Something posted on Birdtricks Facebook page the other day prompted this topic. Thanks Chris Padgett for sharing your story about Lucas.
Aside from your expectation that your vet is armed with the medical know-how to save your bird’s life in an emergency, it is also your vet’s job to be a counselor, of sorts. Your vet must be the type of person with whom you are comfortable enough to ask questions and discuss fears. Your vet should be able to discern what kind of bird owner you are and know how to gently guide you into being a better one. Your vet should take your hand when the news is bad. Your vet should have the wisdom and compassion to say: “We’ve done everything that can be done. It’s time to let her go.”
Gone are the days when a doctor’s words are taken as gospel. It is no longer acceptable to go home with a bad feeling in your gut thinking: “Well, the doctor says I should do this, so this is what I will do”. Today, people are encouraged to actively participate in their treatment and that of their pets, rather than be subjected to it. Listen to your gut. If it is telling you that something isn’t right, get a second opinion.
That said, I strongly recommend that utilize an avian vet if one is available in your area. Not all avian vets need to be board certified to be considered qualified to be your vet. While board certification requires 6 years of documented hands-on experience with birds in practice or in residency, scientific papers written, exams taken, a non-certified avian vet who attends conferences, reads the medical journals, and has extensive avian experience can be just as valuable to you and your sick bird. Most avian vets are NOT board certified.
You will want to get to know your vet before an emergency occurs. This is not the time to discover that you don’t like him. In a non-critical situation, there are two types of bird exams: the well-bird exam, which is a complete physical examination of your bird which includes blood work, fecal analysis and other tests. These results will be compared to the previous examination on record.
The second is the new bird exam, which could also be called a new owner exam. It is during this meeting that your will discover your vet’s worth. Along with the examination given during a well-bird exam, YOU will also be given a battery of tests in the form of questions about your bird’s diet, environment, caging, daily activities, the bird’s background and perhaps even a subtle probe into your household and lifestyle. Even if you are an experienced bird owner, be patient with these questions. These are the actions of a competent, conscientious veterinarian. If your new vet does not touch on all of these questions, thank him for his time, and never return.
Know, also, that turnabout is fair play. You are equally entitled to quiz a potential vet about their practice and level of expertise, and I encourage you to do that. The questions I would ask are:
- How many years of avian experience does he/she have?
- How does he/she go about keeping updated on the latest advances in avian medicine?
- What avian diagnostic equipment does the clinic have?
- What methods of decontamination do they use following each appointment?
- Does he/she have trusted counterparts in the field to go to for advice and opinions?
Other important considerations when looking for a qualified avian vet are:
- Is he/she comfortable handling your bird?
- Is he/she familiar with the different bird species?
- Was your bird weighed in grams?
- Was the blood draw done quickly and with little trauma even in the very large and very small species?
Following this, consult your gut, and see what it says.
The best vet I ever had was Ginger Davis at the Westgate Pet and Bird Clinic in Austin, Texas. She held my hand through a serious illness my umbrella cockatoo, Linus, had a few years back. I grew to trust her, and the entire staff there, with Linus’ life and it was losing her as my trusted vet that gave me pause in my decision to move to Orlando.
She was known to spend at least part of her examination room time cuddling her client’s birds. I brought Linus and Theo, my goffins cockatoo, in for their well-bird exams before we left. She had never seen the two of them together. She had an umbrella of her own and was curious about the relationship between Linus and Theo. I remember her standing in the doorway to the exam room watching with awe as little Theo tried to comfort Linus, the big baby, who was tucked under my chin awaiting the dreaded exam. This is a person that clearly loves birds.
She had always spent a lot time answering my questions and explaining procedures to me, both on and off the clock. She would take me in the back and show me slides of Linus’ fecal matter under the microscope to help me better understand what was wrong with him. I felt very lucky to have her in my corner when I needed her.
