Acquiring Diamond Doves
Caring for Diamonds
Living With Diamonds
Growth of a Diamond Baby
One Year's Reproduction Data
Tribute to China
Other Dove SpeciesOther Geopelia Species
Eurasian Collared Doves
Mourning Dove Baby Growth
North American Doves
Dove Genera of the World
All DovesCaring for Injured or Sick Doves
Informational SitesAmerican Dove Association
Commercial SitesJeff Dowining - Diamond Doves
Garrie Landry - Diamond Doves
Wade Oliver - The Dove Page
Doveland Press - Diamond Doves
Care of Sick or Injured Birds
Female hatched 2002
Photo taken 2005
Care of Sick or Injured Birds
Doves seem to be very hardy birds. They rarely become ill or have other defects that cause medical problems. And if they do become ill there is usually enough warning so action can be taken before any serious harm is done. I can only remember two times in the twenty years that we have kept these birds that any died so suddenly we had no idea what caused their death. In the early years we lost three females because of egg binding. Once we learned the proper treatment we never lost another bird to this cause although from time to time there have been other hens that have had trouble passing their eggs. We lost one bird from a blocked intestine where surgery was not successful. And of course we lost a number of birds due to old age (age 12 and beyond).
In this section I cover some of the problems we have encountered (or we thought we encountered) and the remedy we used. I have also described some of the problems encountered by people who write in for advice. The material here is not be considered recommendations for treatment nor will I provide recommendations when answering messages sent in. If you want recommendations you need to contact an avian veterinarian. You can look over the material here and decide if you want to use methods we have used. Thus this is far from an all inclusive list of the medical problems common to doves - it is a summary of our experiences and the experiences of a number of readers. I have chosen not to include those problems that happen to birds kept in an outdoor enclosure where the dove may come in contact with feathers and droppings from wild birds. For a wider range of dove disorders you can refer to the books listed in the references section at the end of this page. There is also an avian veterinarian web site at Exotic Pet Vet - Avian Section.
Anyone that keeps doves should be familiar with setting up a hospital cage so you can provide immediate emergency treatment to any sick or injured bird. Hospital cage procedures are listed under the fourth subheading on this page
1 - Bird's feathers are fluffed up
2 - The bird appears listlessness.
3 - Bird's stools have abnormal color or are liquid or the bird is not defecating
4 - Bird is not eating or drinking normally if at all
5 - Bird's body weight is decreasing
You can usually tell if a bird is sick because the bird will have fluffed up feathers for greater insulation as it tries to maintain its body heat while other resources are being used to combat the illness. The first thing to do for a fluffed up bird is to provide extra heat and humidity through the use of the hospital cage environment described in the next section Many times a bird placed in a hospital cage environment will become well within a 48 hour period. If it does not recover in that time, then it should probably be taken to an avian veterinarian. Of course if the bird is obviously seriously ill you should take the bird in immediately.
When you see that a bird may be ill, one of the first things to do is to take his weight and compare it with your previous records. When you first get a bird I would suggest taking daily or at least weekly weight readings until you are sure the bird's weight has stabilized. Then take weight readings about once a month. This would allow you to see any trends and would serve as a comparison point of the bird became ill. A postage scale that reads in one gram increments is adequate for this purpose. The cost range is approximate 30 to 40 dollars
Baby birds that have not fledged can be placed directly on the scale. However you should place a piece of paper towel on the smooth metal before turning on the scale. Once the scale reads zero then place the baby on the paper towel. The towel prevents the baby's legs from sliding apart.
Adult birds that are not tame may need to be placed in a container like this to prevent them from flying away. Do not close an air tight lid if the container has one! Burma is a very tame bird and can not understand why it was necessary to put him inside this container. Like the paper towel above, place the container and lid on the scale and then turn the scale on. Once the scale reads zero, then place the bird in the container and replace the lid but do not press it on tight
When a bird is sick, it is often using body resources to
combat the illness and as a result there are less resources to provide the
necessary body heat. The bird responds by trying to provide more
insulation by fluffing up its feathers. (If a sick bird is not fluffed it
probably does not need to be placed in this environment). Thus one of the best
ways we can use to assist the bird in combating its illness is to provide an
environment with more heat, higher humidity, and the elimination of drafts.
The environment should also be free from stress as responding to stress also
impacts upon the birds well being. This also includes isolating the
birds from others in your flock. While most recommend complete
isolation, I usually allow the birds mate to be kept in this special
environment. The following should be part of this
environment for diamond doves:
If the bird does not start to eat and drink within a day, then forced feeding may be necessary. To start with I often use a warm, weak honey and water solution. I have also used Gatorade. Vriends (4) recommends using a Karo Syrup solution of one drop of syrup to an 8 oz. cup of water.. There are also commercial preparations of glucose that can be purchased. For emergency feeding we use a commercial baby bird formula. For a bird that is very weak we use the thinnest preparations that are prescribed for newly hatched babies. Feeding can often be accomplished by dipping the birds beak in the warm solution or if necessary by using a small syringe.
