How strong can bird claws be

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Some birds can have claws that are too long or their beak lose their shape. However, this excessive growth is usually not the norm and therefore by no means occurs in every bird. Some birds are unaffected for a lifetime, others relatively often. If the beak and claws have to be trimmed once or twice a year, it is not necessarily always a cause for concern. However, the health of the bird should be kept in mind and not just offered a whetstone.

Why it is so important to take care of your health can easily be explained with reference to birds in which the claws and / or beak have to be trimmed more frequently: Budgies in particular, but also some other ornamental bird species, often have an organic disease like a liver problem behind the increased growth of the beak and claws. So it is by no means the case that the animals don't wear their claws and beak too little. No healthy budgie has to sharpen its beak regularly to prevent it from becoming too long. Only when something fundamental is wrong does increased growth occur. Bird keepers should therefore work with an avian veterinarian to clarify the actual cause of the increased beak and / or claw growth and not just treat the symptoms cosmetically by trimming the beak and / or claws again and again. Photo in this paragraph: © Kleintierpraxis Ralph Rückert

But it is not the case that a liver problem is always behind increased beak and claw growth. An infestation with grave mites can also lead to increased and, above all, crooked beak growth. It is essential to take action against the mites here. In budgerigars, the viral disease PBFD can also be behind increased or disturbed claw and beak growth. The abundance of possible triggers shows how important an exact diagnosis by an experienced veterinarian is in order to permanently get the problem of "excessive claw and beak growth" under control.

In addition to treating the cause, it is also important to shorten the claws and beak. Otherwise massive problems and risks can arise for an affected bird. If the beak is too long, after a certain point the animal can only eat food independently with great difficulty. In the worst case, the bird could even starve to death. Also, plumage care with a beak that has become too long is often only possible under difficult conditions. The two photos below these lines show a lovebird before and after shortening the initially much too long upper beak.

before, afterwards

Too long claws are often the cause of strained legs and toes. Because if the claws are too long, the animals often get stuck on fabric loops or other objects. As they try to free themselves, they tug their delicate tendons and muscles. In very serious cases it can even happen that claws are pulled out and the birds die from the resulting blood loss.

It is therefore important to shorten claws or beaks that are too long. However, caution is advised. Both parts of the body consist of horny substance, which is insensitive to pain and not supplied with blood up to a certain area, which is why laypeople should never lend a hand. Only very experienced pet owners can trust themselves to shorten the claws and also the beak at least a little bit, but ideally only when they have been shown the procedure by an expert veterinarian beforehand and an effective hemostatic agent is always available while the corrective actions are taken.

Danger: Never cut off too much horn on either the beak or the claws. The horny substance in the area of ​​the beak and also within the claws is traversed by fine blood vessels that are sometimes barely or not at all recognizable by the layman. If these blood vessels are damaged, the resulting blood loss can in individual cases be so serious that it leads to the death of the bird. In addition, the beak sits on a bony core that is very sensitive to pain if it is injured.

Shorten claws
The ones in the Claws Running blood vessels in many species of birds can usually be seen reasonably well if you look at them against bright light. However, if a bird has very dark claws, it is much more difficult and one should rather cut off less than accidentally injure a blood vessel, see the illustration in this paragraph, the bird has extremely dark, almost black claws.

But when is it actually necessary to shorten it? A good sense of proportion is required when assessing this issue. In this chapter you will find some photos to help you make a decision. The following images show budgerigars and Lineolated Parakeets whose length is just right. No shortening is necessary here:

Have the claws of this budgie
the right length, you don't have to
be shortened.

Have the claws of this budgie
the right length, you don't have to
be shortened.

Have the claws of this Lineolated Parakeet
the right length, you don't have to
be shortened.

The following illustrations show budgerigars and Lineolated parakeets that are too long.

There is clearly a far too long claw here
recognizable in a budgie (see arrow).

The rear claw marked with an arrow
Lineolated Parakeet is too long and turns
already a.

