When Does Your Small Bird Need Vet Care?

When Does Your Small Bird Need Vet Care?

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  1. Small companion birds are very popular pets for first time pet owners, and with good reason! Their appealing colors and funny antics make them great fun to watch, and they take up less space than dogs or cats. When cared for properly, birds like budgerigars (parakeets in America), lovebirds, the various other parakeet species and doves can all make wonderful pets. It is, however, very important that an owner learns to care for his or her bird properly. One of the most important and challenging tasks is learning to spot the signs of sickness in birds.

    Detecting and diagnosing illness in your bird can be very difficult because birds are prey animals and instinctively hide illness. Until a bird is feeling very poorly, he will try to behave as normally as possible, and only an owner who knows his bird’s activity pattern and pays close attention will notice anything different. Even when a bird can no longer disguise his illness, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s wrong. Aviculturists (people who raise birds) describe this phenomenon as "Sick Bird Syndrome." Though birds are susceptible to many illnesses, they tend to display only one set of symptoms, referred to as Sick Bird Syndrome. It will usually take a veterinary examination and blood tests to determine what the illness is and how to treat it. If your bird begins to display symptoms of Sick Bird Syndrome, you should get him to the vet soon, because it’s likely he’s been sick for awhile. If he has one of a few specific symptoms, you must get him to the vet right away, or he could die.

    See a vet soon if your bird has one or more of these symptoms:

    • Lethargy: If your bird is sitting on its perch but is not interested in moving or playing, or seems to be sleeping more than usual, it could be a sign of illness.
    • Decreased Appetite: If your bird is not eating or drinking as much as usual, this could be a sign of illness. Provide a favorite food, like millet, to encourage your bird to eat. If his appetite remains low, it could be a sign of illness.
    • Puffed Feathers: All birds will fluff out their feathers and get a puffy look when they are cold. If your bird puffs out its feathers in a warm room and keeps them puffed, he could be sick.
    • Decreased Waste: A good way to tell if a bird is eating and drinking is to see how he is pooping. If he is not pooping, or has very watery poop that looks abnormal, that can mean he is ill. Watery poop alone can be a sign of stress rather than illness, so if you see that alone without other symptoms, cover your bird for a little while and check him again.
    • Persistent Limp: If your bird is favoring one foot or one wing, or is holding one wing away from his body at an odd angle, it will often mean he is injured and needs a vet’s care. Remember that healthy birds lift one foot when they sleep, so don’t worry about that if you see it!

    See a vet immediately, even an emergency vet, if your bird displays any of the following symptoms:

    • Bird on Cage Floor:  If your bird can no longer stand on his perch and is sitting or laying on the cage floor, he is close to death and needs immediate care. Every bird will spend some time pecking and playing on the bottom of the cage, but a lethargic bird off his perch is in real trouble.
    • Sharp Keel and No Eating: If your bird is not eating, not even his favorite foods, and his poop is rare or nonexistent, take him from the cage and feel his keel, or breastbone. If it is prominent and sharp beneath his skin, then your bird has stopped eating and is dangerously underweight. He needs supportive care immediately.
    • Bleeding: A bird might bleed a little bit from a lost flight feather or a nail trim that is too close. If the bleeding stops quickly, this is not too severe. For anything more than just a little blood, your bird needs to be seen by a vet. Birds do not have much blood to start with, and any blood loss can seriously weaken your bird.

    Remember, if you are in doubt as to whether your bird needs a vet, you should call your avian vet and ask for advice. Your vet is an invaluable resource when it comes to caring for your bird. This is a major reason why it is important to get your bird a checkup once a year. You will have a good relationship with your vet, and your vet will know your bird and have a chart in case your bird ever gets sick or injured.

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