Hospital cages can be made from regular bird cages, large plastic file containers, or just a cardboard box The solid walls of a plastic container or cardboard box or towels over a bird cage will prevent drafts from reaching a sick bird. In the case of a plastic container or a box, a grate can be placed over the top to allow air transfer and prevent the escape of the bird. A grate removed from the bottom of a regular cage can be used. Perches are often not needed as sick birds may be too weak to perch. Water and vitamins are placed in one large bottle top ()3 inch in diameter) and the seed or pellets are placed in another large bottle top. Larger seed and water containers are not used because such containers may make it to difficult for a sick bird to eat and drink. A dark towel can be used to partially cover the sides and top of the bird cage to maintain a low light level. A lamp with an adjustable arm can be placed above the roof of the cage and the height and bulb wattage can be adjusted to maintain the proper temperature. A bowl of water is placed near the cage to raise the humidity. A thermometer and hygrometer can be placed inside the cage the cage but for best results should be inside the enclosure. A digital thermometer with a remote sensor can also be used.
List of Hospital Cage Contents and Equipment
Hospital cage water and seed containers
This light placement is not recommended for sick doves but it worked well for this dove and provided about 90 F temperature on the cage floor. This is a 15 year old dove that can not fly and has difficulty walking but has been doing well in this environment for several years,
Birds have a high metabolism rate and a high body temperature and thus can very quickly deplete their resources if they are not eating. After a few days they may be huddled on the bottom of their cage. If you discover a bird that is weak from lack of food, force feeding may be needed. If the bird is very weak, we begin with Gatorade (7 drops every 15 minutes for an hour or so)(2), a weak honey and water solution (same dosage), or a Karo Syrup solution (1 drop syrup per cup of water)(6). Then we use baby bird formula heated to the proper temperature and later make seed available in a shallow tray. Another alternative if you do not have and formula on hand is Gerber's High Protein Baby Food.
If a bird is not eating or drinking check its cloaca. It might be blocked with soft stools that have dried making it impossible to expel additional stools. In that case gently wash the cloaca with warm water until it is clean. A drop of warm mineral oil on the cloaca after cleaning may be helpful. A gentle massage of the area around the cloaca is also advised..
Soft stools can often be caused by stress and it often happens after a bird has been frightened. Once the stress is removed the soft stools usually end. Certain foods will also cause diarrhea thus the bird's recent diet should be examined for new foods that might be causing the problem. A number of times we have found that the use of parakeet diets or other diets with additives have resulted in soft colored stools. Normally we use finch seed for wild birds that do not have additives. We treat persistent diarrhea by using Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol. Dosage for birds about the size of diamonds would be 1 to 2 drops in the mouth three times a day. We have found a small syringe can be used to give such medications. A word of caution - once we gave a medium sized dove some Pepto-Bismol because of crop regurgitation and in a day she became extremely constipated and in the end need prescription medication to recover/ Thus I would watch for changes in stools very carefully and terminate the use of any anti-diarrhea medication sooner rather than later,
Gerstenfeld (2) states that constipation is not common in birds but we have had s number of instances where constipation has occurred. Causes we have experienced are listed below:
We feel it is very important to keep a constipated bird hydrated. Feces held in the intestinal tract will have more and more water extracted from them the longer they remain in the bird's body. The resulting hard stools are difficult to pass. If a constipated dove is weighed and is several grams below its normal weight, then I have attempted to give the bird enough water to bring him back up to its normal weight.
We always examine the cloaca to see if feces are pasted there blocking further elimination. If so we clean the vent area with soap and warm water. If the skin is irritated we apply Desitin to the area. If there is an infection we use Neosporin Plus Pain.
If there is no feces, we apply warm olive oil and gently massage the vent area.
If the feces in the vent is hard and cannot be expelled by the dove, we use a syringe with a small plastic tip to inject a small amount of KY Jelly into the vent. When we do this, we have found the dove will usually start pushing out the stool on his own. If the hardened stool does not come out using this method, others have written in saying they have used a cue tip to clean the stool out.
Other home remedies we have used are:
If you do not obtain results in 48 hours we suggest you contact your avian veterinarian for advice or treatment.
Four case studies are provided below for information only..
Birds may receive wounds while fighting with other birds, flying into sharp projections, or trying to escape from a pet cat. Surface wounds will heal quickly if properly treated. Use pressure over gauze to stop the bleeding. Then the wound should be cleaned with soap and hot water after the bleeding stops. Hydrogen peroxide or Neosporin then can be applied to the wound. Use tweezers to remove dirt other foreign particles. Clean the wound daily and reapply the antibiotic cream.
If the bird has puncture wounds or if the wounds are large enough to require stitches then you should contact an avian veterinarian as soon as possible.
