What A GOOD Vet Exam Should Look Like

Male cockatiel, DeeDee

I took Tinky and DeeDee, the last two remaining of my flock of cockatiels, to the vet the other day. They are about 18 now and, though they have been in good health, I have been noticing the signs of old age approaching for some time.

Though he has been active and vocal and his droppings and appetite have been good, DeeDee hasn’t been himself lately. He has been extra moody (he’s always been a little moody) and I haven’t liked the way he has been perching: almost sitting and pitched forward. While that isn’t a classic sign of illness, I very often find this sort of posturing when I have a sick bird on my hands. He is looking old and worn out. Tinky, on the other hand, looks great but has been sneezing excessively.

Both needed to be seen, but I haven’t had great luck so far with the vets here in Orlando. However, one name kept popping up whenever the subject of avian vets came up with the local bird enthusiasts: Dr. Diaz – so I made an appointment with him for this morning and I was very glad I did.

I can’t speak with any authority about Dr. Diaz’s practice because of my limited experience with him, but I will tell you this: he did everything during the visit exactly as I expect an avian vet should.

Grumpy cockatiel

The vet tech came in and weighed both birds and we discussed why I brought the birds in. I said ADR (an abbreviation many avian vets use that stands for Ain’t Doing Right and indicates that while there is no specific problem, something feels wrong). He returned with an estimate for bloodwork for both birds (they offer a multiple bird discount). He asked me about my other birds and in a tactful way got me to divilge information about my flock and their care.

Dr. Diaz came in shortly thereafter and we talked about the issues and how we would proceed this day. I always remain very quiet during the first visit with a new vet. I let him do all the talking – the amount of information he shares and the amount of conversation he draws from me determines whether or not I will be coming back.

He encouraged me to have blood drawn from DeeDee and explained that the livers and kidneys of cockatiels often went downhill at this stage in their life and that bloodwork would tell us what we needed to know. He told me it was his practice to draw blood BEFORE the physical exam because stress levels alter blood chemistry and effects results. He is absolutely correct on all counts.

I was expecting him to take DeeDee to the back for the blood draw and was just about to ask him to take Tinky back as well to lend moral support when he announced that he always does the blood draw with the client present. He showed me the plump vein on the side of DeeDee’s neck and explained to me the mathamatical equation veterinarians use to determine how much blood they can safely extract from the different species (he taught me some interesting things about reptiles, too!)


He performed a thorough physical exam of DeeDee explaining every step along the way from what he hopes to find, and not find, in the mouth, to examining the chest area for indications of weight and muscle tone problems, to expressing the preen gland and examining the texture of the oil. He confirmed my suspicions of his failing eyesight. Following the exam he administered fluids to DeeDee to help him replenish the blood extracted.

He made sure I was just as involved in Tinky’s physical exam, following which he performed a nasal flush (which forces liquid into one nasal passage and out the other.) He made sure that I had a good look at the difference in the consistency of the fluids coming out from each side.

During quiet moments, Dr. diaz would ask me about their diets and our habits at home. I never let on that I had witnessed these procedures several times before and I thanked him for taking the time to show everything to me.

Medications were prescribed and I was asked to administer them for the first time in his presence so that he could be sure I was up to the task.

Budgies at the vet

THIS is what a veterinarian is supposed to do. It may not be necessary that you be a part of every process like I was, and you may not be comfortable with that anyways, but every move he makes with your bird should be explained to you and he should not let you leave until he is sure that you understand  – otherwise, how can he expect you to continue with appropriate care at home?

A good veterinarian not only talks a lot, but gets you to talk enough that he can get an idea of how experienced you are so that he can guide you to being an even better bird owner.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 

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