Choosing an Avian Veterinarian
African grey parrotAll companion birds should visit an avian veterinarian at least once a year for a well-bird checkup. Just as you would take a dog or cat to the vet annually, a bird needs his own doctor, too. An avian veterinarian is one who specializes in birds. Not all vets are qualified to work on birds, so you may have to look around to find one. Usually, avian vets are board certified by the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), but not all of them are — if the doctor has an established avian practice, then board certification shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
When you’re looking for an avian veterinarian, you will usually see the practice advertised as specializing in “exotics.” Call ahead to see if there is a vet in the office who deals primarily with birds. If so, here are a few questions to ask:
How long has the doctor been working on birds? Ideally, he or she should have extensive experience working directly with birds.
Does the doctor have many patients that are of your species of bird? The answer should be yes, unless you have a very rare type of bird.
Do the veterinary office take emergencies; does it have after hours availability? Some offices will only take emergencies if your bird is already a patient.
How much do they charge for a checkup? Cost for a general workup depends largely on the region you live in and what you are having done. Expect to pay between $150 and $500. It’s worth every penny!
How long does the veterinarian spend with each patient? Some doctors only spend a few minutes with a patient. It’s nicer to have a doctor who isn’t going to rush.
Does the veterinary office quarantine sick birds? Ideally, the office should have a separate area for ill birds.
It’s a good idea to visit the office before you bring your bird there, if possible. Is the office clean? Are there people in the waiting room with birds? Is the staff friendly and helpful? For some people, the veterinarian’s bedside manner is as important as experience.
At the well-bird checkup, your bird will be weighed and the veterinarian will do a physical exam. Usually, the veterinarian will take cultures and draw blood to send to a lab for testing for a variety of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Your bird may get a vitamin or mineral injection as well. This is a good time to ask the vet to groom your bird if you’d like his wing feathers or nails trimmed, or his beak groomed.