Intramuscular Injection of Birds (Disease Investigation & Control - Treatment and Care)

Click here for full page view with caption

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Treatment & Care / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords --
  • Restrain the bird properly
  • Choose an appropriate needle size. For small birds, use 26 or 27 gauge needle. For all others, a 23 or 25 g needle should be acceptable for most medications.
  • Choose the injection site. The most common areas used are the pectoral and thigh musculature, and less commonly along the vertebrae.
  • Disinfect the chosen injection site.
  • With appropriate consideration to needle length, insert the needle at an acute angle, not perpendicular to the skin.
  • Withdraw the syringe plunger to check intramuscular, rather than accidental intravenous, placement.
  • Inject the medication.
  • Remove the needle.
  • Apply pressure to the injection site using cotton wool to prevent seepage and minimise the risk of post-injection bleeding.
  • Check for bleeding.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Medications can be quickly and easily administered.
  • Exact dose may be given.
  • Potential good drug absorption.
  • Restraint time is usually minimal.
  • Because of its rich blood supply, the intramuscular route is perceived to be a route for more rapid absorption of drugs than the subcutaneous site, although this has not been well established in birds, and may vary with drug and formulation.
  • Injection sites should be rotated (e.g. alternating sides) to reduce trauma to any one area.
  • Owners of e.g. birds of prey which are flown, and racing pigeons, often do not approve of injections into the pectoral muscles due to concern over damage to the flight muscles.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Volumes must be adjusted relative to muscle mass. N.B. particularly important in small individuals (0.05ml in a canary is equivalent, volume-to-weight, to 40ml in a 25k.g. dog (B13.17.w16).
  • Not feasible in all birds.
  • Significant tissue damage may result from intramuscular injections due to volume, formulation and dosage frequency. Both haematoma formation and necrosis may result.
  • Injection may be painful.
  • Some drug concentrations may require multiple sites per dose.
  • Drugs injected into the thigh (femoral muscles) may clear through renal portal system before absorption in some species.
  • Small birds may not have sufficient muscle mass to accommodate any injections.
  • (Pectoral muscle injections) in downies/fledglings in which the sternum is still cartilaginous this may be penetrated, with the injection being given into the liver.
  • (Femoral muscle injections) risk of damage to nerve along posterior aspect of femur.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers Small syringes required for injections in small birds, e.g. tuberculin syringe which is marked in 0.01ml divisions, or microlitre syringe which holds 0.1ml total and is marked in 0.001ml divisions (B14).
Expertise level / Ease of Use Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be someone with veterinary training.
Cost/ Availability Not expensive unless expensive drugs are being administered.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery."(see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in particular bird species and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Author Debra Bourne
References V.w7, B11.5.w18, B13.17.w16, B14

Return to Top of Page