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From time to time,
some bird's nails or beak may become too long. Both
parts of the body are built by keratin and therefore are a bit
similar to humans hair - but there are also important differences.
Many people think that it is easy to trim a bird's nails or even its
beak. Well, this is so for an avian vet, but not for each and every
bird owner who is not trained in doing such things. Regarding a bird's
nails and beak you should really know what to do in case you try to
trim these body parts, or else you risk severe injuries. Especially
trimming the beak is fairly complicated because once you cut wrong, your bird will bleed and suffer from terrible pain as you will learn further below.
Anatomy of a bird's nails
bird's nails are comparable to human finger nails in some regards.
There are parts of it that are "dead". But in the inner section of a
bird's nail is a blood vessel that supplies the growing part of
the nail with nutrients. In general, this blood vessel is easy to see -
as long as the bird has no dark nails. If you want to learn more about
the blood vessel's position, you just have to look through the
nails standing in front of a bright light. Most budgies and also some
other small pet bird species have transparent nails and therefore the
light will shine through them and you can see the blood vessel as a
dark area. You should avoid touching this part of your bird's nail
while trimming it.
Which aids are useful?
Nail clippers are
appropriate tools for trimming your bird's nails.
But be careful: Sometimes the nails splinter. In such a case you should
have a nail file within your reach. Use the file as if you would use it
filing your own finger nails. Another important aid you should have at
is a haemostatic medicine like
for example ferric chloride because you can never be sure not to hurt a
blood vessel. It is always dangerous when a bird's claw is bleeding and
you have to make sure the animal won't bleed to death. Always keep in
mind that there is only a little amount of blood inside the body of a
small pet bird. So regarding a bird a few drops of spilled blood are
are quite much if you take the total amount of blood into account!
Is nail trimming painful for birds?
In general, it doesn't hurt a bird if you
clip its nails, it's similar
to cutting a humans hair or clipping finger nails. But please note: Even though it doesn't hurt
a bird if you trim the nails, only those persons who are able to
hold a pet bird in a way that the animal is unable to move should trim a
bird's nails. If you don't feel able to do so, please contact a vet and
ask him or her for help. Or let an avian vet show you how to trim your
bird's nails properly. This might be helpful for the future.
Trimming a bird's beak
A more delicate
and also quite dangerous job is trimming a bird's beak.
Since most birds will try to bite you and are difficult to hold in one's
hand, even professionals like avian vets often have their difficulties
when it comes to trimming a bird's beak. Severe injuries of the tongue
easily happen if one slips with nail clippers or pliers. Furthermore
one should protect the eyes of the bird. And please keep in mind that
there is an inner part of the beak which is full of blood vessels. This
part is the bone which is covered by a tissue that produces the horny sheath of keratin that most people call "beak". In fact
it is only a part of the beak - and it's the part that has to be
trimmed in some cases. This horny sheath of keratin is dead, there are
no blood vessels running through it. So it is save to trim this part of
the beak. But once you touch the tissue that builds this sheath or even
the bone, you will have to deal with a heavy bleeding. A bird who is
injured in this way suffers from terrible pain and is in danger of
bleeding to death. Therefore it is better to take your bird to an avian
vet who is familiar with these risks and who will trim your bird's beak
without causing a severe bleeding.
photo on the right shows what can happen in case a beak is injured in
the above mentioned way: The vet (it was no avian vet, though!) accidentally
cut it too short and injured the bird. A severe bleeding was the result and the vet had to make it stop by using heat. The blood vessels have been burned to make them stop bleeding. Sherlock, that's the name of the poor
bird, was lucky since the vet was able to save his life. Fortunately
Sherlock recovered quickly from his injury and there was
no permanent damage. His beak grew back within a few weeks and he was able to eat as well.
Finding the reason for a beak constantly grows too long
Many budgies and also some other pet birds suffer from this problem:
The beak constantly grows too fast and has to be trimmed quite often.
Sometimes there are even brownish or reddish spots inside the horny
sheath or the structure is no longer as smooth as as before. Of course
it is important to trim the beak to make sure that the bird will always
be able to eat. But you should be aware of the fact that the beak won't
grow that long without a cause.
Most pet bird owner tend to think that their birds should wear out
their beaks in a more intense way and offer them mineral blocks for
chewing on and wearing out the beak. But in fact this isn't the right
thing to do. Of course birds need mineral blocks, but chewing on them
won't stop the beak from growing too long. In many cases a hidden
disease is responsible for the excessive beak growth. Many budgies who
show this problem suffer from a liver disease. In case your bird's beak
is too long and you can see the above mentioned dark or reddish spots,
this is a typical symptom for a liver disease. In fact the spots are
haemorrhages. You should contact an avian vet and make sure that the
potential liver disease is treated, or else your bird will sooner or
later die from it. Quite often the beak growth goes back to normal once
the liver is stabilized.
Danger: burrowing mites can cause beak fractures
who suffer from burrowing mites often show severe malformations of
their beak. Sometimes the beak is too long and in other cases it is
malformed. You may want to help, but it's very dangerous to trim a beak
with a structural damage caused by burrowing mites. You should take the
bird to an avian vet who will try to trim the beak without injuring the
animal. The photo in this paragraph shows a budgie whose beak has been
broken while somebody tried to trim it. There was a structural damage
caused by the burrowing mites, so the whole horny sheath of keratin was
ripped off. Regrettably the poor budgie couldn't be saved by the bird
specialist who took the photo. She tried to save the bird's life, but
it was too late.