Baby birds are sometimes raised in an environment that allows one or both legs to splay outward from the bird's body making it impossible for the baby to walk or perch. To prevent this from happening the baby bird should be raised on nesting material that consist of material that has long, thin, cylindrical shape such as dried straw, pine straw, or something similar like the thin 3 x 5 cards strips that we use. With the proper material the baby will grasp the nesting material with their toes and claws and thus keep their legs underneath their body. If babies are removed from a nest for supplemental feeding or other reasons they should never be placed on a smooth surface. I find it convenient to use a rough textured face cloth or towel. When they are placed on the cloth care should be taken to position their legs underneath their body.
However, if for some reason the baby's legs do splay outward the situation can be corrected. It is much easier to make the correction if the situation is recognized early and in these cases it may take only a few days. Birds that are older may need to be treated for weeks or longer. The method we have used in the past for diamond that were around two weeks old was to tie the bird's two legs together using a thick, soft yarn. Two people are need to undertake this method efficiently - one to immobilize the bird and one to tie the knots. A loop was tied around each leg using a bowline knot to prevent cutting of circulation.
The bowline knot will neither tighten or loosen once it is properly set. The length of the yarn between the two legs was 2 cm which was the distance between the legs where the legs come out of the body. Different distances will be required for different birds. This particular bird was being hand fed so it did not have to move about to find food. Nevertheless, the bird was unhappy with the restraint and managed to get out of it a number of times by pulling her foot out of the yarn loop. It was difficult to get the knot tight enough to prevent the bird pulling its foot out, but not so tight that circulation would be cut off. We now think it would be better to set the yarn up with the knots tied loosely as shown above, then place the birds feet inside the loops, and carefully tightening each loop as needed. Caution - it is better to leave the knot too loose then risk impeding the circulation by making the loops too tight and having to amputate the leg. As I recall we struggled with the bird for about four days and was about to give up. But by the end of that time we found that the bird was able to walk and has since fully recovered.
Kashmir Before Treatment
A Month After Treatment
If the bird appears highly stressed during the knot tying procedure then stop and try again latter. If you struggle to get the knots right and it take too much time, the dove will end up being excessively stressed. I suggest practicing tying the knots on some inanimate objects before trying the knots on the bird
Although none of my reference books mention this condition there is a considerable amount of material available on the web that include many more complex methods that are more suitable for birds that need to be restrained for a long period of time.
Helen Fahlsing's web site "Charlie's Bird House" describes a number of methods that she has used. Her method of using a soft split rubber tubing around each leg may be considerably more effective than the method described above. Placing split tubing around each leg from above the toes to the ankle distributes the force over the entire leg and minimizes skin abrasion and the possibility of cutting off blood circulation. Tape can then be used to close the split tubing and maintain the proper distance between the legs. The address to her page on splay legged problems is given below:
She also has links to a number of other sites that illustrate other methods. While these sites are not specifically for doves, most of the methods used probably can be applied to doves. I suggest someone who is thinking about treating a bird, take time to read all the material to see what they feel will work for best (easiest) for them. One of the methods used for a small bird was to place the bird's body inside a large syringe tube to prevent leg movement. Of course such a bird had to be hand fed and it had to be periodically removed from the tube.
Doves often experience soft egg shells, egg binding, soft beaks, and broken bones because of low level of calcium in their body. These low levels are usually caused by a diet that is low in calcium and the lack of sunlight or vitamin D3 from other sources to facilitate the use of the calcium by the dove. (Doves will synthesize their own vitamin D3 if they receive sufficient sunlight unfiltered by window glass; doves without access to unfiltered sunlight must obtain vitamin D3 by being given a vitamin supplement or by eating a pellet diet that makes up at least 70% of their food.
Dove hens that lay eggs every few days and do not incubate them to full term are the most likely to suffer form the symptoms mentioned above even if they are eating the correct foods and have sufficient vitamin D3. In nature diamonds and ringneck doves will lay a clutch of eggs once every three or four weeks. This schedule will not deplete normal calcium resources. Female doves without mates must be given a nest, nesting material and a suitable stress free environment that will encourage them to incubate their eggs to full term, other wise they may lay new eggs every few days.
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, bird kept indoors should have foods rich in calcium include crumbled hard boiled eggs with shell, cottage cheese, shredded carrots, and chopped greens. Also the American Dove Association recommends the use of a mixture of 80% Calcium Starter Grit and 20% granulated red fortified salt (for livestock) placed in a separate bowl. They also recommend the use of a small pellets such as Purina's Small Bird Maintenance Diet. Calcium can also be obtained from a cuttlebone attached to the cage wall. Dr. W. J Miller of Iowa State University also recommends the use of crushed limestone or crushed oyster shell. A liquid vitamin supplement that includes vitamin D3 should also be given
If your dove has experience any of the symptoms mentioned above then you may try some or all of the following:
To discourage egg laying on a temporary basis to minimize calcium use you can try the following:
After making the needed change, if the dove has soft shelled eggs or becomes egg bound again then take your bird to your avian vet. Ask her to provide you with a calcium shot and to give you Calciliquid or some other calcium medication to be given to your dove for a specified time - probably a month.
