Does my bird really need a check up?
The most important visit is the very first one, right after you acquire your pet bird. A routine veterinary examination is recommended at least once a year. Your veterinarian may have very important reasons to see your bird on a different schedule so discuss it. The most important job a veterinarian has is to help ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible and hopefully never gets sick. This is called preventive medicine.
In the wild, birds endeavor to display a strong appearance even when sick. This is because predators will go after the weakest appearing bird in the group. By the time a bird actually shows an
owner that it is unwell, it has likely or often been sick for some time. During the examination the veterinarian may pick up subtle signs of disease. By the same token, an experienced, observant owner will be able to detect symptoms early. Early detection of an illness is very important for a favorable outcome.
Make sure your bird’s veterinarian is qualified to treat pet birds. Avian medicine has become a specialized part of veterinary medicine, and most general practitioners are not comfortable or knowledgeable in avian (pet bird) medicine. Ask the doctor about his/her qualifications. At a minimum, he/she should be a member of the AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians). Some avian veterinarians are also board-certified which means that they have undergone extra training and passed an extensive review and examination process by their peers. Being board-certified in avian medicine and surgery indicates an advanced level of experience and commitment to the profession. T hey have taken extra measures to ensure that they are on the leading edge of avian medicine.
You can locate avian veterinarians through the website of the Association of Avian Veterinarians at www.aav.org.
You can locate avian specialists through the website of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners at www.abvp.com.
What will the veterinarian do?
If possible, bring the bird in its cage so the veterinarian may assess the bird’s environment, food, feeding arrangement and some of the droppings on the bottom of the cage. If this is the bird’s first visit to the veterinarian then a lot of information will be gathered initially pertaining to you and more importantly, your bird. The age, sex, species, previous background the bird may have had, diet and length of current ownership will be recorded in the bird’s permanent medical record.
Your veterinarian may discuss or give you information regarding proper diet and care of your particular species of bird.
Visiting the veterinarian can be a stressful event for a bird but it is necessary to ensure good health. We recognize how traumatic the experience can be and so we do everything possible to minimize stress to our bird patients. We appreciate your cooperation with us to make visits as stress- free as possible. If at any time during your visit you feel that your bird is becoming too stressed or not doing well, please alert the veterinarian or a staff member. We have a variety of techniques to secure your bird in a towel for examination and we will work
slowly and cautiously with your bird to find the method that is the least stressful. For the safety of staff and your bird, we will almost always have a trained staff member restrain your bird for the veterinarian rather than have you hold them. Please let us know, up front, if your bird has any severe anxiety issues with toweling or restraint, or if there are special “tricks” for securing your bird for examination that will make it work as smoothly as possible. In some cases of severe anxiety, we may also recommend the use of midazolam, a mild sedative.
From the time you walk into the exam room, your veterinarian will observe the bird, first in its carrier and then while it is out of the cage interacting with you or the veterinarian. Attitude, posture, feathering, vocalizing, droppings, and physical condition are all noted. The bird’s weight is recorded. The bird will then be gently restrained and a complete physical exam performed. Any abnormalities of the eyes, ears, nares, mouth, skin, feathers, beak, wings, legs, nails, vent, chest, and abdomen will be noted.
The beak and nails may be trimmed with a nail trimmer, small scissors or Dremel rotary tool, depending on the size of the bird. Wings are clipped at this time if requested by the owner. An AVID microchip can also be placed in the bird’s breast muscles if requested. If present, the leg band will be checked and can be removed if requested or necessary
Will any lab tests be done?
Your veterinarian will discuss the need for diagnostic testing with you depending on your bird’s age, species, medical history, and what has been found on the examination. Wellness testing will provide further information important in assessing your pet’s condition. Some tests are performed routinely on apparently healthy birds to monitor the current state of health of the bird and keep abreast of gradual changes to their health.
Blood Testing – Blood testing can include hematology and serum biochemical. Hematology checks the health of blood cells and can help detect certain types of infections. The serum biochemistry checks for function and damage of some key vital organs (liver, kidneys, pancreas).
Specific Pathogen Testing – Additional tests can be used to detect infection with Chlamydophila (causes Psittacosis), polyomavirus, circovirus (Psittacine beak and feather disease), and many other pathogens of concern. Not all of these tests may be necessary and your veterinarian can help you select those most pertinent to your situation.
Fecal Analysis – Microscopic examination of the feces allows detection of internal parasites. This is only necessary in certain species under specific circumstances or when there are gastrointestinal symptoms present. As a general rule, most pet birds kept exclusively indoors, do not need this test performed.
Microbiological Testing – Stains of feces or oral/cloacal swabs can be used to determine the presence of abnormal bacteria and yeasts. Depending upon the findings additional tests such as a culture and sensitivity may be needed to determine the species of bacteria or yeasts and the proper treatment.
Medical Imaging – Using X-rays or ultrasound, the doctor can examine your pet’s body for abnormalities in the size, shape, and position of organs, screen for masses, and check bones and joints. Foreign bodies in the gastrointestinal tract may also be visible. We can also use ultrasound imaging to check texture of organs and detect cysts and tumors. It can also be used to detect heart dysfunction. In some cases, more advance imaging such as CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can be performed in cooperation with a local imaging facility. CT is a rapid process that can produce detailed 3D images in just a few minutes.
Anesthesia and Sedation – Many avian veterinarians recommend performing some or all of these tests under short-acting gas anesthesia, using an anesthetic like isoflurane. Your bird may also be given a short acting sedative injection. Most birds can be safely anesthetized for the short period of time needed to perform the diagnostic testing. It is usually much easier and safer to perform certain procedures, such as x-rays, on birds under anesthesia, as they are not stressed out when anesthetized and stress is a major factor in sick birds dying when handled. A bird that is relaxed is easier to position during imaging which allows us to produce more useful diagnostic images.