Most avian health issues clear up over time, but some are more serious. Every owner wants to prolong their parrot’s life for as long as possible, but to do so, veterinary intervention is sometimes required.
Most vets can treat basic parrot health issues, but not all are trained to deal with specialized avian health problems. However, vets with a Certificate in Zoo Medicine are qualified to treat birds and other exotic animals. Parrots suffer from a range of issues, including polyomavirus, parrot fever, and candida. All of these need to be treated with antibiotics and other medicines, which only a vet can administer.
In an ideal world, our parrots would live a long life without any health issues. But accidents and Illnesses happen, which is why it’s best to be registered with a fully trained avian vet who understands parrot anatomy better than other veterinarians.
Do Veterinarians Treat Parrots?
Contrary to common belief, most veterinarians aren’t trained in all aspects of animal health. Most can treat domesticated and farm animals, but they aren’t fully trained to deal with exotic animals, including parrots, cockatiels, and other birds.
While most veterinary schools have a course dedicated to avian medicine, it’s not a core requirement. Some schools don’t offer exotic bird courses at all. As a result, some veterinarians aren’t confident with treating parrots for even the most basic health conditions.
Vets with a Certificate in Zoo Medicine are qualified to treat birds and other exotic animals. You can determine who these vets are, as they will have CertZooMed after their name.
However, you can take your parrot to a local vet for toenail and feather clipping, as these are standard veterinary practices. All of the reasons above signify why it’s essential to look for an avian veterinarian who understands the intricacies of parrot health.
How To Find An Avian Vet
It can be difficult to locate an avian vet, and you may have to travel to find one with the right skills and experience. But don’t let you put you off getting registered with a proper avian vet, as you’ll be able to give your parrot the right treatment by finding a specialist practice.
To find a vet, check the yellow pages under “veterinarians” and “animal hospitals.” You can also check the website of your state’s Veterinary Medical Association for more information.
How Often Do Parrots Go To The Vet?
Parrots should be seen by an avian vet at least once a year. While this doesn’t seem very often, each examination should be thorough and extensive, including blood tests to detect any changes or issues, particularly organ function.
The problem with parrots is that they are experts at hiding their health issues. This is a skill they developed in the wild, which, as described by the US National Library of Medicine, is a tendency amongst all prey animals. By the time symptoms present, parrots are usually very sick and in the advanced stages of their condition.
Annual health check-ups allow your veterinarian to establish standard behavior traits and early health issues that can be used as a baseline for future check-ups.
Your vet will also check for health issues that can’t be seen. Even if your parrot isn’t displaying symptoms, sickness and disease can still be picked up. The earlier health issues are detected, the easier they are to treat. Your parrot’s life can even be prolonged with early detection.
However, vet visits are expensive and stressful, so healthy parrots only need one vet visit a year to reduce these feelings of anxiety for both you and your bird. Parrots battling with a disease or condition will require multiple trips a year to keep their health on track.
Similarly, if you notice any changes to your parrot’s behavior, parrot, or physical condition, don’t wait for your annual health check. Take your bird to the avian vet straight away.
Do Parrots Need Vaccinations?
Most caged parrots are not routinely vaccinated. After the Wild Bird Importation Act was passed in 1992, birds were no longer allowed to be imported, so common parrot diseases largely eradicated themselves.
As a result, there is only one vaccine available for parrots, which is the polyomavirus vaccine. Polyomavirus is a condition that affects the body and organs. It’s common in juvenile parrots between 14-56 days old and can be fatal at this early age.
Polyomavirus attacks the immune system, causing affected parrots to become more susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and secondary infections. The virus kills quickly, usually in 1-2 days. Symptoms of the virus include:
- Swollen abdomen
- Regurgitation of food
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Excessive urination
Polyomavirus is contracted through other infected birds, as well as the air, dust, dander, and incubators.
Parrots that live alone don’t need the vaccine, as they are unlikely to be exposed to the disease. However, if you have other birds, it’s best to get the vaccine because the risk of exposure increases.
Similarly, if you bought your parrot from a breeder or store that houses other birds, get the vaccine. It won’t work if the parrot is sick, so get it as early as possible to be effective against the disease.
Parrot Vaccination Vaccine Schedule
If you decide to give your parrot the polyomavirus vaccine, get a veterinarian to administer the first dose at 4 weeks. Your parrot will then need its second dose after 6-8 weeks.
An older parrot will also need a double dose of the vaccination. You can give the first injection whenever it’s convenient. The second dose then comes 2-4 weeks later.
Unfortunately, the vaccine’s effectiveness isn’t yet tested, so it’s possible your parrot could still contract the disease after receiving the vaccine.
How To Prevent Polyomavirus
There’s no treatment for polyomavirus, so there’s nothing a veterinarian can do if your parrot contracts the disease. All a vet can do is diagnose the disease with a cloacal swab. Therefore, prevention is essential, which you can try to do by following these steps:
- Get your parrot tested for polyomavirus once it arrives at your home.
- Keep your parrot distanced from other parrots and birds.
- Disinfect your parrot’s cage and surfaces regularly to remove traces of the disease.
- Always stick to your annual check-up.
While these aren’t fool-proof steps, they will definitely help prevent your parrot from contracting the disease.
Transporting A Parrot To The Vet
When it comes to your parrot’s annual health check, transporting your bird isn’t always easy. You will need to make it as stress-free as possible, as parrots don’t deal with stressful situations very well. Make sure you have:
- Cardboard box
- Travel carrier
- Travel cage
- Bird food
- Non-perishable bird treats
Use a dark container for transportation. A cardboard box will do if you don’t have anything else, but remember to cut some breathing holes out in various spots. Otherwise, use a small to medium plastic pet carrier.
Aim for a carrier that allows space for your parrot to be comfortable but prevents it from flapping its wings. Place it in a secure spot in your car or secure it with a seat belt.
At the bottom of the cardboard box or plastic carrier, put down a dishcloth or small towel along with your bird’s bedding. Having something that smells familiar in the box will help calm and soothe your parrot.
It’s also worth placing a towel over the top of the box to provide some darkness. Your parrot may panic if it’s able to see unfamiliar surroundings.
You won’t need any food or water for short journeys. However, if your vet is a significant distance away from your home, you should regularly stop for water and bathroom breaks so that you can feed your parrot a few treats. Opt to hand-feed for one-to-one interaction, which will make your parrot feel more at ease.
How Much Does It Cost To Take A Parrot To The Vet?
Owning a parrot doesn’t have to cost a lot. In general, parrot ownership costs less than caring for a dog or cat, but the annual veterinary costs should be accounted for as a regular cost.
A standard parrot vet check-up usually costs around $85-$100 per visit. However, this only includes the examination. It doesn’t account for any treatments or tests that come as a result of the exam.
Unforeseen vet costs can push this price right up. That’s why parrot insurance is a wise idea. Depending on the cover you choose, standard insurance prices range from $5-$30 a month and cover the cost of illness, injuries, accidents, and death.
Signs Your Parrot Needs A Vet
It’s hard to determine when your parrot is sick. To protect themselves from predators, parrots hide their symptoms. This behavior is carried through to domestication, meaning that owners rarely notice the initial symptoms.
So, adhering to regular vet health checks is essential, as your vet can uncover issues in the early stages. It’s helpful to be tuned in to any changes in your parrot’s behavior or appearance so that you can schedule a health check.
The following are the most common signs that your parrot needs to see a vet straight away:
A sign of illness is a change to a parrot’s vocalization. Any bird that stops chirping or singing is likely feeling unwell. Any changes in tone should be monitored, too.
A bacterial or fungal infection can cause voice changes. It may also be a sign of aspergillosis, which is an infectious, non-contagious fungal disease. Also, look out for gasping, squeaking, wheezing, and labored breathing.
Changes In Posture
If you notice your parrot is spending more time than usual on one leg or refuses to move one (or both) of its wings, it might have a physical injury. The parrot will try to hide the pain, but it won’t be able to for long.
While it’s tempting, don’t touch the affected area as you’ll only make it worse, especially if the wing or leg is broken.
Loss of Appetite
A lack of appetite is rare in parrots. They have high metabolisms, which means they always require an adequate amount of food. Some parrots are picky with their food, especially if they’re allowed to choose what they eat, but a bird that refuses to eat needs veterinary attention.
You can try switching your parrot’s diet first, but an underlying health issue is likely if that does not affect recovery.
Signs of lethargy, depression, or fatigue are negative signs. Parrots are usually active, and while they have off days from time to time, prolonged periods of inactivity shouldn’t be ignored.
Similarly, parrots that refuse to exercise or lie still at the bottom of their cage need immediate veterinary attention as birds only leave the perch when they’re seriously sick.
Some parrots are more prone to bouts of irritability than others. However, if your parrot’s foul mood seems out of character or lasts for a few days, it’s probably acting out of pain, sickness, or discomfort.
While hormones can cause irritability, behavioral issues are giveaway signs of ill health and are a good way to determine whether something is wrong.
Common Parrot Health Problems
When you own a parrot, it’s essential you know which common bird diseases and conditions to look out for. Fortunately, your bird won’t pick up all of these, but it’s helpful to learn the basics so you can gain some understanding of what’s causing your parrot’s illness. These are the most common parrot afflictions:
Also known as psittacosis, parrot fever is a highly contagious disease that affects all hookbill birds. It’s a form of Chlamydia bacterium that causes eye infections and inflammation, difficulty breathing, watery droppings, and lethargy.
To treat parrot fever, a vet will administer tetracycline, an antibiotic that can be injected or taken orally.
Psittacine Beak And Feather Disease
PBFD is also referred to as bird aids and affects all species of parrot. The illness is serious and causes feather loss, a lack of dander, growths, lesions, and beak abnormalities. Affected parrots may also experience abnormal feather development.
Unfortunately, there’s currently no treatment for PBFD. Instead, a vet will offer pain relief and supportive care to ease your parrot’s discomfort.
Candida is a fungal infection involving an overgrowth of yeasts in the digestive tract. It’s contagious between birds and causes white lesions around the throat and mouth, lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
Candida is easy to treat using antifungal medication. However, other diseases and conditions usually accompany candida, so your vet will need to examine your parrot thoroughly to determine the primary health condition.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease
PDD is commonly known as Macaw Wasting Syndrome and Parrot Wasting Syndrome because it mostly affects Macaws, African grey parrots, Amazon parrots, cockatoos, and conures.
The disease affects the gastrointestinal tract and the nerves that supply it and other organs. Most birds won’t show any signs of PDD until they’re very sick, but affected parrots experience weight loss, vomiting, watery droppings, and a swollen crop.
An avian vet will put the parrot onto a healthy diet and administer nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). There’s no cure for the disease, so these drugs are designed to manage the parrot’s pain.
Veterinary treatment is likely to be required at some point in your parrot’s life. Many common conditions spread quickly between birds and present without any symptoms. Only a trained professional can identify specific health problems, so always schedule your parrot’s annual health checks.