Bird owners, in particular, take all matters regarding their beloved companions very seriously. I have never taken nearly the same amount of time to research all aspects of cat and dog ownership. I am aware that I live with a species that I know to be essentially wild, and acknowledge the need to be continually educated. As the avian sciences are new, it is crucial that your vet be abreast of the many new developments as they occur. Your vet needs to be forward thinking and leave behind the ways things were done back home on the farm.
To suggest that it is impossible for a flock mate to mutilate the feathers of another bird, as Chris’s first vet did, is simply ignorant. To further advise that a plucking bird is inadequate as a companion pet reflects his backwoods thinking. Chris listened to his gut, which told him that this vet was wrong for him, and he moved on. We can all learn from his example.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.
Hi Wanita, I am anti-clipping in most situations, but I think this is an exception. I normally advise that you work on behavior problems, but yours sound a bit advanced. What I will recommend is that you wait about 4 weeks before you do it to see if there is an improvement in his behavior. Behaviors may been escalated because of mating season. If by June he is still attacking you, have a groomer or your vet give him a light trim, not too severe. This may be necessary only once because many birds have an attitude adjustment when flight is taken away from them. This should not be regarded to as a “punishment” to your bird. This should serve only as an opportunity for you to be able to safely work with his behavior issues. I strongly recommend that you start training your bird once he has settled down a bit. Target training is the best place to begin, and can be done with him still inside his cage. I hate to think that your bird will continue to live without any out of cage freedoms. Patty
I have a black headed caique. he was given to me about 3 1/2 years ago. he is aprox. 7 years old. about 18 months ago he started biting and then attaching me. he has gotten progressive worse. I can’t have him out of his cage unless I have him wrapped in a towel. I want to know should I get his wings clipped so he can’t fly and attach me, he always goes for my face and head. I want to try to get him to stop attaching me, he bites and attachs me when I try to give him food and change the paper in the bottom of his cage. will clipping his wings help to stop the attachs.
Thank you for the post. This just reinforces my gut feelings I have had after my 4 times to my local vet who says they are avian techs. My bird has been very stressed for 3 to 4 days after seeing the one tech to have his wings clipped, nails and beak trimmed. The 1st and 3rd visits, the vet did them and he was fine, 2nd time was vet tech (half the price). 2nd time I had vet do it again and told her of my concern with him being stressed for days afterwards, she asked me to give it another try, which I did and the tech was told by the vet but I was willling to give her another try, same response from Poepeye (my black capped Lory). The vet has NEVER suggested having bloodwork or stools tested in her yearly exams so I am going to research and try to find another specialist so thank you for the post and information.
you wont find an all around vet. just like there is no all around doctor. vets just like doctors specialize in one field.Do you go to your foot doctor for hear surgery? no. so when you choose a vet you need to choose one that specializes in the animal you have. avian vet for birds
My vet is an avian certified vet, I have had Joy with him for at least ten years. A while back I had a male lesser sulfur crested cockatoo and he became quit will Niki had gaout and other problems, he had been purchased from a pet shop that told my husband he was a yourng bird, but he wasn’t, thats why I would never buy a bird from a bet store. Joy was purchased from a private person, she is an Elanora, and quite nosy. Our vet boards when I go on trips, which is not to often, she has all her tests, and is wieghted every time I bring her there. I do believe that he is a good vet. Lee
I took the recommedation of Compainon Birds Rehomed to get a Vet in Concord NC I had to board him and they wanted docutation that he was free of any sickness.
