Avian Analgesia

Key Points

  • It is often difficult to recognize pain in the avian patient. A bird may respond to pain by becoming restless, inappetant, reluctant to move or vocalize, or by a change in personality. The bird may refuse to groom or may over-groom, feather pick, or even self-mutilate over a painful site.
  • Although pain may be difficult to recognize in the avian patient, ask yourself: Would this hurt me? Does this lesion or procedure damage tissue? Is the patient behaving abnormally?
  • Provide preemptive analgesia whenever possible.
  • Birds may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of local anesthetics than mammals
  • Studies in pigeons have demonstrated that they have more kappa opioid receptors in the forebrain and midbrain than mu receptors, which might partially explain why birds do not respond to mu agonist drugs, in the same manner as mammals.
  • No single drug or class of drugs can be used to treat all pain because the mechanisms of pain are multi-factorial and can be initiated from both peripheral and central sites. Consider use of a number of drugs to provide analgesia.

Pain assessment in birds is very complex because it requires consideration of differences in age, gender, species, individual behaviors and environmental factors. Birds may exhibit different behaviors or may hide painful behaviors when outside of their home cage. Predatory species may exhibit painful behaviors more readily than prey species. Many clinical signs may be associated with pain in birds including . . .

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