If you own a bird, such as a chicken or parrot, you should make sure to take your animal to see an avian vet. Most veterinarians have training in domesticated animals (i.e. cats and dogs), but not necessarily with avian or exotic animals. In many cases, courses on these types of animals are electives, if the vet school offers them at all. Avian vet board-certified specialists, on the other hand, go through 3-4 years of additional training and exams after vet school in order to specialize in avian medicine. They are members of the Association of Avian Veterinarians and are constantly staying on top of the latest research and information about bird medicine.
A bird veterinarian can:
Conduct advanced exams and diagnose illnesses.
Prescribe medications and give dietary/treatment recommendations that are specific for birds.
Perform surgeries and endoscopies when necessary under careful anesthesia.
Many dog and cat veterinarians will still see some birds, such as finches, canaries or even small parrots, but if you’re looking for a specialty avian vet nearby, it’s important to double-check the different species each vet sees, and to really question the experience and knowledge of the veterinary care provider. The pets we treat at LIBEVC include birds (poultry included), small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and fish.
Why Should I Take My Bird to an Avian Vet?
There are many instances where you would want a bird vet (and not just any animal doc) to see your feathery friend. Here are 4 of the ways that an avian vet can offer your pet exactly what he or she needs:
1. Initial Exam
After you’ve acquired your bird, it’s very important that you make a visit to an avian vet. Your vet will do a full intake of your bird, noting their weight (usually using a digital gram scale), age, sex (if known), and where your bird was obtained. The vet will do a full physical evaluation, checking out points such as the eyes, ears, beaks, wings, plumage, spine, etc. The heart and lungs will be inspected with a stethoscope. It’s recommended that you have this initial exam within the first month of having your bird. They’ll also take down previous health problems, if known. It’s helpful to bring along any previous medical records that you might have access to. Most importantly, in the initial exam your avian vet will discuss the care and husbandry for the particular species and how to prevent illness and unnecessary emergency visits. They will also discuss the behavior and training aspects of bird ownership. Many vets also recommend checkups at a minimum of twice per year to ensure that your bird has a healthy, happy life.
2. Diagnosing Illnesses
Many health problems in birds are not observable from sight alone as birds frequently attempt to hide any signs of illness. Avian veterinarians are trained in the often subtle signs of illness or injury, and can recommend wellness/diagnostic tests if necessary. To see what’s wrong, the vet will conduct a physical exam that might include initial screening tests for parasites, viruses, or bacteria, and blood tests for determining the sex of the bird if not known (important since knowing the gender of a sick bird in advance can help the vet quickly diagnose what’s wrong), and to monitor their organs. CT scans and interventional endoscopies might also be used to diagnose illnesses, but not many vets utilize this technology (though this is a subspecialty of LIBEVC). You should make sure to discuss vaccinations as well. Some tests that might be administered will require your bird to be placed under short-acting gas anesthesia. It will help your bird avoid feeling stressed out, and allow the vet to perform the procedures safely. Note that some symptoms are physically evident, such as labored breathing and seizures, and will require immediate medical attention.
3. Basic Care
Your avian vet can guide you on how to properly take care of your bird. They’ll cover topics such as housing, feeding, and grooming. It’s important to have the appropriate cage for your breed, in addition to accessories like foraging feeders, water bottles, and toys. They can also go over the best foods and snacks for your animal. Avian vets are experts in bird welfare, and can even help you with little details, such as the fact that your bird will be happier near natural light but away from drafty areas, that will make all the difference in your bird’s quality of life.
4. Behavioral Issues
The vet can help you understand normal and abnormal bird behaviors, and suggest behavioral modification techniques to help your bird if behavioral issues are present. At LIBEVC, for example, we offer parrot care guides and tips on bird enrichment, so you can keep your pet parrots engaged and happy. We can help you understand what to do if your bird is screaming, biting, or plucking its own feathers. Sometimes normal bird behaviors are misconstrued, and education can help you better understand your animal, resulting in a better relationship for you both. Often, a fix can be as simple as an environmental adjustment. For example, if your bird is displaying territorial aggression, moving their cage from a high traffic area could partially solve the issue.
If you want to help your bird live his or her best life, it’s worth finding a nearby avian vet. Search for an AAV-certified vet today to keep your bird healthy for years to come.
Live in New York, New Jersey or Westchester County? Book an appointment for your bird!