Benefits of annual exams and preventative care in birds
Birds are very skilled in hiding signs of illness. Often times when we first notice signs they are not feeling well, they have actually been sick for a few days. In the wild, birds socialize in flocks and are generally prey species. In order to survive, they must act normally so they do not get cast out of the flock and become more susceptible to predators. This is a survival mechanism. Some classic signs of a sick bird are: decreased to no vocalizations, reduced energy, sitting near bottom of cage or on same perch all day, weight loss, and a generalized fluffed appearance. Because birds are so good at hiding signs of illness, it is important to schedule them yearly exams with a veterinarian. So what will happen at an annual wellness appointment, what may be offered, and what are the benefits?
- Physical Examination: A doctor will perform a physical exam on your pet to assess his or her overall health. They will examine everything from weight to feather coat quality to each body system. If your bird is subclinical or trying to hide an illness, your doctor may pick up on visual or physical cues that indicate something underlying is going on. Yearly exams help establish a normal for your pet as well. While physical exams are very helpful, they can only yield so much information.
- Complete Avian Bloodwork: It is recommended to perform bloodwork annually on your bird. Bloodwork gives clinicians a better picture of what is going on internally. It examines aspects such as the total white blood cell count, which helps screen for any kind of infection, liver and kidney function, as well as electrolytes. Performing bloodwork annually also allows your veterinarian to establish a baseline normal for your bird. Overtime, they can monitor any trends or subtle changes that may indicate intervention is necessary earlier than when your bird starts showing clinical signs.
- Gram Stain: A gram stain provides information on your birds overall gastrointestinal health. This test simply involves collecting a small stool sample. It is examined under the microscope for certain types of bacteria. Most birds should have almost all gram positive bacteria. If there is an excess of gram negative bacteria or yeast, this may indicate treatment is necessary. It also can indicate there is an underlying issue causing secondary alteration of the gastrointestinal flora such as stress, diet, etc.
- Fecal Combo: A fecal combo allows your veterinarian to look for any intestinal parasites. Depending on your bird’s husbandry and exposure risk, this test may be recommended. For birds, such as chickens or pigeons, that have a higher risk of being exposed to parasites, it is recommended to have a fecal combo yearly.
- Infectious Disease Testing: It is recommended to test all parrots for Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) once in their lifetime. PBFD is a virus that is spread to birds via direct contact. Psittacosis is another infectious disease we recommend testing for. This an infectious disease caused by bacteria that can be spread to birds. This disease can also be spread to humans from their bird. Birds can be exposed to these diseases in a variety of situations such as breeding sites, pet stores etc.
- DNA Sexing: This is optional for pet owners. Many birds are not sexually dimorphic, meaning their sex can not be determined from examination alone. Often times, a blood test is required to determine sex. This is beneficial as it will help your veterinarian address possible medical or behavioral issues in the future. It is also fun to know for many owners!
- Grooming: Nail trims, beak trims, wing trims can also be performed at your annual exam if necessary.
- Discussions regarding husbandry/behavior: At your yearly exam, your veterinarian may make recommendations regarding your pets husbandry, diet etc. If you are having any issues transitioning your pet to a pelleted diet, the doctor can walk you through steps on how to successfully do this. They will also be able to address any behavioral concerns you may be having.
These are the most common diagnostics that may be offered during your annual wellness exam. Each patient is unique and each recommendation made will be based on your pet and his/her physical exam. Please give us a call and get your pet scheduled for an annual wellness today.