Pet Bird Health 101: Caring for Your Avian Companion

 Pet bird being stroked by human hand

Birds are social by nature and make great companion animals. But just like any other pet, they require adequate time, money, and knowledge for you to have the best relationship possible with your pet bird.

Here are some pet bird health basics from Dr. Steven Servantez.

Signs of a Healthy Bird

According to Dr. Servantez, "Eating, drinking, and preening -- these are the three key signs of a healthy bird. You also want your bird to be bright and alert."

Healthy birds eat a lot and are active. It's important to monitor your pet bird's health and watch for any changes. Signs that something may be wrong include a disinterest in food, a sleepy or lethargic appearance, weight loss, open-mouthed breathing, and any change in their normal attitude or behavior.

Is your bird showing signs of illness? Dr. Servantez emphasizes that your bird needs to be checked out right away. Birds tend to mask illness until it's far advanced.

Feeding Your Bird

Birds need a balanced diet that includes food from all major food groups. Birds are one type of pet that actually benefits from eating "people foods," especially vegetables. Offer your pet bird some of these vegetables:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Cooked sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Tops and bottoms of fresh carrots

Some fruit can be given, but it should be considered a treat.

One major don't: Never feed your pet bird a seed-only diet. "Seed is old fashioned and not very nutritious," shares Dr. Servantez. "Pelleted diets are much better."

Keeping Your Bird Happy

As intelligent and social animals, birds need human interaction and things to do. Toys and games are great for mental stimulation.

Having free time outside of the cage is also essential for socialization and good health. Just be sure to watch your pet bird while they are out of their cage. Birds tend to chew things, like wires and furniture.

Veterinary Care for Your Bird

You may be surprised to learn that your bird needs an initial visit with a veterinarian and at least an annual wellness visit. Establishing baseline values of your bird's health and giving them regular veterinary care is critical to ensure your bird lives a long and healthy life.

An initial visit should occur immediately after you get your pet bird. In addition to a physical exam, Dr. Servantez recommends an initial fecal analysis. This allows your veterinarian to detect parasites like coccidian or worms.

Birds, like all pets, should see their veterinarian each year. An annual wellness exam for your pet bird is even more important because symptoms of disease tend to be much more subtle. Preventing disease is better for your pet bird (and for your pocketbook) than treating it once it occurs.

Your pet bird may also see the veterinarian for routine care and grooming. Wing trims help protect against escape. Nails can be trimmed just enough to blunt the ends, while still leaving enough nail for a stable grip on perches. Finally, some birds accumulate excess keratin on their beaks that needs to be removed, and your veterinarian can do this with specialized tools.

If you would like more information on caring for your pet bird, contact Badger Veterinary Hospital to schedule an appointment!