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New bird, now what?

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Birds

We feel fortunate at Olathe Animal Hospital to have proactive owners who want the best for their new birds. A good bird owner realizes that, while a new bird may look and act perfectly healthy, a trip to the vet is one of the first and most important things to do. In fact, establishing a relationship with an avian vet BEFORE you need it is one of the best things you can do for your bird! This article will talk about what we look for in a new bird exam, and why you should schedule a wellness visit within the first month of buying/adopting a bird.

Birds have evolved in the wild to hide illness in order to avoid predators.  This “masking” of signs of illness has led to the misconception that birds get sick and die quickly.  This is why semi-annual physical examinations and laboratory testing are so important, because they can help identify problems before they become untreatable.

When you bring your bird to Olathe Animal Hospital, you will be asked to fill out an Avian History Form (or you can print and fill out the one attached to the link and bring it with you to save time).

A veterinary nurse (technician) will walk you into one of our exam rooms where we have specialized equipment for examining birds and other small pets and exotics. If you have specific concerns or questions that you want the doctor to address, be sure to mention them.

After the nurse takes a short history, the doctor will come in. Dr. David Miller is a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) and has had special training in avian medicine. Please note: AAV membership is different from being board-certified. There currently are no board-certified avian vets in the states of Kansas or Missouri.

The doctor will likely want to talk to you about your bird, cage set-up, etc. while observing the bird in its cage. When it comes time to examine your bird, the doctor may use a towel to help restrain it and allow for a thorough examination. Eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, feathering, body condition, heart and lungs, vent or cloaca, uropygial gland, wings, legs, and feet are all examined.

Small, flighted birds (canaries, finches, some budgies) will be weighed in a “birdie basket” so they hold still on the scale, and most other birds will perch on our specially-adapted scale. Birds are weighed in grams. If you’d like to know how many ounces your bird weighs, use an online grams-to-ounces conversion calculator.

An important part of a bird’s visit to the veterinarian is a discussion about nutrition and environmental enrichment. Avian nutrition is a whole other topic in itself, and the conversation that will take place will vary depending on what kind of bird you have. Any specific information you can provide, such as the brand name of food you’re currently using (or better yet, bring in the bag of food or a picture of it!), is considered very helpful and allows us to better tailor our recommendations.

Another good idea is to take a picture of your bird’s cage set-up and bring it with you for the veterinarian to see. Any other information you can provide, such as where the cage is located, toys available, and how much time (and where) the bird spends outside of the cage is also appreciated.

Routine wellness testing should be considered for all healthy birds. Blood work and fecal testing (a direct smear and a gram stain) are recommended for most pet birds, and we can discuss the specifics with you.

If you’d like your bird’s wings or toenails trimmed, let us know.

Remember, establishing a veterinarian for your new bird is one of the most important things you can do. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you need an avian vet and don’t know where to find one.

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