Amoxicillin (and ampicillin) are effective against many gram postive and some gram negtive bacteria. Most of the infections that birds have are gram negative, so penicillin based products won’t work with most infections. Amoxicillin (penicillin based) is used for cat bites in birds with good results, as Pasteruella is a gram positive bacteria.
The penicillin antibiotics have limited use in birds except for Pasteurella infections. For cat bites, Amoxicillian is a better choice to use, not because it works any better but because the less we use Baytril (see below), the better chance we have of not causing a resistant bacteria to develop.
Clavamox is also a penicillin product. It combines Amoxicillin and Clavulinic Acid. Clavulinic Acid has no antimicrobial activity of its own, but inhibits a bacterial enzyme that inactivates many penicillins. This combination may offer better protection against both gram negative and gram positive bacteria.
Trimethoprim/Sulfonamide (Bactrim) is often used as the drug of choice with baby birds. It is sulfur (sulfonamide) based and is good for both gram negative and positive bacteria. No side effects have been reported in birds. You can order Fish Sulfa Forte, which is essentially Bactrim.
Tylosin is used mainly to treat conjunctivitis in birds.
Clindamycin is used to treat anaerobic (cannot grow in the presence of oxygen) infections in birds.
Ciprofloxacine (Baytril) is a broad spectrum antibiotic addressing a wide range of both gram negative and gram positive bacteria. It has a long shelf life and treats a broad range of infections. If you can’t have gram stains done to identify the type of infection, or you need to start treating right away without waiting for cultures to grow, this is the product most often used. Baytril is also less likely to play havoc with good gut flora than some other antibiotics.
It is excellent for Pasteurella infections (cat bites), although Amoxicillin is preferred to help in preventing the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One of the reasons that Baytril is a preferred antibiotic for birds is that it has a huge margin of safety, so even 10 times the correct dose wouldn’t seriously harm a starling bird.
You can order Fish Flox, which is essentially Baytril.
The dose for Baytril is 15mg/kg. Most of the bird drug charts give a fairly wide range for bird doses as not much research has gone into it.
Baytril tastes awful, so if you have difficulty giving it to your starling you can put it into a tasty treat, particularly something they’re not usually allowed. Say, small chunks of muffin or banana bread, and let them “steal” it.
Estimating Oral Dosage
The factors in calculating a dose are:
- The dosage required for the species (in mg per kg body weight usually)
- The weight of your European Starling bird (in grams)
- The concentration of the medication (in mg per ml)
You can estimate the drug dose by multiplying the bird’s weight by the drug dose, divided by the drug strength. The following examples use Baytril.
Assuming a European Starling weighing 85 grams, you would take 0.085g (bird’s weight) times 15 mg/kg (say, Baytril’s dose), then divide by the strength of the product (say, 250 mg for Fish Flox). Unfortunately, this results in an insanely small number (0.0051 cc). So let’s adjust some of the numbers for more accurate dosing.
Most adult starlings weigh about 100 grams, so we can just simply assume this for easier math in the case of Baytril (due to it’s high safety margin). In this case, you would take 0.10g (bird’s weight) times 15 mg/kg (Baytril’s dose), then divide by 250 mg (the strength of the product). This gives you 0.006 cc as a result; still impossible to accurately dose, but a step in the right direction.
100g/1000kg × 15mg/kg = 1.5mg dose
1.5mg ÷ 250mg = 0.006cc
To gain some leverage, we can dilute a small amount of the liquid Baytril. Since we’ll be treating for 7 days, we’ll need a total of 14 doses. You can just measure that out in total and add 0.5 ml or 1.0 ml of water, and split up the doses.
All of this assumes that you are dissolving the dose in 1 cc of water, given twice a day for 7-10 days. You’ll want to make a fresh batch each day.
One caveat is that with such tiny amounts, there’s a certain amount of loss due to the liquid sticking on the sides of the syringe. Often, there’s not enough left for the last day’s doses. Making twice as much total solution and throwing out the leftover amount can help. Make sure you give the vial a shake before measuring each dose, and keep it in the refridgerator.
Oral Antibiotics in Water
Never put antibiotics in the drinking water. It doesn’t matter what the packaging says. It’s not possible to know how much medication your starling bird is actually getting, and the medicine can give the water a funny taste so that your bird drinks less. The last thing you need is your bird getting dehydrated on top of whatever problem she already has.
Triple antibiotics like Neosporin contains (as the name implies) three antibacterial agents: bacitracin, neomycin and polymyxin B sulfates. These three active ingredients work together to kill germs be weakening their cell walls and slowing down bacteria protein synthesis. This helps to cause bacteria cells to die off, keep the wound clean and prevent infection. If it includes the phrase “Pain Relief”, then a fourth pain-targeting ingredient is included.
You’ll want to use Neosporin Cream (not ointment) in treating topical injuries for birds. The ointment is often mixed with a petroleum base that helps to evenly distribute the ingredients. However, the ointment can get on their feathers and affect their ability to fly (messes with the process that keeps the feathers together).
In a 2012 research study on treating burn infections, Neosporin was less effective than using silver sulphadiazine against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus spp. and group D streptococci. However, silver sulfadiazine Cream USP 1% is available by prescription only.
DMSO (Dimethyl sulfoxide liquid) is not an antibiotic. Used alone it relieves pain and swelling, but does not address infection. However, if you mix the normal dose of your antibiotic with DMSO, the DMSO will pull it into the tissue if applied topically to the injury. This can be especially useful for leg injuries. It is very hard to get antibiotics into a bird’s leg as there is only one vein, so medicine is not carried well into the bloodstream of the leg and foot.
Disclaimer: As always, consult your avian vet before treating a sick/injured starling bird or administering any medications.