Leg and Wing Injuries (DRAFT SECTION - TO BE REVISED SOON)
The inability to put weight on one leg may indicate a broken leg bone or a strain (stretched ligament) or a sprain (torn ligament). If a bone is obviously broken then it needs to be splinted. If the bone has punctured the skin the would needs to be completely cleaned with peroxide or alcohol and then the leg should be pulled outward from the body until the bone goes back inside the skin. The wound should be sutured before splinting.
If the break is not obvious then the bid may not be walking on the leg because of a strain or sprain or even some other injury to the feet such as a torn toenail. If the bird is not better in three days then it should be taken to an avian vet. If the vet can not feel the break an x-ray may be needed. Breaks in the femur can rarely be felt as we found out in the first case below:
First some anatomy: The thigh bone (femur) is the one that is located between the pelvic area and the knee. The knee is well concealed under a mass of feathers but you can feel it by running your fingers up the leg. You can also feel the femur although it is not visible. The leg bone (tibiotarsus and fibula) runs from the knee to the ankle. The tarsometatarsus runs from the heel to the joint that the toes are attached to. Understand that the bird walks on its toes thus the heel (which appears as if it was a backward facing knee). But the real knee is forward facing like it is in humans.
Breaks usually occur in the metatarpus and the tibiotarpus/fibula as these two bones are much thinner than the the femur. Breaks in the first two bones are healed with the use of a splint, but the break in the femur can only be corrected with surgery and the installation of a pin which is not practical in most small or medium sized doves. Thus treatment for these breaks is simply to place the injured bird in an aquarium environment to restrict movement for at least a month.
CASE 1: A break in the thigh bone (femur).
The above x-ray was taken of our dove that had fracture in the femur or thigh bone. The vet said there was not anything she could do to splint this bone. She recommended keeping the bird in an "aquarium environment" for a month or more where her movements were minimized. I set up such an environment in a plastic container on my desk and the dove stayed quietly in the container for three days. On the fourth day she indicated she wanted to go back to her cage and that if I did not comply she was really going to raise a fuss. I removed her from the aquarium environment and placed her in her cage under the heat lamp that is located at one end of the large cage. She stayed quietly under the lamp for another three days and then she started limping around inside the cage. I felt sure the leg would never heal but in a few more days she was walking around, slowly, outside the cage. Within two weeks after the vet visit she was flying around the room acting like nothing had ever been wrong. If I had not seen the x-ray, I never would have believed the bone was actually broken. The motto of the story is never believe an injured bird will be cripple for life until an attempt has been made to correct the problem. I do think in this situation the room temperature of 90 degrees F may have been a significant factor. It should also be noted that the temperature under the heat lamp on the cage floor was between 100 and 110 degrees F. By reporting this I am simply describing our experience and am neither recommending for or against such a treatment.
CASE 2: A break in the foot bone (tarsometatarsus)
Two doves had been fighting and sometime afterward I discovered one dove could no longer walk. One leg was completely limp. As I recall it happened late in the evening so I could not take the bird to the vet until the nest day. The vet the leg, found the location of the break in the tarsometatarsus or foot bone and prepared to splint the bone. She gave the dove gas to relax the bird to make it easier to handle and to reduce stress. The bird did not respond well to the gas and fought the vet tech's efforts to hold the bird still while the vet applied the splint. The vet was ready to give up the process and I said I would hold the dove. I was able to keep the dove still while the vet applied three layers of tape to one side of the food that she held straight, and then she pressed three more layers of tape to the opposite site of the foot. Additional tape was applied on the edges where the tape strips met. I believe her instructions was to bring the dove back in a month so she could remove the splint and check the leg.
The dove was home for two days and on Saturday morning she put excessive force on the splint and bent it outward. I emailed the veterinarian several times on Saturday and Sunday but did not receive an answer until late Sunday night saying I should take the dove to her office on Monday. I did that and she removed the splint only to find that the leg had already fused in this awkward position. She said she could break the leg and then re-splint in its correction position, but since the dove had already been though so much stress I decided to leave her as she was. Now she manages to get around and can still perch with difficulty but my feeling is that she is angry and believed we should have done better for her. I have held her more than usual and I think she is recognized that we are sorry for what happened. At first her sister rejected he but she has come around and seems more accepting now..
My mistake was not removing the splint immediately and using the knowledge I had gained when I helped splint her in the first place to replace the splint in the correct position immediately and had a stiffener so it would be impossible for the same thing to happen again. This bird does not normally live in a cage and of course I should have forced her to stay in the a cage until she was well healed. Some lessons to learn is that doves do heal rapidly especially when the temperatures are warm. I think knowledge of splinting methods should be gained by people keeping doves as if you can not get the bird to a vet within a day fusing of bones in a bad position may occur. One should recognize though that splinting is not a one person job.
