Above is Reggie who comes to visit us regularly. Isn’t he handsome!
Our feathered friends make delightful pets who are joyful additions to our lives. Their antics are a lot of fun. It’s important that your pet have daily interactions with you and that they have a variety of stimulating toys, objects to shred, and novel food items to keep your pet bird happy and occupied. Birds are messy creatures. Learn to embrace the chaos!
A strictly seed diet is not adequate or healthy for our bird friends. While some birdseed diets have dried carrots or greenery, many birds will avoid the healthier, more nutritional parts and only enjoy the high fat seeds. While small amounts of seeds are fine, companion birds should be given a more nutritionally balanced diet in the form of pelleted foods. There are several different brands of avian pellets such as Zupreem, Lafeber and Harrison’s to name a few. If your bird is not used to eating pellets, you should have your feathered friend examined by an avian veterinarian before attempting to switch to a healthier diet. Some birds will refuse to eat new foods, or may appear to be eating when they are only tossing pellets out of the food bowl and onto the floor, potentially starving themselves. Your veterinarian can determine if your bird is healthy and at a good body weight, as well as discuss methods to slowly transition your bird onto a healthier diet.
In addition to pelleted food, birds should be offered a variety of table foods. Birds in the wild spend approximately 75% of their time foraging for food, so offering a variety of tastes, textures, or using puzzle-type devices that have to be manipulated to get a “prize” will help keep our bird friends busy and mentally occupied. Vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in avian species that can be prevented by adding foods such as fresh carrots (grated, whole or pureed) or sweet potatoes. Birds should not eat avocado, chocolate, grapes or raisins as these foods can be toxic, but just about any other healthy food that you eat can be given to your bird. Many birds love scrambled eggs, fresh corn or fresh beans or peas, pasta, banana, apples, berries, mango, Cheerios, and even chicken bones (birds get protein in the wild by eating insects). Offer table foods in a separate dish once a day, and then remove it after an hour so it doesn’t spoil. Always offer fresh, clean water at all times.
Birds should be housed in large cages or aviaries when you’re not at home. Many people have their birds out on T-stands or play stations when they’re home. Antique or homemade cages may pose hazards to birds by containing lead or other harmful metals. The cage should be elevated off of the floor for security. Height is safety if you’re a bird and the cage should not be located in or near the kitchen. Aerosols, sprays, smoke and even overheated cooking oil can quickly kill a bird. Teflon pans, if overheated, will emit fumes that are fatal to birds. Cages should be kept in the main living areas if possible, so they can interact with the rest of the household. Birds should also have a variety of perch sizes to exercise their feet. We can help guide you on the size perch that your bird should be using.
Birds are intelligent, funny creatures who are very active in the wild. Keeping a variety of toys that are periodically rotated is essential. Some birds love to rip and tear things and so a cardboard tube from inside a paper towel roll can mean an afternoon of fun. Some birds enjoy cuddling up to a mirror or fuzzy toy and most all birds enjoy making noise! Bells and plastic rattles are great fun and you can offer edible toys, or ambient music to help enrich their environment. I transfer my bird to a smaller travel cage and set him outside in the sunshine on warm afternoons, while I’m actively outside to keep my eye on him. Remember, hawks and other predators may be out, which can easily frighten a pet bird.
Beak, Wing and Nail trims:Most healthy birds do not need their beaks trimmed. Some patients have a condition called “scissor beak” where the upper and lower jaw do not align and part of the beak will overgrow. These patients need regular beak trims, but the average bird beak will wear normally and not need to be trimmed.
Nails grow continually and need regular trimming. If you ask your bird to perch on your hand and the nails are digging into your skin, it’s time! At Oswego Veterinary Hospital we can trim your bird’s nails, or teach you how to trim them at home.
Wing trims are vital for some patients who are at risk for escape. Flight is important for a bird’s mental well being as well as providing exercise. A wing trim must be done correctly in order to allow a bird to fly, but not to gain lift. After trimming the wings, a bird should be able to gently glide to the floor and not drop like a rock. Lifestyle, escape opportunities, temperament and environment all need to be considered before a wing trim. Too severe of a wing trim could cause trauma.
Common Health Issues:In general, birds tend to be healthy and hardy pets. Some of what we see here at Oswego Veterinary Hospital include traumatic injuries from cat bites, flight injuries, blood feather trauma, fractures or accidents involving the cage or toys. Respiratory disease, feather picking, chronic egg laying and parasitism are also common concerns.
When birds do get sick, they often show few physical signs until they are very ill. This prevents them from being targeted by predators in the wild. Any bird that is bobbing their tail as they breathe or who cannot perch and is down at the bottom of the cage, or who is constantly fluffed with their eyes closed or has to hook their beak on the bars of the cage for support, is a very sick bird and should have immediate veterinary care.
Annual exams including periodic fecal and blood tests are important in order to diagnose and treat disease early on.