A standard nail clipper is usually quite suitable for shortening the claws of small birds, including budgies. However, the claws can splinter, so you should always have a nail file on hand so that any unevenness can be treated immediately. A hemostatic agent should also be close at hand, as you can never be sure whether you might accidentally hit a blood vessel or damage one due to the splintering of the claw horn.

Usually, cutting the front of the claws in a bird does not cause pain. It can be compared to shortening our fingernails for us humans. But: only those who can securely fix their bird by hand should cut their animal's claws themselves. Your vet will be happy to assist you and perform the "pedicure" for a few euros if you are unable to hold your bird securely or if your hands are trembling too much from the excitement. If you feel up to the task of being able to hold the bird securely and also have a steady hand, please note the following information on how to cut when shortening the claws:

Trim a bird's beak
This is an extremely sensitive topic for the layperson Shorten the beakbecause most pet birds bite constantly and it is difficult to fix them in the head area. Even some veterinarians have trouble cutting a bird's beak. It is problematic if you cut off too much beak horn and injure the bony inner area of ​​the beak. The immediately onset of bleeding can be so severe that the injured blood vessels have to be obliterated with great heat in order to prevent the animal from bleeding to death. In addition, shortening the beak can cause serious injuries to the tongue if the nail clippers or pliers slip.

In the photo in this paragraph you can clearly see the very short cut upper bill of a budgie. It was accidentally shortened too much, which unfortunately can happen very quickly. The parakeet began to bleed, but the mishap vet quickly stopped the bleeding. Fortunately, it was not necessary that the wound had to be sclerosed with a thermocautery, in other words, to put it simply, with a "medical soldering iron". Danger: Some birds with such a beak injury start bleeding again when they ingest food. If this is the case, and if the wound starts to bleed again and again, it is advisable to have a veterinarian treat it thoroughly.

But apart from the fact that shortening the beak can be associated with great dangers, the holder must first be able to recognize a beak that is too long. Only then can further steps be taken, including going to the vet to have the beak length corrected.

When is the beak too long?
It is often not easy for the layperson to recognize when a beak is too long and needs to be shortened. Unfortunately, there is also a common misconception that shortening the beak is a maintenance measure that must be carried out regularly for every bird. This is not the case, the beak only needs to be cut if it is actually too long. A rough rule of thumb for recognizing a too long upper beak in budgies is this: If the beak from its root to the tip is more than twice as long as the height of the nose (wax skin), it starts to get too long in most birds and you should contact a veterinarian to be on the safe side. Incidentally, some individuals naturally have quite short upper beaks. The graphics below illustrate the rule of thumb.

Budgerigar upper beaks of normal length

Budgie's upper beaks are too long

→ More photos of long beaks (birds other than budgies are also represented in the picture collection)

Use Dremel to shorten the beak?
In some internet forums it is recommended to shorten the beak with a Dremel. Laypeople are strongly advised against this! The danger of slipping with the Dremel and injuring the tongue or of shortening too much beak horn and damaging the bone core is too great! In addition, shortening the beak puts the bird's eyes at risk, as slipping it off easily can have devastating consequences if one eye is injured in the process. For all of these reasons, an experienced veterinarian should perform beak trimming, even if it comes at a cost.

Beware of grave mite infestation!
Never should with an infestationGrave mitesa bird's beak can be shortened on your own! In such a case, the beak horn is often porous and can break or splinter over a large area under the pressure of the pliers or the nail clipper. The photo in this paragraph shows a budgie whose beak was badly perforated and deformed by mites. In an attempt to shorten the much too long and crooked beak, its owner tore off large parts of the upper beak, only the bony core remained, which was also injured. The bird was very likely to have suffered extremely severe pain in the process. The female budgie was then no longer able to eat independently. In order to save the bird's life, the animal was placed in the hands of an experienced bird keeper. However, despite all her efforts, the female was unable to save it, and the budgie died due to the serious beak injury.