Bird Health Examination

Birds, like all pets, should be taken for regular, usually annual, veterinarian checkups. Owners of birds should be careful to seek out a board-certified avian veterinarian since most vets who treat dogs and cats are not sufficiently familiar with avian health care. This is important because birds, unlike some other pets, frequently evidence only very subtle symptoms of disease. The annual examination is also a good time to discuss any concerns about the bird's health or behavior with the doctor.

Newly acquired birds should be examined within the first week of adoption to detect any possible illness and to make sure the owner is well-informed about how the new pet should be taken care of. The new bird should be kept isolated from other birds for 3 to 4 weeks following adoption. The avian vet will take care to make this possible at the first examination. Hopefully, the new bird will check out as perfectly healthy, but, even so, some baseline assessments must be made to ensure future health.

Medical History

The avian vet will take a full history of the bird, including its age, diet, activity level, and previous environment. Any contact the bird has had with other birds, direct or indirect, is pertinent. Indirect contact includes visiting bird shows or aviaries or eating food purchased from pet shops with open containers.

Physical Examination

The avian veterinarian can tell a great deal from the bird's appearance, including its feathers, skin, beak, eyes, ears, nose and throat. The bird's posture and attitude are also noted. The vet will check the bird's respiration, bones, abdomen, muscles and vent (rear opening) to make sure all its parts are in good working order. Even its droppings will be examined for normalcy of color and composition.

The bird is always weighed during a physical examination, in grams rather than ounces for accuracy. This is important for the doctor to have as a baseline, since, once the bird is full-grown, it's weight should remain constant.

Diagnostic Testing

The veterinarian may decide, based on the bird's age, physical condition, species, or history, to administer other diagnostic tests to detect or rule out disease or imbalance. These tests may include:

  • Blood count
  • Chemical blood work
  • Examination of blood for parasites
  • Cell cultures to check for bacteria or yeast infection
  • Screening for certain viral infections
  • X-rays

Tests for viruses are particularly important for birds in households with several birds, birds who live in aviaries and birds that are to be used for breeding. Screening tests for psittacosis, commonly known as parrot fever, are often performed because this pathogen can be transmitted to humans.

If X-rays are necessary to examine the bird for foreign bodies, fractures, tumors, foreign objects or lung conditions, the bird may be briefly anesthetized for this portion of the examination.

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