Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vets for birds

We've all been there, done that. Made an appointment with a vet that claims to see birds, only to find out that the only bird they 'see' on a regular basis is the one that eats from the feeder outside their office window. How do you find a good vet in your area? Take the following questionnaire and see if it can't help you in your search.
1). Is the vet you are considering listed in the AAV -Association of Avian Veterinarians?
2). Is this vet recommended by any local clubs or rescue organizations? (1 point)
3). Go visit the clinic. Is it clean? Does the staff seem friendly and knowledgeable? Are there bird magazines or other tell-tale paraphernalia in the waiting area? (2 points)
4). Call other local vets and ask for a referral to a 'bird' vet. What names do you get? Do any of them suggest the prospect? (1 point)
5). Does the vet you are considering own a pet bird? (yes, 1 point) Do they breed birds? (if yes, add an additional point)
6). How many years has the potential vet been treating exotics?
1-3 years (1 point)
3-6 years (2 points)
6+ years (3 points)
Suggested Evaluation:
14 points or more: Is that the choir I hear singing? Book an appointment!
10-13 points: Probably a decent bird vet.
6-9 points: Worth a try, if this is one of the few in your area.
Less then 6 points: Is this the only vet you can find? Yikes! Be very careful.
Now that you've found a vet you want to try, lets go over some basics for the first visit.
The First Visit:
1) Are there any other birds waiting? Can you hear any other birds in the back?
2) Are there appropriate bird related items in the exam room? For example, towel, gram scale, perches, etc.
3) How does the vet handle your bird? Is he/she confident, and gentle? Pay close attention to how your bird reacts around the vet- their intuitive feelings are oftentimes better then ours. Does the vet talk to the bird? Does the vet ask the bird to step up instead of just grabbing it?
4) Be sure to ask questions! If the vet gets annoyed with your desire to understand as much as possible, be aware. Most vets automatically explain the process of what is happening (eg, "Now I am going to towel Pickles and palpate the breastbone"). Are your questions answered carefully and thoroughly?
5) Is the vet explicit about home care, and what to do with the bird once back at home. Does he/she provide any information about the best possible home setup for a sick bird, and offer any additional advice? If the vet is recommending measures such as handfeeding, giving medication, or other measures, can they explain the proper protocol for carrying out their instructions? Are they willing to show you how to best restrain your bird and give them oral medications?
6) If possible, consider paying the first bill with a credit card. That way, if anything is to go wrong, you'll have someone 'on your side' with leverage- you can dispute the charges and the vet won't get paid until or unless the card company is satisfied. The vet is more likely to try and satisfy you if they have not yet received payment.
Finding a good avian vet can be a long and often frustrating process. Don't be afraid to ask questions, seek recommendations, and interview any prospects before actually bringing your animal into the clinic. Once you find that gem of a vet, you'll want to keep them for years to come!
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