When Should I Take My Parrot to the Vet ?

To learn what my ten most common parrot health hazards are, go here

If my feathers don' look this good, go here

and here

Most of us parrots do not require vaccinations.

But to see what other wildlife (including parrots) sometimes receive, click on the ark.

Ron Hines DVM PhD

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Pet birds should be examined by an avian veterinarian whenever their behavior or personalities change for the worse.

Why Is That?

It is because most problems in pet birds can only be solved when they are caught early and corrected. Most problems presented to a me late in the disease cannot be solved or corrected. It is not necessary that the veterinarian you choose treats birds exclusively. But it is necessary that he has specialized post-graduate experience with birds or is himself/herself an experienced aviculturalist.

Many birds that we keep as pets are basically wild creatures. Wild things disguise or mask early signs of disease so that they will not be eaten. So just because your pet appears healthy to you is not a guarantee that problems are not brewing.

What Are Some Of The Signs That I Should Look For?

1) Weight loss
2) Change in Dropping Color or Consistency
3) Discharges From the Eyes, Squinting or Swelling
4) Discharge or change in Shape and Diameter of the Nostrils (nares)
5) Ruffled Feathers
6) Sneezing
7) Lack of Appetite
8) Inactivity in a Normally Active Bird
9) Carrying the wing(s) drooped below the body
10) Blood in the Cage or On the Bird
11) Open Mouth Breathing and Tail Bobbing (rhythmically going up and down)
12) Lumps on the body
13) Swollen Feet and Joints
13) Decrease in grooming and preening
14) Decreased talking, calling and singing
15) Sitting motionless on the floor of the Cage
16) Falling from the Perch or Limping or Perching on One Leg

Taking Your Pet To The Veterinarian:

When you bring your pet bird to a veterinarian, the vet will begin by taking a detailed history from you. He/she will wish to know where the bird was obtained. Imported birds have different diseases than those domestically bred. The vet will ask you detailed question about the bird’s diet. Birds on seed-based diets have a much higher incidence of nutritionally-based disease than those fed a pelleted diet. The vet will then examine the birds cage; perhaps while the technician weighs the bird. Birds of a single species tend to have very uniform weights. The cause of thinness or increased body weight should be explored. The technician will then prepare the bird’s stool for microscopic examination. Intestinal parasites, such as Giardia can cause weight loss, loose stools and feather picking. Next the veterinarian will examine the birds cage looking for evidence of abnormal stools, abnormal urine (the clear liquid portion of the stool) or toxic products within the birds grasp. The vet will check to see if perches are appropriate for your pet.

Unless the bird is exceptionally ill, the veterinarian will grasp and examine it. The vet will examine the eyes for evidence of intraoccular abnormalities infection or degenerative disease. He/She will examine the nares or nostrils and the surrounding cere for evidence of infection or vitamin deficiencies. The vet will listen with a stethoscope for the sounds of raspy respiration or fluid within the respiratory tree. He will examine the plumage carefully to look for evidence of external parasites, stress related feather abnormalities (stress bars), over grooming or viral plumage disease (PBFD). The vent or cloaca will be examined for signs of chronic diarrhea, papillomas or cloacal irritation. The vet will palpate the bird for evidence of superficial tumors and examine the abdominal area for evidence of increased intraabdominal pressure due to conditions such as egg-yolk peritonitis, liver enlargement or intraabdominal tumors.

Lab Tests That Might Be Run:

Because birds are such experts at masking the signs of disease, a yearly examination may also include laboratory testing of a sample of the bird’s blood. The cellular portion of the blood is examined to determine the number and nature of white cells present. Increased white cell count can be evidence of stress or infectious disease. Decreased number of red cells called anemia can be evidence of blood loss, metal toxicity or malnutrition. The liquid portion of the blood (serum) will be examined for evidence of liver, kidney, pancreatic or intestinal disease. The dark, granular portion of the stool represents the feces. It will be examined under a microscope for proper digestion and visible parasites. A slide is then prepared from this material or a cotton swab of the cloaca and stained with Gram Stain to determine the type of bacteria living in the bird’s intestine. The clear liquid portion of the stool represents the urine. This can be examined for clarity, specific gravity, and the presence of sugar (diabetes), protein or blood.

When any of the previous tests suggest the presence of a disease, other tests are available to specifically diagnose them. These diseases include bacterial Infection, viral Infection, hypothyroidism, diabetes, Chlamydiosis, Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, papillomatosis, and tumors.

Many veterinarians do not see enough avian patients in their practice to be fully aware of all the conditions and treatment options that are available. If this is the case, please refer them to the wellspring of Avian Medical information, Dr. Greg Harrison through his portal, http://www.avianmedicine.net/