Bands…What Are They Good For?

Can a Band on a Pet Bird be Good?


Sure – there are some times when a band is very useful

  1. International Travel may require unique identification and some birds are too small for microchips.
  2. Identification in a breeding situation ensures that birds are not mixed up – which is especially important if there are subtle health issues.
  3. A band, if the number is known, is a way to prove the bird belongs to you.

So Why is a Band ever Bad?
When it is unnecessary.

  1. Larger birds can be microchipped.
  2. Birds that have left a group situation no longer need their bands.
  3. Since there is no central database for bands they cannot be used to track down an owner.

Why Should You Remove a Band?
The main reason – to prevent injury.  We see birds who damage or break their legs because the band got caught on something.  They can irritate or annoy birds causing them to bite at the band.  If the leg is injured it may be difficult or impossible to remove the band without causing further injury.

Jackie’s Band Problem
Here is Jackie – a cockatiel.  She came in for an injured leg.  You can see that the skin of her leg has swollen around the band:

Luckily we were able to remove the band and with supportive care the leg has healed well…if a little different from her other leg!

It could have been much worse – the pressure can cause damage to the bone.  In Jackie’s case, she didn’t need surgery to repair the leg since there was no exposed bone and she still had good blood flow to all the digits.  Her smallest toe was damaged – it is likely permanently pushed forward due to the swelling.  Maybe it too will heal with time.

Boiling Water and Birds

Jasper and the Pot of Water

pot-883036_640We all fear accidents – all we can’t do is take reasonable precations.  But our pets sometimes outwit us and late last night Jasper flew into a pot of boiling water.  When I saw him the next day I explained to the owner that even though the legs looked pretty good, the true extent of the damage might not show up for several days.

The owner was not surprised since, as a cook, he was familiar with burn first aid care.  Jasper was bathed in warm (not cold) water initially and repeatedly.  Warm water helps stimulate blood flow which leads to long term improvements in healing.

Within 24 hours you can see the swelling starting already:

Initial swelling on the left leg

Initial swelling on the left leg


Irritation and swelling

Irritation and swelling

Regardless of the presentation, we treated for the possibility of very bad burns by starting Jasper on pain medication, antibiotics and topical treatments.  Sometimes wrapping a burn can be helpful but it depends on the location and the patient.  Jasper did well on his treatments and recovered fully.  He was lucky – many of our patients lose toes or worse.  It can be very hard to keep their pain under control and to medicate them frequently until the burns are healed.

Take a look at some of the changes to Jasper’s legs over the following weeks:

3 days later the skin is sloughing.

3 days later the skin is sloughing.

Improvements 11 days after the burn

Improvements 11 days after the burn

But now a thick scab is present

But now a thick scab is present

The scab is trimmed to prevent a constriction

The scab is trimmed to prevent a constriction

All healed after 1 full month of care

All healed after 1 full month of care

Anemia – Where Did Those Red Blood Cells Go!

Any animal that has red blood cells can present with anemia (a reduction in red blood cells), so of course that means most creatures on this planet!

But why does it happen and should you be worried and what do you do about it?

How is Anemia Defined?

Each species, be it bird, rabbit or snake, has a specific expected range of normal for the red blood cells (RBC). We look at the PCV (Packed Cell Volume) to determine the percentage of RBC present in the blood.

A Golden Eagle has a normal range of 35-47% while a Red Eared Slider can have anywhere from 25-35%. In order to know something is wrong, we have to know what the normal range is…but we can get an idea by looking at similar animals if we don’t have any numbers to work with. You can see that a turtle has an overall lower range than an eagle.

Anemia is simply having fewer than expected RBC or a lower PCV. It can be mild (30% in a rabbit) or severe (12% in a cockatiel) or anywhere in between depending on the cause and the duration of illness.
What Causes Anemia?

There are 3 basic causes of anemia.

– Loss of RBC
– Lack of Production of RBC
– Destruction of RBC


In the exotics world we are lucky not to see a lot of destruction based causes of anemia. The big one to worry about is an autoimmune disorder such as IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolitic Anemia). With IMHA the body sees RBCs as invaders and attempts to wipe them out. Actual diseases of the RBC such as blood parasites will cause the body to destroy the RBC in an attempt to destroy the parasite.


This occurs where there is bleeding either outside or inside the body. Trauma, resulting in bleeding, is a common cause. Other common causes include toxins such as lead (causing bleeding into the gut), ulcers or ulcerated tumors.

 Production Failure!

The most common cause of failure to produce red blood cells is call Anemia of Chronic Disease (ACD). ACD is usually due to a long standing inflammatory or infectious condition or neoplasia. The red blood cells have a shorter life span and aren’t being produced at the normal rate.


What Can We Do?

First and foremost, identify and treat the underlying problem. Is there an infection? Heavy metal toxicity? An open wound?

Second, support the anemia. Medications such as iron or vitamin K are useful in some situations. Transfusions can even be considered. We don’t use products such as epogen in exotics medicine…but that may change with time.

It’s always important to follow up and make sure that the anemia is responding to what is being done.