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How to Make an Anaesthetic Mask for Birds


Resourcefulness is one of the key attributes developed by necessity in veterinary practice.  Given the nature of veterinary work, with such a variety of species and breeds (each with their own particular anatomical quirks), specific commercial equipment may not always be available – and if it is, it may not be stocked on site, or suit the particular scenario that is presented.  Almost every veterinarian of my acquaintance has therefore invented, adapted or modified a piece of equipment or a clinical technique to solve a clinical problem, often with remarkable success. This simple hand-made anaesthetic mask for birds is a wonderful example of such resourcefulness.

Why make your own anaesthetic mask for birds?

Sick and injured wild or stray birds present to general practices on a regular basis. Providing gaseous anaesthesia or oxygen to birds quickly and directly can be extremely challenging if the practice you work for does not stock the wide variety of masks to suit the range of sizes of birds and lengths of beaks and bills you may be presented with.  Knowing how to customise masks for use in birds, using no more than a plastic bottle, some plastic wrap and some sticky tape, may therefore drastically change the options for treating and saving the lives of these patients.

Use of the masks

Presenter Dr Alex Rosenwax uses these masks in his veterinary practice in the following ways:

1. To induce anaesthesia in all birds

2. To maintain anaesthesia – for procedures in small birds (under 50-100 grams), and for short procedures in birds of all sizes. (Note intubation is often appropriate for surgeries in birds over 80-100 grams)

3. To provide emergency intermittent positive pressure ventilation (IPPV) in small birds under 100 grams (this is made possible by the seal created with this style of mask)

4. To rapidly provide 100% oxygen in an emergency setting to all critically ill and collapsed birds, while an oxygen chamber is set up

About the Presenter

This terrific equipment hack is presented by Dr Alex Rosenwax BVSc (Hons), MANZVS (Avian Health), of the Sydney based practice Bird and Exotics Veterinarian. When I first approached Alex to feature in this project, he asked me what our goal was. “To help save the lives of animal patients, and reduce stress in the veterinary workforce, by helping vets learn practical skills and knowledge more easily”, I responded. “I’m in”, he said, without hesitation, and welcomed us in to his practice to film him at work. In person, Alex is a friendly and dynamic personality, and gives every patient, from the smallest lizard, to the largest and most valuable bird, the same benefit of his full attention, compassion and extensive experience.

Need to know more?

Dr Alex Rosenwax regularly presents the Avian Medicine TimeOnline course via the University of Sydney’s Centre for Veterinary Education. The next intake is in October 2019.

Bird and Exotics Veterinarian has just opened a new 2 storey, purpose built, 5 veterinarian, avian and exotics hospital in Waterloo, Sydney.  Alex and his team welcome referrals for both bird and exotics cases. For details, see: www.birdvet.com.au

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