Vet tripLast week, Stewie and Mika went to the vet for their annual checkup. Stewie posted about his trip on Facebook resulting in a long comment thread about everybirdie’s vet-visiting habits. Among most of Stewie’s bird friends, the consensus matches the advice you’ll find on boards and parrot organizations: a routine checkup every year is the norm. We do blood work every year during this check-up, though some only do it every other year.

Even if you don’t take your birds for regular check ups (although we advise you do), it’s very important to at least know who your local avian vets are. Because parrots hide their illness until they are very sick, by the time you notice that your bird is ill you may have very little time to act. If you suspect your bird is ill, you don’t want to waste valuable time trying to figure out which of your local vets have bird experience. You’ll want to have a relationship with your avian vet(s) so you can call them up if you suspect an issue (or just have a question that requires real expertise… the internet is not the answer to everything 😉 )

You should also keep handy a list of phone numbers of emergency vet practices, in case you have an after-hours emergency. While the emergency clinic may not have a parrot specialist, in an emergency it may be better to call them than to wait until business hours.

The importance of an *avian* vet

An avian vet is a veterinarian who specializes in birds, although anyone can claim a specialty in avians. A “certified avian veterinarian” is one who has obtained certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

The anatomy of dogs and cats is nothing like that of parrots. Furthermore, the science and research of psittacines is rapidly evolving. Vets who specialize in parrots are in a much better position to notice anything that may be out of the ordinary; have access to the latest relevant research, resources, tests, and specialists for consults; and answer species-specific questions related to behavior, diet and health.

Just like you wouldn’t ask a podiatrist (however excellent s/he may be) to treat your brain tumor, don’t go to a dog vet to diagnose illness in your parrot.

SEAVS: Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services

Our vets are Dr. Stahl and Dr. Crum at SEAVS. Dr. Stahl is board certified in avian medicine (i.e., a “certified avian vet”). He also happens to be on the board of the Phoenix Landing Foundation. Dr. Crum is a board member for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Avian Veterinarians. The SEAVS practice is dedicated purely to exotic animals (no dogs or cats) and many Phoenix Landing birds get seen at SEAVS. Also appealing to me personally is that both Dr. Stahl and Dr. Crum happen to have Pionus themselves.

As I mentioned, Stewie and Mika go to SEAVS once a year for their annual checkup. They get a physical exam, blood work, a gram stain, and they get weighed. And if necessary, they also get routine grooming during this visit (nails are filed, and in Stewie’s case, a wing clip).

During this visit, I also had several questions I wanted to ask Dr. Stahl. For one, I’ve been fretting about the sparseness of feathers on Mika’s legs, thinking maybe she was being a little too “vigorous” about her grooming. However, Dr. Stahl looked at her leg feathers and said they looked normal. I was also worried about Mika’s diet, since I’ve been reading that Pionus don’t do well on a pellet-heavy diet due to the high protein content. Again, Dr. Stahl reassured me that Mika’s diet is just fine, and that he recommends a high-quality pellet for all parrots including Pionus (but presumably not for nectar-eating parrots). He said to try to keep feeding her fresh veggies as a supplement to her pellets, but since she likes them so much, an 80% pellet diet is fine.

Usually the lab results take a week to come back. Both Stewie’s and Mika’s blood work came back perfectly normal, as expected.

Vet Visit Photos

Here’s Dr. Stahl listening to Stewie’s heart.

Vet trip

Dr. Stahl getting ready to look into his nares. (He picked his nose before the visit, so everything was nice and clean ;))

Vet trip

Mika’s turn for a physical exam — look at those pretty flight feathers:

Vet trip

After the exam, Mika steps onto the scale. (One of the first signs that something may be wrong with your bird is sudden changes in weight. It’s a good idea to regularly weigh your bird at home, between vet visits. Use a a “bird scale” or any kind of scale that measures in grams.) Her feathers are all mussed up from being toweled:

Vet trip

All photos copyright of Best in Flock.

Question for you: How often do your birds go to the vet (and is it an avian vet), and what tests do you have done as part of your visits?