I am from Levittown, Pa. and can’t find a good/any specialist in my aera. The one I have taken them (5) to seems to me (gut feeling again) uneducated in birds..but is supositilly an Avain Vet. We have a Goffin Cockatoo that has (what I call) a “Pluck Fest”. No matter what diet I tried, time I spent, money for test; she kept right on plucking! The vet (last time their) even left the room for half an hour. Came back and said he was on the computer!!!! That was it for me. I ended up putting anti-stress from Avitec Co, and Fetherific. what a wonder ….she came back (feathers) “full Bloom”) looking great. Everyone commented, even Jenn; my mobile bird groomer! Then spring sprung! And the fether plucking is starting all over again…she pretty much sticks to her chest..Possibly due to the Spring Hormonal change? I say, it’s because she hasn’t had a man in 12 years!!!
i’m lucky in gainesville, fl to not only have the university of florida veterinary school, but also dr. pat gauvin. he has been taking care of my birds for over 20 years- from magic doves to a bossy african grey to a perpetual toddler umbrella cockatoo. he is knowlegeable, compassionate and wonderful! please don’t retire dr. pat!!!!!
Thanks so much for the wakeup call! I am currently going to a vet that says he does birds, but I can tell he really isn’t that comfortable with it, and during my birds’ first wellness exam he never asked any questions that related to diet, etc. so at that point I was doubtful about his expertise. I will definitely be switching vets…
My Avian vet Dr. Jerry LeBonde is by far a away the best Avian Vet in the Denver, Colorado area. Yes there are maybe be two others but given he and his staff saved the life of my cockatoo who injured hinself as a result of plucking. He was bleeding out. The sad part of this is I wanted to buy this bird a year before and the zelot staff of this local store sold him to non bird people who ruined him and his psyche. A year later I bought the bird after the former owners ruined him.. He is doing well at year three with me. Now and is finally again happy and himself. I call him the miracle Moluccan..
I’ve had my Parrot for 25 years so I know a thing or two. Expect a vet to tell you they know about birds, they want the money. I went to a vet after a few years of having Cookie because I thought she was sick, she was throwing up. The vet said to give her an over the counter drug for what he called, chrop. I read it and didn’t like what it said, it could have killed her. Then I went to another vet about and they were scared of Cookie. So I just let it go. She seemed fine. It was years before I learned about regergatating. Another vet clipped her wings and one wing still hasn’t grown back the way it should. No matter, shes to lazy to fly. So do wings really need to be clipped? No. Only if you walk around with your bird on your shoulder and they like to fly then yes. Nails. I was once told that they can bleed through the nails if they get to long. Thats a lie. Beak trim. What for? This is just so vets can make money. Learn how to do it yourself. Not the wings, beak and nails. I clip Cookies nails and falls off her swing. But they grow crooked, just like her beak so I do that just so it looks better. If you notice your bird isv not normal one day, its sick and most likely its to late. Check your birds nairs daily, they should be open and dry. You can get a bird vet from a breeder or the pet store, then check them out. Parrots don’t like the cold, a cold can kill them. Keep the temp above 75. Some Parrots might be able to handle a lower temp, but if its colder than 75, check those nairs more offten and listen for sneezing. Whatever you want to know, Google it 25 years ago, no computer, no Iternet, no Google and no Chet. I was on my own. And have a vet to go to in an emergency, not only that but an after hours #. A problem always happens after hous I found a way to heat Cookies cage thats super cheap and safe I’ll tell you how to do it. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Not selling anything, just one Parrot lover helping another is all.
We take our eccie, Zennith, to a vet in Wantirna, on Stud Rd Vic, Australia, they are fabulous and only specialize in birds….so anyone who needs an avian vet in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Head there.
