What to Do If You Cut Your Parakeet's Nail Too Short
So you've set out to clip your parakeet's nails and it's going well so far. You managed to get him in your grasp and into a secured position so you can snip at those little talons.
SNIP! There's one down! Armed with just a little bit more confidence, you prepare to clip the next one. With the clippers positioned just perfectly on that second nail, you begin to squeeze on the handles... And WHACK. He kicks just as you clip. It immediately becomes clear to you, as a little drop of blood emerges from the tip of his little nail, that you cut it too short and clipped the vein.
Hopefully, you're reading this before this happens to you. This article will help prepare you in case it ever does happen. But if you haven't been so lucky, and you are currently experiencing the crisis in need of instruction and guidance, just breathe. It's going to be okay!
Need instructions on how to properly cut your parakeet's nails?
How Short is Too Short?
First of all, let me explain just what it means to cut your parakeet's nail too short.
Every parakeet has a little vein in their nail, called a "quick." It runs through the upper part of the nail, and usually ends at about the halfway point. Since most parakeets have lightly colored nails, the quick can be seen if you look very closely. It looks like a tiny red line.
If you clip the nail too short, the quick gets clipped too, leaving that vein open and exposed.
Please keep in mind that that if you clip your parakeet's nails yourself, this is bound to happen to you once or twice. No matter how careful you are, accidents do happen.
Here's what you should do if you accidentally cut your parakeet's nail too short.
What happens to birds who break their nails off too short in the wild? Do they suffer incessantly? No. Do they bleed out and die? Absolutely not. Do they develop a debilitating infection? Not likely. This happens to birds, wild or domesticated. There's no reason for panic in either environment.
What Do I Do?
Believe me, I know this is scary. You are holding a little bird whose nail you've just hacked off, and he is now bleeding at what seems like a very rapid pace. But no matter how scary you may find this situation, it's important that you stay calm.
This has happened to me twice in my seven years of clipping my parakeet's nails. The first time, I absolutely panicked. My first instinct was to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, so I used the cloth I was holding my parakeet with to pinch the nail for a little while. But when I removed the cloth, little drops of blood kept emerging from his nail. Putting pressure on it hadn't helped at all! My panic at this point made things much worse. I managed to stress myself and my parakeet out much more than was necessary.
So here's the moral of the story: I know you're worried, but your parakeet is going to be just fine. Despite what it looks like, he will not bleed out, and he will not die.
This situation will go much more smoothly if you just take a few deep breaths before you continue, and keep your cool from here on out.
This can all be done while you're still holding your parakeet. I strongly advise you not to let him go, at least not until the bleeding has stopped. He's stressed, and if you let him go, he probably won't let you catch him again anytime soon.
Clean the Broken Nail
When I cut my parakeet's nails, I always clean them off first just in case. This way, if one gets cut too short and there is an open wound, the area has already been disinfected so there is very little chance of bacteria entering the wound. I do this by dipping a clean cotton ball in a little bit of diluted rubbing alcohol (I dilute it with warm water, so that it's not so harsh and smelly), and wiping the nails off. Then, I run his little feet under lukewarm water so that all traces of the rubbing alcohol are washed away.
If you haven't done this beforehand, though, just rinse the nail with lukewarm water. Do not try to use rubbing alcohol on an open wound! It will burn and it will make a terrible time for your poor parakeet! Warm water will do just fine at this point.
Do whatever you can to keep your parakeet as calm as possible. If he is stressed out, his heart rate will be elevated, which pumps blood through his veins more quickly. Calming him down will help slow the flow of blood to the nail.
Stop the Bleeding
Don't bother trying to put pressure on the area like I did. It won't work. The vein is inside of a solid nail and any pressure put on the area won't even affect the vein that's bleeding.
Instead, use a little bit of cornstarch, which is essentially what baby powder is. Just make sure it's not scented or medicated. You can also use flour, but it may not work as well as cornstarch will.
Pour some into the palm of your hand or a small cup or bowl, and dip the bird's nail in it. It will act as a caking agent and it will clot the area up, blocking the flow of blood. You may need to dip the nail more than once before it effectively stops the bleeding.
It is very important that you dip the nail into the cornstarch, instead of pouring it onto the nail. Powdery substances are messy, and if poured it may end up on the parakeet's face. If it gets in his eyes or if he inhales any of it, this could be very dangerous.
If you absolutely must pour it, do it very slowly so it doesn't cloud up in the air your parakeet is using to breathe. And be very careful not to let it get in his face.
Keep An Eye on Him
Once the bleeding has stopped, you can return the parakeet to his cage. Try to keep a close eye on him for a while, and don't let him bite at the nail. As soon as possible, thoroughly wash his perches and any toys or other gadgets he's likely to be climbing over. Keeping his cage clean will help reduce the chances that the nail will get infected before it's had a chance to heal.
Don't Be Afraid to Call a Vet
If you still have any concerns about your parakeet's nail, contact a veterinarian. It never hurts just to have your parakeet's nail checked out by a professional, just in case. Your vet can answer any further questions you might have, or provide advice and guidance. Never hesitate to turn to a vet if you're in doubt.
Also, feel free to ask any additional questions you may have in the comments. And if this has happened to you before, please share your advice with the rest of us!
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© 2013 Kristen Haynie