Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Importance of Veterinary Care in Pet Birds


Manuals Staff

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2011 | Modified Oct 2022

Your veterinarian plays an important role in your bird’s health because birds tend to mask illness until it is far advanced. Owners who recognize a slight difference in behavior, attitude, or physical condition of their pet bird should seek the immediate attention of a veterinarian. Other important services your veterinarian provides include grooming and identification.

New bird owners should try to locate an ABVP (American Board of Veterinary Practitioners) Avian board-certified Diplomate in their area. These veterinarians have undertaken further training in relation to birds and are dedicated to and knowledgeable about pet birds. Pet owners may want to start with a recommendation from a friend, neighbor, pet store, or animal shelter. The local animal shelter can often provide advice on locating an avian practice. You can also check the yellow pages of the phone book under “veterinarians” and “animal hospitals,” specifically looking for a practice with veterinarians that have this certification. Other sources of information include the Internet; a check of the web site for your state’s Veterinary Medical Association can help you locate a veterinary practice with special knowledge of birds.

A newly purchased bird should be examined by a veterinarian, preferably before it is taken to its new home. Newly acquired birds, or those exposed to other birds outside the household at bird shows or during pet store visits, are most likely to be affected by contagious diseases. It is also important for companion birds to have a regular annual physical examination. The bird should be brought to the veterinarian in its own cage if practical. Some disorders (for example, zinc toxicity from galvanized wire or dishes, loose perches, territorial or sexual behavior, and nutritional disorders) can be diagnosed in part by an examination of the cage. The veterinarian will likely ask you a number of questions about the history of your bird, particularly regarding its general health, diet, and environment, including exposure to other birds or animals.

Blood work taken during a wellness examination may detect disease before it has progressed sufficiently that the bird can no longer “mask” its illness. Treatment of disease is almost always more successful when it is diagnosed early.

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