilled water (warm soapy water in a pinch) to flush the area clean of any dirt and gunk. After you have flushed it out, use the gauze to blot it dry. If bleeding continues, apply Kwik stop to the area until you are confident bleeding has stopped. After that, you can then clean using either Chlorhexidine or Peroxide. Once you are sure that the area is sufficiently cleaned and disinfected, apply an antibiotic ointment to keep it clean and moist. Continue to clean and reapply ointment as needed for a few days. This is also a great opportunity to keep a close eye on the wound to make sure that there is no signs of infection. Depending on the severity of the laceration, your vet may need to apply a stitch or two to the area to ensure proper healing. Regardless, a few days rest will have your bird back on track!
No one ever plans on this happening but when it does, it is best to get the bird to a licensed individual (vet or rehab) as quickly as possible. To ready the bird for transport, it is important to ensure that the injured wing (or leg) is properly stabilized to prevent any further damage. For wing injuries, first articulate the wing so that it can be folded in naturally. Starting at the “wrist” area, begin wrapping around the joint and work your way several inches down from there. Once secure, articulate the wing into its normal position against the body. Wrap several more layers of rolled gauze around both the wing and the body of the bird. It should be snug to prevent movement but not constrictive that the bird cannot breath. Lastly, a layer or two of vet wrap will ensure that everything stays in place. In the event your bird breaks its leg, begin by casting it while taking great care not to further damage the leg. Depending on the location (middle of the bone), you can use the tongue depressors to fashion a splint on either side of the affected area. If the break is near a joint, it may not be possible or easy to secure a splint. In either situation, use several rolls of gauze to wrap the whole leg. Be sure to go both above and below the fracture with several layers. Remember, the goal is to immobilize the appendage to prevent further damage. Lastly, a few layers of vet wrap will help make sure that everything stays in place during transport.
Despite this being rare occurrence, there have been birds out there that have found themselves at the wrong end of a pointy object. Should this happen, the number one and most important rule of all is DO NOT REMOVE THE OBJECT! Doing so can cause further internal injury to the bird as well as increasing the chance for them to bleed to death. Instead, cast the bird and secure the object to prevent shifting by taking the rolled gauze and position a roll on either side of the object. Then begin wrapping additional rolls around the bird ensuring that you cover both the object as well as the rolls on either side. Be sure to make it snug but not too constrictive. Next, using either vet wrap or stretch wrap, cover all areas with a layer and secure using tape. During transport to your veterinarian, make sure that the bird is casted and cannot move further.
Crashing into heavy cover will drastically increase the odds that eventually something is going to get into their eyes. Due to the intricacies and sensitivity of raptor eyes, this is something that should not be attempted without proper training. However, should your bird come up with an eye issue, you can attempt to flush it out using a saline solution. You can find an over the counter eye flush at any pharmacy store. Cast the bird and gently open the eyelid, looking for any dust or debris. Be sure that you do not rub the object into the eye, further damaging the lens. Flush with copious amounts of the solution, using the flow to wash out any debris. At no time should you attempt to remove it with gauze or a cotton applicator! If you cannot get the object out of the eye, place the bird in a giant hood and transport to your veterinarian. Do not hood them or cover the affected eye, keep them in the dark and quiet.