HEALTH - HAZARDS
FAQ provided by rec.pets.birds
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FINDING AN AVIAN VET
A vet plays an integral part in the life of you and your bird. S/he can offer advice, options, information, and of course, medicinal care! Before you even buy a bird, make sure you have a vet.
Q. Where can I find an avian vet?
A. Try looking in the yellow pages, asking a breeder or another friend for a recommendation.
Q. What do I look for when I go to check out the vet?
A. A number of things: Is the office clean and does it have proper equipment? Look for or ask to see bird-related equipment like an incubator, special bird syringes--to administer small doses, opthalmic equipment--for surgery and for sexing, perhaps a laser if the office is advanced enough. Ask for a tour when it's convenient for the doctor and the staff! Most vets will gladly do this--they're usually very proud of what they can offer to their avian patients. Do you like the doctor's manner and personality? Are you encouraged to and do you feel comfortable asking questions? Does the doctor take the time to explain things? Will the doctor refer you to a specialist if this is what the bird needs? Can--and will the doctor admit when s/he doesn't know? Are the fees and rates explained to you? Do the costs seem reasonable? Are various tests available and used? Are the purposes of these tests made clear to you? Are these tests needed or are they extraneous? Does your vet own any birds?
Q. The vet I have for my dog doesn't seem to know a lot about birds. Will he be offended if I go to another vet?
A. If the vet's worth their salt, no. They should always have the animals' best interest at hearts. If you feel very badly, continue to bring the dog to your regular vet, and the bird to a vet with an interest with birds.
Q. How do I tell if my bird is sick?
A. The best indicator would be the bird's droppings. Bright green or watery droppings are not a good sign. Also a sick bird will sit huddled and puffed up, with its eyes closed. The bird's song may change or stop and it may stop talking. Wheezing or sneezing or a nasal discharge is bad news. The bird might "pump" its tail. It may not eat or it may consume vast amounts of water. Observe your bird every day, that way when something occurs out of the ordinary, you'll notice. Also, birds often don't manifest signs of sickness until they're really in trouble. Watch for warning signs, and act on them--get that bird to a vet. Better safe than sorry.
Q. Do I really need to clip my bird's wings?
A. A lot of people think it's mean to clip a bird's wings. "What good is a bird that can't fly?" Well, it's a bird that you won't lose. Wing clipping is painless, like getting a haircut. The bird won't end up injured due to flying in the house. Clipping also keeps the bird from getting too smart-alecky and it is an aid in the taming process. Different birds require different patterns of clipping. A cockatiel is such a powerful flyer that usually all the primaries have to be trimmed. Ask your vet or breeder to show you how to do it, and then you can do it yourself from there. If you do it, it's actually less stressing for the bird, and no, the bird won't hate you. Make sure to check for bloodfeathers before clipping wings.
Q. If I clip my bird's wings, how soon will they grow back? What if I pull the feathers out instead? Do they come back quicker that way?
A. A feather that is cut, clipped, broken or bent will be replaced during the next molt, no matter how awful, raggedy or good it looks. However, if a feather is pulled out (ouch!) and as long as there is no damage to the follicle (the area that the feather grows from, like our hair follicles) the bird's body will immediately begin replacing the feather. This new feather, until it is mature, will have a blood supply to it. (see BLOODFEATHER) Some people prefer to pull out wingfeathers, rather than cutting them, because it looks nicer. This not only hurts (imagine someone 'trimming' your hair by yanking out bunches), it also puts stress on the bird's body. Feathers are all protein, and having to replace many, large wingfeathers at once depletes bodily resources.
Q. My bird's nails are overgrown. Can they be trimmed?
A. Yes. Use either a pair of nail clippers or special bird claw scissors. Look for the "quick", the vein that is in the claw. You can see in it light colored claws as a pinkish stripe. In dark claws, you can turn the bird over to see the underside of the claw and the quick. You may want to have someone show you how to clip them first. Provide different perches and surfaces to keep claws in trim naturally. If you do hit the quick, dip the claw into some styptic powder to staunch the bleeding.
