By Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice)
“My bird has never been sick before, so I’ve never needed to bring him to the vet.” This is what I often hear from bird owners when I ask them whether their pets have ever been treated by a veterinarian. In fact, all birds should have regular veterinary check-ups. While there are many reasons your bird may need to be seen by a veterinarian, these are the most common reasons to take your bird in:
- To prevent disease is better for your pet (and for your pocketbook) than to treat disease once it occurs. A veterinarian well-versed in bird care can teach you about diseases commonly seen in birds, so that you’ll know what signs to look for before these conditions progress.
- To offer proper nutrition to meet the specific nutritional needs birds have. Providing proper nutrition is key to preventing illness. A knowledgeable avian veterinarian can teach you specifically what your bird needs to eat to stay healthy.
- To ensure your bird’s environment is correct in terms of heat, light, temperature and cage bedding. Just as with nutrition, birds have specific requirements when it comes to their environments, and there are so many products for birds that it’s hard to know what’s best. A veterinarian can review your pet’s cage set-up to help ensure that you are providing an appropriate environment and keeping up-to-date on the latest product recommendations.
- To understand normal vs. abnormal behavior, as the behavior of many birds can change throughout the year in response to variations in daylight cycle and temperature. A veterinarian who treats birds can provide you with a clearer picture of normal versus abnormal behavior for your type of bird, so that you’ll know when to be concerned.
- To establish a relationship with an avian veterinarian before you have an emergency. When birds get sick, there’s no time to waste. Most birds have such rapid metabolisms that they can’t go more than a day without food, or they become very ill. However, finding a veterinarian willing to treat birds (especially during the night or on weekends) can be very difficult. Knowing where to go when your bird has an emergency can make all the difference.
- To eliminate parasites that potentially can be transmittable to people. Just like cats and dogs, certain birds can carry intestinal parasites. By having your pet’s stool sample checked annually by a veterinarian, you’ll eliminate parasites that could steal valuable nutrients from your animal’s diet and infect your family.
- To make grooming simple. If you’ve ever tried to trim the nails of a flapping bird, you know how hard it can be, particularly if you’re by yourself. In fact, many bird owners are unable to trim their pets’ nails and often just let them overgrow. Veterinarians familiar with birds are generally very comfortable trimming birds’ nails, making grooming simple and safe.
- To find a safe place to board your pet when you’re away. Bird owners often have difficulty finding care for their animals when they go out of town. Many hospitals that treat birds also offer care when owners go away, so that you can have peace of mind when you travel.