Dove with adhesive splint
CASE THREE Wing injury
When one of Charlotte Van Hoozier's (author of the diamond dove book) first babies was twenty days old she discovered the babies wing was hanging down. He had been trying to fly up to the top perch the night before and apparently he fell off and broke his wing. She took the dove to an avian vet and she found his wing badly bruised and swollen with a fracture in the humerous that was close to the joint with the ulna and radius.. The vet wrapped a small ace bandage around the one wing and the bird's body to hold the wing in place until it healed. As he could not keep his balance with the heavy bandage Charlotte kept him in a small padded box with a small stuffed animal to cuddle with. By the next day he was running around like normal despite the bandage although for a few more days he kept trying to remove it with his beak. The bandage was removed in 12 days and his wing still drooped a little but in four months one could never tell that his wing had been broken.
Although none of our birds have encountered breathing problems a few messages have been received concerning birds that throw their head back and seem to gasp for air. One of these birds, a baby mourning dove, was taken to a vet and was diagnosed with a protozoa disorder that resulted in the deposits of a cheesy substance in the throat and crop. Surgery was used to remove the deposits from the crop but the dove died a few days later. There are many other disorders which cause such problems and a bird with these symptoms should be taken to an avian veterinarian.
Bird's eyes can be affected by bacterial, viral, or mite infections, or a
deficiency of vitamin A. They can also be injured (by impact with
a sharp object) or irritated ( by too much dust in the cage environment),
or household chemicals such as aerosol sprays. Also a sinus infections
or abscesses can cause swellings around the eye. (2)
I have used Visine on doves eyes that seem to be irritated by dust. Doves suffering from excessive dust will continually blink their eye and rub their heads against their shoulder.
If you see whitish crust around the eye, beak, legs this might be caused by
the microscopic cnemidocarpus mites which tunnel in the upper layers of a
bird's skin. The crust can be removed with warm water if they have not
been present for too long. The mites can be suffocated on the legs and
beak by the application of baby oil.
Beak problems sometimes include clogged nostrils that need to be cleaned and improper growth of the beak which needs to be corrected by trimming the beak with the use of nail clippers or some other device. Beak trimming is necessary when the upper break grows longer than the upper beak, usually because a cuttlefish bone is not supplied, or because one is supplied and the birds choose not to use it. Beak trimming is sometimes necessary if the bird has a genetic disorder that results in crooked or misaligned beak. Microscopic arachnids can also enter the beak tissue which also will result in an abnormal curvature.
Beaks should be trimmed before they reach this length
Beaks sometimes need to be trimmed in older birds because the top beak grows faster then the lower beak and also because abnormal growth of either the top or the bottom beak. Only small amounts (I suggest between 1 mm and 2mmm lengths) should be cut at a time to check for bleeding as the blood vessel usually can not be seen inside the beak like it can with the claws. If bleeding occurs again a styptic pencil can be used as a remedy.
Although the top beak was too long before trimming, no bleeding occurred
Sometimes beaks become soft because of the lack of calcium and and hinder the bird's ability to peck seeds. This problem can usually be corrected by increasing the consumption of foods that contain calcium and either increasing the time spent in the sun or providing vitamin D3 in pellets or vitamin drops.
Beak curvature can also be caused by microscopic arachnids that burrow into the beak tissue causing different parts of the beak to have different growth rates which result in a curved or deformed beak. Beak trimming as described above may resolve the immediate problem but the mites can be killed by the application of very small amounts of baby oil to the beak, keeping the oil away form the nostrils. A sign of such an infestation may be whitish deposits on the beak and a dark rough texture of the beak surface which is normally smooth. Veterinarians have other medications that can be used if the above treatment is not successful. (2)
We have had birds that have had their nostrils clogged with a cheesy like substance. Sometimes this substance accumulates so that the nostril area of the beak becomes swollen and even infected. We remove this blockage by first taking a small piece of 3 x 5 card and cutting it in the shape of an arrow. Then we poke at the nostril until the substance is loosened and then protrudes slightly out of the beak. We use the piece of 3 x 5 card because it is soft and will not cause injury if the bird suddenly jerks its head as it will often do if anything is inserted into its nostril. A pair of small tweezers then can be used to gently pull the substance out of the nostril. (But do not ever use the tweezers inside the nostril).
Often the material removed will be larger than expected. Once the substance is removed the nostril may be found to be several times normal size. We apply Neosporin + Pain on the top of the beak and within a day the beak appears normal and any redness is gone. We expect this is caused by some kind of microorganism but none of the reference books I have on hand mention it
If you have provided two perches of different sizes, one of a small diameter and one of a larger diameter, then claws should not grow excessively.
