While owls are adept at managing life in the wild, they sometimes encounter challenges, such as dehydration, especially in particularly hot or arid conditions. Dehydration can pose severe threats to these birds, compromising their health and functionality.
If you happen to come across a dehydrated owl, timely and appropriate intervention can be crucial. In this guide, we’ll provide a step-by-step approach to assist a dehydrated owl, ensuring it gets the care and hydration it needs.
How to Rehydrate a Dehydrated Owl
If you suspect an owl (or any wild bird) is dehydrated, it’s essential to exercise caution and to prioritize the animal’s welfare. Here’s what you should do:
- Contact a Professional: If you believe an owl is dehydrated, your first action should be to contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center, veterinarian, or animal rescue service. They have the expertise to safely handle and treat wild birds.
- Handle with Care:
- If you must handle the owl, wear gloves and use a soft towel or cloth to gently wrap the bird to prevent it from flapping. This protects both you and the bird.
- Approach the owl calmly and quietly to minimize stress.
- Provide Shelter: If you need to wait for a professional to arrive:
- Place the owl in a well-ventilated box or carrier. Make sure there are air holes.
- Keep the box in a quiet, dark, and warm location, away from pets and human activity.
- Water Provision:
- Do not try to force water into the owl’s mouth. This can cause aspiration.
- Instead, you can provide a shallow dish of water inside the box. However, if the owl is severely weakened, it may not drink on its own, and the primary goal is to get it to a professional for rehydration.
- Avoid Feeding: Do not try to feed the owl. The wrong type of food, or feeding a dehydrated bird, can cause more harm.
- Transport to a Rehabilitator: As soon as possible, take the owl to a wildlife rehabilitator. They can provide the necessary treatment, including safe rehydration, and care for any other potential issues.
- Minimize Stress: Always remember that wild birds, including owls, can become highly stressed when in human care. Limit handling and keep noise and disturbances to a minimum.
In any wildlife emergency, including suspected dehydration, the best course of action is always to consult with or hand over the animal to professionals who have the training and resources to provide appropriate care.
It’s essential to note that if you find a dehydrated or injured wild animal, including owls, the best course of action is to contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian. Handling wild animals requires special care and expertise to ensure both the animal’s and your safety. This guide aims to provide general knowledge, but professional help should always be sought in such situations.
The Importance of Hydration for Owls
Hydration plays a vital role in the well-being of any living creature, and owls are no exception. While owls primarily get their hydration from the food they consume, water is still essential for normal bodily functions. Water helps with digestion, blood circulation, and regulating body temperature. It is crucial for owls to maintain a proper balance of fluids in their bodies to stay healthy and thrive.
Why Owls Rarely Drink Water
As mentioned earlier, owls rarely drink water directly. This is because most of their hydration comes from the food they eat. When an owl consumes its prey, it also ingests the fluids present in the prey’s body.
Owls have adapted to extract and utilize water from their meals efficiently. They can derive approximately one gram of water per gram of fat from their food. This helps them meet their hydration needs without relying on external water sources.
When an Owl May Need Extra Hydration
Although owls are well-equipped to obtain hydration from their diet, certain circumstances may require them to seek additional fluids. Harsh weather conditions and extreme heat can increase an owl’s water requirements. They may need more water than usual to stay cool and hydrated.
Owls kept in captivity should always have access to water in case they feel the need to drink. It is important to note that if an owl goes without eating for several days, it is likely to become dehydrated and would require immediate attention and fluid administration.
Administering Fluids to a Dehydrated Owl
When faced with a dehydrated owl, it is crucial to provide the necessary fluids promptly to avoid organ failure and potential death. Administering fluids to an owl can be a delicate process, requiring caution and care. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to rehydrate a dehydrated owl:
Step 1: Wrapping the Owl
To ensure the safety of both the owl and the person administering the fluids, it is essential to securely wrap the owl. This can be done using a blanket or towel. Lay the towel on a flat surface and place the owl at one end. Make sure to wrap the owl tightly enough to keep it secure, but never too tight that it restricts the owl’s breathing. The wrapped owl should resemble an ice cream cone.
Step 2: Preparing the Fluid
Gather some slightly warm water and mix in a small amount of glucose or sugar. The recommended ratio is approximately 1.5 teaspoons of sugar to 1 cup of water. Alternatively, one can use the recommended amount of oral rehydration salts. This solution will provide the owl with the necessary hydration it needs to recover.
Step 3: Using a Paint Brush
A small paint brush can be an effective tool for administering fluids to an owl. Dip the brush into the prepared fluid and gently hold the owl’s upper beak. Dab the brush into the owl’s mouth, making sure to wait for the owl to swallow each dab before administering more fluid. This method ensures a controlled and stress-free administration of fluids to the owl.
Step 4: Using a Syringe
Alternatively, a 1ml syringe can be used for a slightly faster option. However, it is important to exercise caution and avoid pushing the syringe too quickly, as it may cause discomfort or injury to the owl. Aim to administer approximately 3ml of fluid during each session, waiting for the owl to swallow before continuing.
Recommended Amount of Fluid
For a dehydrated owl, it is recommended to administer 5-10ml of fluid per day. Splitting the sessions into smaller amounts, such as 3ml at a time, can be more manageable for the owl and the person administering the fluids. If a larger syringe is required, it is advisable to seek assistance from a professional animal handler to ensure safety and minimal stress.