Annual Physical Exam for Birds
An important part of a new bird veterinary visit is the physical exam itself. Eyes, ear canals, oral tissues, upper respiratory tract, skin, feathering, musculature, abdominal palpation, and listening with a stethoscope to the lungs and heart, as well as examining the vent/cloacal area, are all part of the physical examination. During the physical, we often provide nutritional education and tips and suggestions on avian behavior and environmental enrichment.
As far as laboratory testing, the answer really depends on:
- The species
- Whether your bird is going to be in a single or multi-bird household
- If part of a multiple bird household, are they part of a pet collection or are these birds in an aviary situation and set up for breeding
With any new bird, a baseline laboratory evaluation should include a fecal parasite exam, a fecal and choanal Gram’s stain to check for abnormal bacteria or yeasts, and a general health blood profile, which checks red and white blood cells, protein, liver values, kidney values, calcium, phosphorus, glucose, electrolytes, and cholesterol.
- Testing for chamydophila (also known as chlamydiosis or psittacosis), a bacterial disease very prevalent in birds, is always a good idea.
- Testing for bornavirus, the virus we now know is the cause of proventricular dilatation disease, or PDD. Affected birds have a significant gastrointestinal tract dysfunction with regurgitation, weakness, and weight loss being common. More than 50 species of psittacines (parrots) may be affected, but in general, macaws, the African grey parrot, eclectus, lovebirds, and cockatiels are most commonly affected.
- Testing for polyoma, a virus that is highly fatal to young birds less than 16 weeks of age, is recommended in certain highly susceptible bird species, such as macaws, conures, eclectus, lovebirds, and caiques, if they are going to be pet birds and for any breeder bird that is headed for a mixed-species aviary.
- Testing for beak and feather disease (BFD), a virus that suppresses the immune system and causes abnormal feather growth, is only recommended in Old World species, such as cockatoos, eclectus, African greys, and lovebirds. New World species, such as Amazons and macaws, are not susceptible and therefore can forego testing for BFD.
- Pachecos, a herpes virus that can cause sudden death as a result of severe liver pathology, really is only seen in aviary set-ups; therefore, testing for this disease is only recommended in those birds destined to be breeders.