Birds are usually able to keep their nails worn down. But if the nails have grown to the extent where the tips of the forward and backward nails meet or overlaps on the smallest perch, then the nails should be trimmed. Another guide is nails should be trimmed when the claw has grown so long so that when the bird stands, the curve of the claw is parallel to the ground rather than perpendicular to it. You want to trim the nails to avoid having them catch in or get caught on objects like cage wires or where the nails impede the dove when standing or walking. Nails can be trimmed with human nail clippers and if necessary they can be filed down with nail file. The blood vessels in most claws are visible thus it is easy to avoid making the claw bleed. Bleeding will occur if claws are trimmed too short. This bleeding usually will stop on its own but if not a styptic pencil can be used to remedy the situation. Remember that a diamonds blood supply is very small, so the loss of only a few drops can be serious. We trim our bird's nails to form a pointed tip which helps the dove grasp the perch bar or tree branch.
Diamond dove nail
Sometimes soft stools on the cage floor cause the accumulation of hard encrustations on the claws when a cage is not cleaned as often as it should be. Encrustations need to be carefully cleaned from the birds claws before they build up to where they make walking difficult. Extreme care must be taken to avoid damaging the birds toes in this process. The diamond doves feet are very small when compared to larger birds and their joints are very delicate. Encrustations can be cleaned using various tools. I have found pinching the encrustation (not the toe) with tweezers sometimes works. Often when this is done the mass will crack off of the claw and other times it will disintegrate into powder
Human Hair Problems
If any of the human family members have fine hair that is sometimes shed and ends up on the carpet and the doves walk on this carpet serious problems may occur. The doves often end up with strands of fine hair wound around their feet which must be removed to prevent loss of circulation in the toes and eventual amputation of one or more toes.
Often the bird ends up with so much hair around both feet that it can no longer walk and thus it gets your immediate attention. Then you need to sit down with the bird and very carefully cut away the hair without damaging the birds toes.
But sometimes the hair gets wound around the toes of one foot and if the birds does not pay much attention to the problem you may not be aware of a dangerous situation. So it is best to inspect the toes of all birds after they have been allowed out of their cages for hair they may have picked up.
Cutting away hair on a birds toes is usually a very frustrating job. But if you obtain a pair of suture scissors that has a hook on one of the blades, you will find it is incredibly easier to pull the hairs away from the toes with the hook before cutting the hairs thus eliminating the risk of cutting the bird's toes.
Broken Feathers: Broken feathers can result in severe bleeding. When feathers start to grow they have a very good blood supply which gradually decreases as feathers age. If a new feather is broken, the feather will bleed and not clot. Such a feather needs to be removed, with pliers if necessary, and then the bleeding can be stopped where the feather came out of the skin by use of pressure and/or clotting agents such as a styptic pencil. While tail feathers can easily be removed by holding the birds' body and pulling the feathers out, wing feathers require holding the wing to prevent damage to the wing joints when removing the feather.
Bleeding caused by injuries usually can be stopped by cleaning a wound and then applying slight pressure over a dressing. This required holding the bird by hand until the bleeding stops. A bird that has been injured then should be isolated and placed in the hospital cage environment described below.
Feather Loss: Doves usually have a light molt in the spring and a more complete molt in the fall. Some doves often loose so many feathers in the fall that people keeping these doves will write in and ask if they have a problem. Some have commented that their doves have small bald patches but few report that their doves have large patches of bare skin. I have had this happen when two doves are kept together as doves often preen each other's necks as a sign of affection. Sometimes they get carried away. Doves should be separated for a while if this occurs. But if you only have one dove then the problem is caused by other factors one of which is stress. Doves and other birds will often peck their own feathers when they are stressed, sad, or depressed. This can be caused by many factors such as:
A longer list of the causes of stress could be developed but the above provides an idea of items that might result in feather loss. Doves do not like changes because they can not predict what will happen as the result of those changes. Sometimes you can correct the effects of stress by spending more quality time with your dove.
One woman wrote in and after looking at this list she told me that when her computer died she bought a lap top and stopped spending time in the computer room where he ringneck's cage was located. She only went in the room to add seed and water and to clean the cage. As a result the dove started pecking her feathers and ended up with large bald spot on the neck and back. After spending more time with the dove the feathers grew back. She also noticed that the dove's laughing coo stopped until she went back to spending more time with the dove
There are many other problems that might cause feather loss such as malnutrition, internal disease, bacteria, yeast, or fungi infections in the feather follicles, external parasites, and hormonal imbalance. An examination by a veterinarian would be needed to determine such causes and what was needed to correct the situation
This is a serious situation. You have about 24 to 48 hours to treat the hen and resolve the situation or the hen may die. If the bird has not passed the egg in 36 hours, the dove should be taken to an avian vet to obtain a calcium shot which should result in the immediate passage of the egg.