More and more large bird owners live outside metro areas, especially due to rigid zoning ( large birds can be noisy and neighbors think this is nusiance). I am one of those with a Cockatoo, amazon and an eclectus. The closest vet. that “will see birds” is 2 hours away. I have no clue if they know what they are doing or are jerely “marketing” to an underserved facet of vet medicine. Soembody wshould write a Bird Owners Veternary care book. As a lifetime rancher who has had to render care to animals in serious distress for decades, I feel i would be competent to render aid to my birds, especially if there is no alternative. I have many vet care books based on science on cattle, horses, domestic flocks, even dogs and cats, however I cannot find anything as scientific and instructive for these dear and expensive birds. Ironically, one would think the market would drive the production of such a book, as these birds can cost more than a show ring bull. This website is valuable for prevention and that is always where an animal owner should start. I have succesfully brought colts back from deadly colic, sewed up many a cut muscle, etc. But I would have to stand helpless if any of my birds needed help. My cockatoo came from a home where they allowed the bird to chew tennis shoes, rubber toys, plastic, and all sorts of unknown wood. The first week I could swear he had something caught in his throat as he wheezed, or pneumonia? I could find no one that could see the bird on a weekend no matter how far I would drive. Talk about stress. Then the charges! I asked a local vet to assist me in clipping my eclectus nails. $200.00 for a nail clip. Talk about taking advantage of a patient.
I take my birds to the best vet in the country! Dr Peter Sakas in Niles, Illinois. The drive is about 45 minutes from my home, but, well worth it. They get the best care from him and his staff.
When I moved out to CO I went to the local vet who claimed to be familiar with avians; I took in my blue&gold macaw for a basic checkup after a long distance move & wing clipping. What I came home with was a badly trimmed macaw with bruises on his skin patches because they didn’t know how to hold/properly restrain him while trimming his wings & toe nails. After that I take care of the trimming myself- (my breeder showed me before i could take him home). Since moving back east,I’ve been very leary of trusting any vet that claims they’re used to handling avians; where I’m at now I cant even find one that will treat birds!
I can completely relate to this story. I recently moved to Deltona Florida from Arvada Colorado and I miss our avian vet dearly. Her name is Lisa Paul and she had always been great with my birds. I hope I can find someone here as knowledgeable and caring as she is. She also had articles in Bird Talk magazine.
This is a much needed article, I have had both good and bad experiences with vets. I have had vets that I still miss to this very day and others used in emergency situations I would have rather never gone to in the first place. The one that sticks out if the one which was a horrible experience and has marked my life now even going on 8 years ago. I had a cockatiel which I had gotten for my son. And from the beginning there was serious health issues with the bird. My regular vet knew us, and knew the situation with the bird. But was gone due to personal emergencies of her own. I needed care quickly as the bird looked like he was dieing and I was having to calm down a upset child as well. The vet came into the exam room with a I know everything and you don’t attitude. Didn’t really listen to my concerns or that of how I was going to be able to calm my child down as well as give the best care given the situation. Not only did she tell me one thing, but she then called my husband with the results of what made the bird die. She gave him the results due to the fact we had other birds in the house. And told him I was lying about what happened in the exam room! I told her to do everything to make the bird comfortable and if it was going to die to let me take it home. So as then my son could comfort the bird as it passed on. She told me she could keep it over night and that she thought it would be ok. Then told my husband that I begged her to keep the bird. And that she saw it was dying but didn’t tell me. So not only did the bird die but then I had to comfort a child after the vet had said it would be ok to him. So I would say it is important to personally be comfortable with the bed side manner of the vet you use, not only for the sake of the bird. But for your comfort level as well. As a person can have all the knowledge and none of the compassion needed Since then I am careful of what vets to use, and I would say have a backup plan and know your vets after-hours care. Have a backup that will be as comfortable to use, and knows the situation as well as a general vet.
We went for an exam once with a vet specializing in avian medicine which had been recommended to us by multiple bird owners/friends. Our bird was taken in the back to have blood drawn. When he was returned to us, his wings had been clipped. I never asked for them to be clipped and we had in fact mentioned we kept them unclipped before he was ever removed from his cage. No explanation was ever given for clipping them. It was just something they did to all birds. Needless to say we never went back.
If you are in the Raleigh-Durham NC area or don’t mind taking the trip, Dr Greg Burkett (Birdie Boutique) is a wonderful certified avian vet. We have taken our birds to him for several years. For us, the 3 hour drive each way is well worth it.
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