Tag Archives: avian health

Amazon parrot

How to keep your pet bird healthy

Taking a pet bird to the veterinarian can be stressful for him or for you, but there’s a big payoff! Here’s how I explained it to a reader.

Q: How often should my pet bird visit the veterinarian?

A: A healthy pet bird should visit the veterinarian each year for a physical examination and as needed for illness or injury. According to the Association of Avian Veterinarians, it is important for a pet bird to have regular examinations because signs of illness in birds tend to be subtle.

The veterinarian will begin by collecting your bird’s medical history from you, and that information will be included in his medical file. The exam will then proceed to a hands-off look-see before he is gently restrained in a towel and removed from his carrier. Your bird will be weighed and looked over carefully from beak to bottom for physical indications of illness or injury. Your veterinarian will listen to the bird’s heart, lungs and air sacs with a stethoscope.

Following the examination, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests, including fecal evaluation, bloodwork and microbiology to further determine your pet’s health. The annual exam can also be a good time to have your bird’s wing feathers clipped or his toenails trimmed.

Observant owners are important members of their bird’s health care team. Watch for signs of illness, which can include a fluffed appearance, appetite loss, increased sleep, weight loss, a change in the frequency or appearance of droppings, lameness, drooping wing or wings, breathing difficulties, or discharge from the bird’s nares (nostrils) or eyes.

Pay attention to your bird’s appetite, appearance and activity level daily, and contact your veterinarian’s office for advice if you notice a change in your bird’s routine. Because birds naturally mask signs of illness, the first indicators are often overlooked, but early detection is key to helping your bird regain health as quickly as possible.

Read more, including how to recognize arthritis in your dog or cat, in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

Amazon parrot

Avian obesity is a plus-size problem

We all know about the obesity epidemic in pet cats and dogs, but our feathered pets suffer from it as well. Here’s what I told a reader.

Q: My veterinarian says my bird is fat. Is that really something I need to worry about?

A: You bet! Obesity is as much an issue in pet birds as it is in dogs and cats. An overweight bird can be predisposed to metabolic diseases such as diabetes. He can also become arthritic or develop fatty liver disease.

Certain species tend to be more likely to grow tubby — Amazon parrots, parakeets, canaries, cockatoos and Quaker parakeets — but any bird can gain too much weight if he’s allowed to eat whatever he wants. Pet birds may start out on good diets but become choosy with age, deciding they are going to eat only one or two types of food.

Don’t let your bird get away with that. He’s most likely to have a balanced diet if he eats a variety of foods. A pelleted diet supplemented by healthy food from your own plate is the best way to feed him. Birds can and will eat pasta, cooked chicken, scrambled eggs, beans and most fruits and vegetables. Avian expert Scott Weldy, DVM, says that most birds do well on a diet of 70 to 80 percent pelleted food and 20 to 30 percent fresh or cooked food.

Avoid giving birds avocado, onion, mushrooms or chocolate, all of which have toxic effects. Highly salted foods are a no-no as well.

What’s the key to determining if your bird is overweight? Birds with cleavage rivaling that of a Hollywood starlet are too fat. Birds should be lean and sleek, with no cleavage at all, Dr. Weldy says. If you can’t feel your bird’s keelbone because it’s covered by a layer of fat, talk to your veterinarian about ways to help him get back to a healthy weight.

Read more, including holiday “pet-iquette” tips, in this week’s Pet Connection!