Sometimes hens will have difficulty in passing their eggs out of their bodies. During the first few years of keeping dove we lost three hens to egg binding because we did not have the information necessary to correct this situation. Once we read about the use of the hospital cage environment which is described elsewhere on this page, we never lost another hen because of egg binding although we occasionally continued to have occurrences of this problem. We felt our birds became egg bound because of lack of calcium, perhaps lack of sunlight and vitamin D3, and also because some of the hens were too young to breed. Other causes are soft shelled eggs (also lack of calcium and vitamin D3), overly large eggs, stress, illness, and environmental changes.
Symptoms of an egg bound hen is a fluffed up hunched back appearance, listlessness, not eating, not passing stools, standing about stiff legged, not perching perching, and leg weakness.
The immediate treatment is to place the bird in a hospital cage environment with the appropriate temperature (85 to 90 degrees F.- 30 to 32 degrees C.).(2) and high humidity levels and protection from drafts. Use a thermometer and monitor the temperature frequently. Often fluctuations in room temperature will cause the hospital cage temperature to go outside of the 85 to 95 degree limits.
Humidity can be raised by placing shallow pans of warm water outside the cage
Warm mineral oil can be applied to the cloaca to facilitate egg passage. Mineral oil can be applied to the outside surface and and a small amount can be inserted inside the vent. (2). Often a few hours of this treatment is sufficient to allow the hen to pass its egg.
If the egg does not pass then next option is to provide calcium through either food (shredded low fat cheese, a liquid calcium supplement, or a calcium injection given by your avian veterinarian. Liquid calcium for birds can be ordered on the web but if you do not have any on hand when you need it you will only be able to get it form a veterinarian visit.. I have found that most pet stores do not carry this liquid. I obtained Calciliquid from my veterinarian for a bird that has low calcium but would not hesitate to use the liquid in case of egg binding.
If the egg is not passed within 24 hours or so the bird must be taken to an avian veterinarian. The second egg in a diamond doves usually is expelled from 24 to 48 hours after the first and will cause serious complications if the other egg has not been removed by that time.
While parasites are very common in wild doves, and are frequently found in birds housed in aviaries, they are rarely seen in birds that are kept inside ones home unless they are exposed to wild birds or birds kept in outside aviaries. Many people take in mourning doves that have been attacked by cats or other predators. They should be warned that these birds often have a number of internal and external parasite and thus should be kept away from pet bird cages. And if you clean your bird cages together then always clean your pet bird cages first and then clean the wild bird cages. For external parasites, you can obtain sprays to spray directly on your birds, fumigation dispensers that hang on your cage walls, or you can use 5% Sevin Dust under nesting material, under cage floor coverings, and also on the birds themselves.
There have been a number of times that we thought we might have feather mites because of the appearance of a birds' feathers but we never found them using normal detection methods. Nevertheless we have use bird cage fumigators, bird sprays, and 5% Sevin Dust just to be sure.
It should be noted that these parasites are bird specific and offer little threat to humans (5). However, people that handle wild birds such as rehabilitators, bird banders, and others should aware of the risk of infection from Lyme Disease carried by certain tick species.
There are five main groups of external parasites that infect birds - they are listed below: (5) All are large enough to be easily seen (3 to 5 mm in length) except the mites which are about half a millimeter in length or smaller.
Arachnida Ectoparsites (Subphylum Chelicerata, Class Arachnida)
This group includes mites and ticks which both have eight legs and belong to the Order Acarina
Feather Mites (Order Acarina, Family Analgesidae):
Itch Mites (Order Acarina, Family Sarcoptidae):
Nasal Mites (Order Acarina, Family Rhinonyssidae):
Red Mites (Order Acarina, Family Dermonyssidae): Red bird mites do suck on the bird's blood. They do not live on the bird except when feeding at night but hide in the cracks and crevices of the cage. They can be detected by placing a white face cloth on the cage floor and after feeding the mites will hide in the cloth bit can be readily seen as fast moving red dots.
Bird Ticks (Order Acarina, Family Ixodidae): Ground birds such as doves often are infected by ticks. They usually attack the birds' head area, close to the beak, eyes, and ears. Pet birds only encounter ticks when they are kept in outside aviaries or have contact with wild birds that have ticks crawling on their bodies. Embedded ticks can be removed by applying alcohol to the area around the tick and them pulling them out with tweezers being careful not to detach the mouthparts form the body and leaving them in the bird to cause an infection.
Insect Ectoparasites (Subphylum Hexapoda)
Parasitic Flies (Order Diptera, Family Hippoboscidae): Parasitic flies or louse flies are not usually seen on pet birds kept in the home. Treatment includes the application of a topical insecticide such as Sevin 5 dust taking care to keep the dust away from the birds, eyes, ears, and beak. The bird's cage should be cleaned with a disinfectant
Bird Lice (Order Mallophaga): Most species of this order are ectoparasites of birds. However about 15 percent of the species have mammalian hosts including humans. Birds purchased from a reliable dealer or breeder should not have these insects. If new birds are brought into your home they should be kept separately for several weeks to be insure they do not have these insects or other external parasites. Significant feather damage is an indication of the presence of lice. Excessive feather picking is also an indication of the presence of lice.
