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I belong to many bird lists and tend to be more of a lurker and add a comment on a rare occasion. Although only partially paying attention, I read this comment, [and I will paraphrase] "Only a veterinarian can give proper health advise, so why would you ask people on this list about that?"

THIS was a rare occasion!

I answered by saying the following noted in blue, but will also elaborate on a couple of points;

I would like to interject that your vet should be a qualified, certified avian vet. They are the most valuable resource you can have as a bird owner, if they know what they are doing.. A vet that does not specialize in this area can give advice that might not be on target.   And, I say that with the utmost delicacy and respect for the profession.  

You wouldn't have an Obstretrician do cardio-vascular surgery, would you? Avian veterinarian medicine is very different than mammal veteranarian medicine.

Recently, a situation came up with someone who bought a Parrotlet from me some time ago where we think the little guy might have injured himself. She described something that suggested that he might have hurt something in his neck when flying and crashing; or possibly had nerological problems because he was holding his head to one side and did not want to be touched there. Since Parrotlets are prone to certain things because their tiny hearts beat so fast, I suggested she take him to a vet. It sounded like it could be something very simple, or it could have been something very serious. You just can't second guess with something that tiny.

The vet found nothing wrong with him, did no testing, and prescribed an antibiotic "just in case." An antibiotic, not coordinated and followed up with a probiotic, can be very harmful. This vet did not know this. In fact, when this woman questioned her about this the next day, her answer was less than warm.

An antibiotic should not be administered unless there is a specific reason especially with something so tiny. The parrotlet is fine and happy, by the way. After considering what I had to say and doing her own research, she and her husband decided not to give him the antibiotic. I told her that I am not a vet, but this is what I know about antibiotics and probiotics as it pertains to birds, here are my experiences, and these would be some questions I would have to have answered if it were my bird.

Another recent situation involved a Sun Conure. The owner knew for certain that something wasn't right. She knows her birds. After checking him out, the vet said he was fine. She was still uneasy and made an appointment with an avian hospital that is two hours away. It turned out that there were some kidney issues. It was the owner's persistence, research, and questions to long time, experienced breeders who have dealt with many medical issues, that caused her to make that second appointment.

It really pays to find a qualified avian vet before a crisis comes up. When I sell a bird, my well bird guarantee is in place to do many things. One of which is to encourage new bird owners to find an avian vet before they need one. When you have a crisis, the last thing you want to be doing is going through a phone book trying to find someone.

And asking experienced "bird people" can be very valuable.  It should not replace veterinarian care in most cases, but it should never be dismissed either. Long time bird owners and breeders who have done their homework, and continue to learn, can be a wealth of information. Experience bird people can tell you what questions to ask when you do get to the vet.

And, to be very honest with you, unless it is an emergency situation, I will put out a call to other breeders when I have questions before I will call a vet. These are people who live and manage birds and bird related matters on a daily basis. In the two cases mentioned above those opinions were priceless.

In each of these situations [and they are just two of many] taking the word of these vets could have been fatal.

There is one other illustration I'd like to share where the pendulum swung in the other direction. After losing my friend of twenty-seven years [a Mealy Amazon] I began researching the Poicephalus Parrots. They are a small group of African parrots that include Senegals, Meyer's, Red Bellies, Jardines, and a couple of others. While researching I found that when chicks are pulled for hand feeding they may have wine stained urates.

When a friend of mine and I went in on a clutch of Meyer's babies out of the nest, my friend being the one to pick them up initially, was horrified to find what she thought was blood in their stool. She was ready to take them to the vet in a panic. She called me and I was able to tell her what I had learned. Several calls and emails went out to other Poicephalus breeders, and with close observation it was concluded that these babies were fine. At the time of this writing, my Meyer's sweetie is 5 months old and quite a character.

In this case too, my friend's veterinarian did not know about the wine colored urates in some Poicephalus babies, but he does now.

When searching for a vet for your avian pet, there are some things to consider:

By Peggy Hoffman