Most avian health issues clear up over time, but some are more serious than others. Every owner wants to prolong their parrot’s life through lifestyle and diet, but veterinary checkups and medical intervention will be required.
Vets can treat basic parrot health issues, but not all have appropriate training. Vets with a Certificate in Zoo Medicine (CertZooMed) are qualified to treat exotic birds. Parrots can get polyomavirus, parrot fever, and candida. These must be treated with antibiotics and medicines that only a veterinarian can administer.
In an ideal world, parrots would live a long life without experiencing any health issues. However, accidents and Illnesses happen, which is why you should be registered with a fully trained avian vet who understands the parrots’ anatomy.
Do Veterinarians Treat Parrots?
Few veterinarians are trained in all aspects of animal health. Most can treat domesticated and farm animals, but they aren’t trained to deal with exotic animals, including parrots, cockatiels, and parakeets.
While 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, not all veterinarians are confident with treating parrots.
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 nail clipping and feather clipping, as these are standard veterinary practices. You need to look for an avian vet who understands the intricacies of avian 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. But don’t let that deter you from registering. As explained by the MSD Veterinary Manual, new parrot owners should locate an ABVP (American Board of Veterinary Practitioners) Avian board-certified Diplomate.
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 often, each examination should be thorough, including blood tests to detect any changes or issues, particularly surrounding organ function.
The problem with parrots is that they’re good at hiding their health issues. According to the US National Library of Medicine, this skill developed in the wild, which happens with all prey animals. Parrots are usually very sick and in the advanced stages of a medical condition by the time symptoms present themselves.
Annual health check-ups allow your veterinarian to establish standard behavioral traits and early health issues that can be used as a baseline for future check-ups. Even if your parrot isn’t displaying symptoms, sickness and disease can still be detected. The earlier health issues are identified, the easier they are to treat.
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. This 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 include:
- Swollen abdomen
- Regurgitation of food
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Excessive urination
Polyomavirus is contracted through other infected birds, 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, get the vaccine if you bought your parrot from a breeder or store that houses other birds. It won’t work if the parrot is already sick.
Parrot Vaccination Vaccine Schedule
If you decide to give your parrot the polyomavirus vaccine, get a vet 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 will be 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. All that a vet can do is diagnose the disease with a cloacal swab. Therefore, prevention is essential, which you can 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 get an annual check-up
Transporting A Parrot To The Vet
When it comes to your parrot’s annual health check, transporting your parrot isn’t always easy. You’ll need to make it as stress-free as possible, as parrots don’t deal with stressful situations well. Make sure you have:
- Cardboard box
- Travel carrier
- Travel cage
- Bird food
- Non-perishable bird treats
Use a dark container for transportation, but remember to cut some breathing holes 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 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 breaks.
How Much Does It Cost To Take A Parrot To The Vet?
Owning a parrot doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In general, 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 arise as a result of the exam.
Unforeseen costs can add to the price. That’s why parrot insurance is recommended. Depending on the cover, 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 health checks is essential, as your vet can uncover issues during the early stages. It’s helpful to be tuned into 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:
A sign of illness is a change to a parrot’s vocalization. Any bird that stops chirping or singing is 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 that your parrot is spending more time than usual standing on one leg or refuses to move one (or both) of its wings, it may have a physical injury. The parrot will hide the pain, but it won’t be able to for long.
Loss of Appetite
Parrots have high metabolisms, so they always require an adequate amount of food. Some are picky with their food, especially if they’re allowed to choose what they eat, but a parrot that refuses to eat needs veterinary attention.
Signs of lethargy, depression, or fatigue are negative signs. Parrots are usually active, and while they have off days, 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.
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 days, it’s probably due to pain, sickness, or discomfort. While hormones can cause irritability, behavioral issues are signs of ill health and are a good way to determine whether something is wrong.
Common Parrot Health Problems
It’s important to know which common bird diseases and conditions to look out for. Fortunately, your parrot won’t pick up all of these, but it’s beneficial to learn the basics so you can gain some understanding of what’s causing your parrot’s illness. These are the most common 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, inflammation, difficulty breathing, watery droppings, and lethargy. To treat parrot fever, a vet will administer tetracycline, an antibiotic injected or taken orally.
Psittacine Beak And Feather Disease
PBFD is also referred to as bird aids and affects all species of parrots. The illness causes feather loss, a lack of dander, growths, lesions, and beak abnormalities. Affected parrots may also experience abnormal feather development. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for PBFD. Instead, a vet will offer pain relief and supportive care.
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 the condition.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease
PDD is commonly known as Macaw Wasting Syndrome and Parrot Wasting Syndrome because it mostly impacts Macaws, African grey parrots, Amazon parrots, cockatoos, and conures.
It affects the gastrointestinal tract and the nerves that supply it and other organs. Most birds won’t show signs of PDD until they’re 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, so these drugs are designed to minimize the parrot’s discomfort.
Veterinary treatment is likely to be required at some point in your parrot’s life. Many common conditions spread quickly between birds and present themselves without any symptoms. Only a trained avian vet can identify specific health problems, so always schedule your parrot’s annual health checks.