Bird Fleas (Order Siphonaptera, Families Tungidae and Dolichopsyllidae):
Endoparasites (Internal) Parasites
To be written. The following worms often infest wild doves and those that are kept in outside aviaries. Birds kept inside in cages almost never have these worms.
Other Bird Health Problems
Until an avian veterinarian moved to town we have had little luck taking diamond doves to a veterinarian's office. Diamonds are very small and difficult to perform surgery on. The high stress levels that result from surgery can easily kill a diamond dove.. We lost another diamond as the result of an operation that was to correct a blocked intestine. And someone wrote in about another diamond that died after having its crop operated on to remove cheesy like deposits left by a protozoa parasite..
The best solution for many illnesses is to provide the bird with a warm, humid place to stay undisturbed, and within a few days they almost always seem to mend. We have lost one female to a tumor, another to a colon obstruction, a few to egg problems, and several to problems related to the birds' old age (12-15 years or so). The others we have lost have escaped outside. If you have problems not mentioned here and want additional information you might try the following web site: Exotic Pet Vet - Avian Section or as mentioned before obtain one of the good books on doves included in the references section at the end of this page.
Elderly doves often need special care. As birds age they often loose their ability to fly and they may develop weakness or paralysis in their legs. They may suffer from joint problems and arthritis. They may become blind from cataracts or other diseases of their eyes. Their beaks may develop abnormal growth patterns that require weekly trimming to allow them to eat. And their claws may grow excessively and require constant trimming. I have also run into other illness of old age like the development of non malignant tumors. And although I have not run into it yet birds can get cancer.
Birds that can no longer fly or perch and also who have leg problems may soil themselves when they defecate and may need periodic bathing (and careful drying) - see below.
Water, food, and grit can no longer be placed in cage seed cups but will require low containers like large plastic bottle tops like those found on peanut butter jars.
They often need to be watched carefully less they fall in their water cup and become chilled and die. But if you find an old bird or even a baby that has fallen in water cup and has appears to be cold and dead, do not give up on him until you have attempted to bring his body temperature back to normal. Through experience I have found the best way to warm a bird is to immerse him in warm water (water that feels warm to your hands not hot) with only his head out until he shows signs of life. I would not remove him from the water until he has had the opportunity to become really warm. Then using a clean face cloth, paper towel, a lamp. and a hairdryer, carefully dry him off without allowing him to be chilled. This is a slow, time consuming process. Once completely dry he should be place under a lamp to insure his body temperature is maintained for an hour or more.
Most books indicate that diamonds only live for 10 to 12 years or so. Many of our diamonds died between 10 and 15 years and right now we have a pair of diamond (from our second generation) that are 20 years and 6 months old. The male's legs are paralyzed but he manages to shuffle around using his wings. However he still can fly. His mate flies and walks ok, but she has crossed beaks, is bald, and has a tumor under her wing which has to be periodically cut off.
King and China
Both Hatched Out in January 1985
The male of our second oldest pair is about 18 years old and his mate was purchased in 1989 making her at least 16 years old. He no longer flies and his legs are very weak. He has a bad eye infection which requires constant treatment and likes to sleep except when he is eating.
Currently all four birds are maintaining their body weight and show no signs of dying soon. The 18 year old male seems the worse as he always wants to sleep, but he too maintains his body weight.
Since the above paragraphs were written all four of the doves mentioned above have died.See A Tribute to China for up information about the last days of these four birds. China was the last to die at an age of 21 years.
(1) Brown, Danny, "Diamond Dove, Geopila cuneata", A Guide to Pigeons, Doves & Quail, Their Management, Care & Breeding, South Tweeds Heads, Australia: Australian Birdkeeper 1995, pp. 114-117
(2) Gerstenfeld, Sheldon L. V.M.D. The Bird Care Book, All you need to know to keep you bird healthy and happy, Reading, MA , Addison-Wesey Publishing Company 1989, pp. 232
(3) Gos, Michael W., Doves. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1989, p. 80-84
(4) Naether, Carl A., Diamond Doves" Chapter 7 of Raising Doves and Pigeons. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1979, pp. 94-99
(5) Proctor and Lynch, Manual of Ornithology, Avian Structure and Function, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1993, pp 340.
(6) Vriends, Matthew M., PhD., Doves, A Complete Pet Owner's Manual. Happauge, NY: Barrons Educational Series, Inc., 1994 , pp. 81-83
P. O. Box 367,
Tallahassee, FL 32302-0367
Last revised on May 14, 2012: