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The Routine Avian Examination

I think it is safe to say we all want to give our pets the best possible care and we all want to get the most for our money. Let's look at what it takes to get the most from an avian examination. You can learn to work cooperatively with your veterinarian to maximize your avian education and build a rapport of mutual trust and respect. Everyone benefits from this, especially your birds. I recommend you have notes prepared with all your information and all your questions and be prepared to take notes when you get there.

What Your Veterinarian Can Expect From You

First you should be prepared to provide as much history as you have on your bird. Here is an example of some of the information you will be asked to provide:

This includes species, name, sex, band numbers, microchip numbers, and any unusual identifying features or marks on the bird
Any available information on the birds parents
Previous history
Any information on previous owners and veterinarians
Current environment
How the bird is housed, where the cage is located, current diet, any other pets in the environment, what type of water the bird is drinking, what types of disinfectant you are using, general husbandry practices
Observations and symptoms
The birds temperament and behavior patterns, any unusual symptoms, condition of droppings, any recent exposure to unusual circumstances or environmental factors such as stress, chemicals, etc.

Next you will want to have a list of questions prepared. Jot down all those little things that have popped into your mind as you have observed the bird and all those little nagging doubts you have had about whether or not you were making correct decisions along the way.

Here is a list of things we often do not think to ask:

Diet and environment
Does the vet have any suggestions on how you can improve your current situation or practices? What can you do to improve the quality and span of your birds life? Should you provide vitamin and mineral supplements? Is your cage size adequate? What toys are safe for this species and which should you avoid?
Learning to properly handle and restrain
Ask for a demonstration on the proper procedure for pulling a blood feather should it become necessary. When it is time for the vet to take swabs or give injections, ask him/her to allow you to hold the bird during these procedures. Ask to be tutored on how to do this properly.
Learning to look for trouble
Ask for a list of things you should be looking for daily in order to catch the onset of illness or stress in the earliest possible stages.
Ask for a list of books and other publications that will help you learn more about your pet. You can also ask about local clubs and lectures.
Dealing with emergencies
Ask your vet what constitutes an emergency and how and where you can most quickly find help during holidays and off hours. Ask what supplies you should have in store for dealing with situations that require home first aid care.

What You Can Expect From Your Veterinarian

Much of what occurs during a good avian examination is not readily detectable by you. The vet is getting much information by just looking at and handling your bird. My vet often sees things that I have missed and I look at every bird, every day. Here is some of what will occur during a routine examination:

Visual assessment
During this phase of the exam, the vet is assessing the general appearance of your bird; disposition, posture, wing position, breathing pattern, skin tone, alertness, feather condition, condition of eyes, nares, beak, feet, etc.
Hands-on examination
This will include a hands-on assessment of the entire bird from top to tail. It's very interesting to watch. You will see the vet start with the head and work down, checking eyes, nose, mouth, crop, chest, heart, lungs, abdomen, legs, feet, etc. Along the way you will notice the vet looking more closely at skin and feather condition. Skeletal, muscle, neurological, and gland assessment is occurring also, but is not quite as obvious.
Lab work
Expect the vet to take swabs of the crop and the choanae (oral), and also from the cloacae (vent). These are extremely important because they can reveal possible bacterial or fungal infections.
Possible further testing
If your bird is sick or injured, you can expect further testing which may or may not include blood work, culture and sensitivity, injections or x-rays.

Final notes

During the examination, ask questions. Ask the vet to comment on what he/she is doing and why and what the findings are.
    If there are medications prescribed, ask the vet to carefully demonstrate how you should administer them.
    Before leaving, be sure you are satisfied that all your questions have been answered. Ask the vet if there are questions you should have asked but did not.
    All this may not lessen the amount of your bill, but it will certainly get you your money's worth and a good deal of practical education. In time you will become more confident in your abilities to assess the health of your pet and deal with problems throughout its life.