How to Choose a Qualified Avian Vet

Vet examining bird

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Finding an avian vet and establishing a good relationship with them are perhaps the two most beneficial things you can do for your pet bird. A bird's anatomy is quite different from a cat or dog, so they require specialized care administered by a qualified veterinarian. If you are a new bird owner, you likely have many questions about what to look for in an avian vet. Luckily there are a few basic steps that can be taken to ensure that the doctor you choose is equipped to provide your feathered friend with top-notch care.

Locating an Avian Vet

Sometimes the hardest part about choosing an avian veterinarian is locating one. There are several resources available to aid in finding a vet near you. A good place to start is your local yellow pages, as most veterinarians that specialize in avian or exotic medicine advertise their qualifications in these types of directories. Another good resource to keep in mind is the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV). They maintain a list of veterinarians qualified to care for companion birds and offer a handy vet locator to help you find a vet near you. Additional information can be obtained by contacting your state's Veterinary Medical Association.

Questions to Ask the Vet

Once you've located a veterinarian that specializes in birds, you need to schedule an office visit to introduce yourself and your bird. This will also provide you with an opportunity to ask your vet a few questions about his/her practice. Here are some good questions to keep in mind for this first visit:

  • How long have you been treating birds? As the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. Choose a veterinarian with a solid background in avian medicine to make sure that your pet's care is in good hands.
  • Are you familiar with my bird's species? Different types of birds react differently to certain medical procedures, so your vet needs to be knowledgeable about specific treatments that will work for your bird.
  • Are you a member of the AAV? The Association of Avian Veterinarians advocates only the highest quality care, and you want no less for your pet.
  • Do you keep birds at home? People who have birds of their own are often more in tune with a bird's body language and can pick up on subtle signs that may aid in diagnosing problems.
  • Do you offer an after-hours or emergency care service? Accidents can happen at any time of the day or night. If one happens to your bird, and you need to have an emergency plan to get him to the vet as quickly as possible.
  • What are the costs of your services? Veterinary expenses can be costly, particularly for exotic animals. Ask your vet for a copy of his fee schedule so you will know what you can expect in the event of an emergency.
  • Do you make house calls? Birds easily get stressed when traveling, so if your bird is very sick it may be necessary for the doctor to come to you. Those who own several birds often rely on their veterinarian's home visits for both check-ups and emergency care.
  • How often do you recommend check-ups? Most veterinarians will recommend at least one examination per year, just to make sure that your bird stays in good general health.

A good avian veterinarian will provide clear answers to all of these questions and will exhibit a genuine interest in caring for birds and exotics.

Points to Consider

Observe the way that the veterinarian relates to the bird during the first exam. Does he/she seem comfortable and confident handling the bird? Does the staff make an effort to make the visit less stressful for the bird? Have they attempted to make you comfortable? All of these should be factors in deciding which veterinarian is best for you.

After you've decided on an avian veterinarian, it is important to maintain a good working relationship and regular communication with them. When birds show signs of illness, they need medical attention fast--your vet could very well save your bird's life one day. Forming a partnership with a good avian vet early on in bird ownership is the key to fulfilling the responsibility of providing good health, long life, and happiness to a pet. Make sure that your feathered friend stays in prime condition by taking an active role in his medical care!

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.