Annual Vet Checks – Why are they needed when your bird is not showing any signs of illness?

Annual Vet Checks – Why are they needed when your bird is not showing any signs of illness?

Most of us know that annual vet checks are essential for our cats and dogs but seem to have missed the memo when it comes to our parrots. Although parrots don’t need yearly vaccinations, it is still important that they get a once over every year by an avian vet just to check everything’s in working order.

So why should you take your parrot to the vet for an annual check:

  • Beak and nail trim if required.
  • Track any change in weight.
  • Diet consultation to ensure you’re meeting all of your parrots’ nutritional needs.
  • Essential in ensuring any health conditions are detected and treated early.
  • Allow your vet to understand a baseline of your parrots’ behaviour which can be used as a base-line for future check-ups.
  • Allow your parrot to slowly become desensitised to the process of going to the vet so it may be less stressful in an emergency.
  • Parrots hide illness very well, usually when they begin to show symptoms the issue is quite advanced.

Additional tests to consider include:

  • Disease testing: we personally test annually for PBFD, Bornavirus, Chlamydiosis and Polyomavirus.
  • X-rays: they can be used to check the health of your parrots air sacs, heart and liver among other things.
  • Blood tests: usually looking at blood cell counts and organ function to pick up on any issues early.

We intend to have x-rays and blood tests done for our own parrots every 5 years and disease tests annually as we feel it is an essential part of preventative care. When adopting a parrot, we would advise to carry out all tests as soon as possible. Some parrots carry disease so this needs to be checked before introducing them to the rest of your flock, x-rays and blood tests can be used to assess organ function or look for any abnormalities that may require supportive care such as medication or an adapted diet. It’s so important to check everything when adopting a new parrot, not only for the safety of your original flock but also because you don’t know yet what is “normal” behaviour for your new flock member. This means you may be less likely to spot signs of illness or pain as you don’t yet have a solid base level to assess the rest of their behaviour from.

My own cockatiel Pearl is sadly the perfect example of this. Before Pearl came to use she was disease tested for the safety of the rest of our flock, but we didn’t consider blood tests and x-rays as she seemed happy and healthy, albeit a little overweight. Fast forward 6 months of rigorous training and Pearl began free flying but she was struggling a little with exploratories, following Corliss’ (Military Macaw) diagnosis of scoliosis we decided to get Pearl checked. X-rays revealed Pearl was suffering from heart disease, an enlarged liver and spinal decay. She is now on lifelong medication and since starting them has really come out of her shell, she’s so much more active and confident. My point here is we assumed Pearl was happy and healthy when we adopted her as we had no reason to believe otherwise, but we didn’t know what her “normal” baseline behaviour was prior to developing her conditions. It’s always best to get your parrot checked so you can offer them the most appropriate care.

In summary, the main takeaway from this article is a reminder that parrots are incredibly good at hiding signs of illness and usually when they begin to show symptoms the issue is quite advanced. To give them the best life possible it’s important to take preventative measures such as annual vet checks to spot any issues early on as they’re much more treatable.

Written by Hannah Green