Young birds – Do they need our help?

Spring time means fledgling time!

Not only do we have our brown landscapes evolving into luscious green fields and beautiful flowers blossoming, we also have our wildlife creating their own new life, especially our birds who have now started nesting.

Among us there are many little creatures starting out in the world, most of which know exactly what they are doing, although a small percentage need a helping hand.
It is important to know when wildlife need help, as offering it when they do not can have a negative impact.

Most commonly, it is young birds that are affected. This is because fledglings found on their own are often thought to be in danger. It is normal for fledglings to be on their own, as this is the stage in their life in which they are learning to adapt and survive to their surroundings and building up the courage to perfect their flying ability. More often than not, the parents are close by and watching over these fledglings or out gathering food. It is important fledglings are left to continue their life training, as removing them from the wild should be the very last resort.

Only when they are visibly injured or have remained in the same area for over two days, should interfering be appropriate.

In cases where interference is required, handling should be kept to a minimum and they should be placed in a dark box, with ventilation to reduce stress as much as possible. These fledgling(s) should be left alone and taken to an appropriate establishment, such as a Veterinary Practice, a Wildlife Centre or the RSPCA, as soon as possible for the best chance of survival.

Nature is far better at caring for these fragile little birds compared to the less experienced, but well intended care of us humans. So please think carefully before removing a fledgling from the wild as it is not always the best option.

Foreign bodies – what do we do?

We all love our house to be clean, but sometimes this can present a hazard to our pets as well as ourselves! Plastic bottles of cleaning products can look like fun chew toys to dogs, however they can have residual product in them that can be very harmful. Bleaches can burn mouths and skin and can be very damaging if they get into eyes. Emergency treatment involves washing products off skin and out of mouth and seeking urgent veterinary attention.

By Spring your dog will have probably managed to get that squeaker out of their new Christmas toy. Some dogs can be daft enough to swallow those squeakers or any other small items! We refer to these as foreign bodies. You may not notice these things being eaten or missing so often these pets will present with lethargy and persistent vomiting (because the foreign object is blocking the way through the stomach or the guts). We usually advise x-rays in these cases because often we can see clues for a blockage. If the blockage does not look like it will pass we usually have to perform surgery to remove the offending articles. It is most usual for dogs to eat abnormal non-food items, however the author’s first “foreign body surgery” was to remove a small conker from a cat’s intestine!

If your animal is brought to a veterinary surgery within 4 hours (as soon as possible) of swallowing something abnormal we will usually induce vomiting to try and get as much of it out as possible. (There are some exceptions to this rule). The drug that is used to make dogs vomit can also cause them to feel drowsy afterwards. The author has even seen dogs fall asleep in between vomiting! If we are satisfied most of the foreign material has come out and it has been very recently ingested we will usually discharge your animal with some activated charcoal. Activated charcoal mops up any toxin that might be left to prevent it from being absorbed. If we are concerned the toxin has been absorbed we usually advise hospitalising your pet for a minimum of 24 hours on fluid therapy to help “flush out” the toxin. There are rarely any anti-toxins so treatment is usually symptomatic and supportive. All vets have access to a Veterinary Poisons Service where there is a huge database of all potential toxins. In cases of unusual intoxication we can ring this service for advice.