by Heike Ewing Ott
Many vets claim to treat parrots but may not be truly experienced in treating birds. So how do you know if a vet has enough experience to treat your bird? This article shares some tips and hints for finding a good avian vet.
1) Check the “find an avian vet” web pages and see if your prospective vet is listed and recommended. (1 point)
2) Is the prospect a member of the AAV? (Association of Avian Veterinarians? (1 point)
3) Ask the prospect to provide you with some (at least 3) references from -avian- clients. Call them! (2 points per good reference)
**Note: regardless of other points, I would be very leery of using a vet that won’t or can’t give you avian references.
4) Call a few of the dog & cat vets and ask for a referral to a “bird” vet. Do any of them suggest your prospect? Call the local bird club and ask for vet suggestions. (1 point per mention)
5) Does your prospect have a pet bird? (yes, 1 point) or breed birds? (yes, 2 points)
6) How many years has your prospect been treating pet birds (domestic fowl and ratites DON’T count!)
1 – 3 years (1 point)
3 – 6 years (2 points)
6+ years (3 points)
15 points or more: Hallelujah! Make an appointment!
10 – 14 points: Probably a good or “okay” bird vet.
6 – 9 points: Worth a try, if this is the closest one or
there are none better in your vicinity.
less than 6 points: Is this the ONLY one you can find? I’d
be REAL careful!
The First Visit:
1) Are there any other birds waiting? Can you hear birds in the “back?” (yes=good)
2) Are the things that will be needed for your bird in the exam room when you are put into it (Scales, towels, perch, etc.)?
3) INSIST on staying with your bird. You should be able to be in the same room for anything except actual surgery. If they try to separate you and your bird, be suspicious and don’t allow it. If the vet won’t look at your bird with you present, leave. Find somebody else.
4) How does the vet handle your bird? Confidently? Gently? Pay close attention to your bird’s reaction – their intuitive “feelings” about people are often better than ours. Does the vet talk to the bird? Does s/he ask it to step up instead of just “grabbing” it?
5) ASK QUESTIONS!! If the vet gets annoyed or frustrated with your desire to understand as much as possible, s/he is NOT a good vet, and you can tell ’em I said so. 🙂 Are your questions answered carefully? Are you satisfied with the answers? Try asking a really obscure question (like: what is QMS?). Does s/he admit they don’t know and offer to look it up? Or is s/he afraid to say “I don’t know.”?
6) Do your best to avoid leaving your bird there, especially on the first visit. Unless your bird’s condition is extremely critical, or it needs subQ fluids or frequent injections, you can probably provide perfectly adequate care at home and the bird will be less stressed with you.
7) If at all possible, pay the first bill with a credit card. If anything goes wrong, you’ll have somebody “on your side” with leverage – dispute the charges and the vet won’t get paid until/unless the card company is satisfied, and the vet is more likely to try to satisfy you if s/he hasn’t gotten the money yet.
Disclaimer: The above is based solely on my personal experience as a client, bird owner, bird breeder, and vet tech. No claims of accuracy or infallibility are made or implied. Use your own good judgment and trust your instincts!