Q. My bird's beak is overgrown. What do I do?
A. An overgrown beak usually means that the bird doesn't have enough to gnaw on, which is how the bird keeps the beak trimmed in the wild. A vet or experienced breeder must trim the beak, as it is full of blood vessels, and a mishap could be very serious. Offer the bird toys to chew on or lava blocks or such to help keep the beak trimmed.
Q. Does my bird need a bath?
A. Yes! Most birds love baths, and will bathe in a dish or in the shower with you or like to be spritzed with a plant mister set to fine. It's excellent for the bird's plumage and with "dusty" birds, like cockatoos, helps keep down the dust. Some birds may have to be gradually introduced to misting, but it's a good move. You can let the bird dry by itself (as long as the ambient temperature in your house is at *least* 60 degrees Farenheit (16 Celsius) or use a hairdryer set on medium heat. Never put a wet bird to bed for the night.
Q. Do I need to install full-spectrum lighting?
A. It's a good idea, especially since birds really don't get enough sunlight in an apartment or some homes. You can get the bulbs at pet stores or order them directly. These bulbs are called "R" bulbs meaning that they cannot be used with a covered fixture. This includes track lighting and recessed lighting--anything with a "shade" even if the "shade" is made of metal. Check with the manufacturer, or get in touch with the local electrician. The lighting should be placed 4 to 8 feet away from the cage, in an ordinary light socket (no shade!) The light should only be hitting a portion of the cage. The bulbs should be used a *minimum* of 10 (ten) hours a week.
Q. What about an air-filtration system?
A. Maybe. If you find you're sensitive to the dust from your birds. They help reduce the dust load greatly. If you have a lot of birds, this is a good idea. Also, if you smoke, it would be a good idea to have a filtration system for the sake of your birds.
Q. What about stress in my bird?
A. The best cure for stress is prevention! Make sure the bird is healthy, has a good diet and isn't bored. But if this all checks out, think about the bird's surroundings: Did it recently get a new cage or was the cage moved? Did you rearrange the furniture? Change the diet? Remember, birds are usually suspicious of any new thing. Stress is serious, it's a physical reaction to mental and physical strain. A bird can become stressed when you go away for a long period of time, like a vacation. Infections can be a cause of stress--the bird is fighting to maintain homeostasis. Even strong perfume or even smoke can be a stressor. Natural processes, such as breeding or molting can cause stress. Of course, what may stress one bird may be of no consequence to another.
"Help! My bird's NAKED! Why does it pluck?"
This behavior is most common in African Greys. Plucking is usually brought on by stress, but sometimes skin problems can cause it. Parakeets sometimes will pluck their older babies, in order to get them out of the nest, so that they can clutch again. Cockatiels might do it as well. A bird may denude itself because it wants to breed, but cannot, as it's a pet. Sometimes, plucking is acceptable, as when a hen may pluck her brooding area to transfer her body heat better. Boredom can cause plucking. A diet that is poor can cause this behavior, too. Once started, it usually is a very hard habit to break, and even if "cured" the bird may regress back to plucking if it gets upset. Even a minor change may trigger plucking.
Q. How do I stop the bird from plucking?
A. First, take it to the vet to rule out any medical causes. Consider any changes in the bird's environment. Even little things. A plucker may be dissuaded from its habit by giving the bird a toy with rope or fabric or anything the bird can tear up. Polly Dolly (tm) toys are great for pluckers. There are bitter apple sprays available, but they usually don't work. Collars can be used, but don't ever try to do this without a vet's help, or the bird could get hurt.
Q. Do I need to vaccinate my birds?
A. There are pros and cons to vaccinations. The biggest drawback is that every bird will react differently to the same vaccination. Some birds become paralyzed, others blind, some die, some aren't even bothered. I would think that one or two domestic birds kept as pets wouldn't need it. Birds in a large, mixed, business aviary, maybe. I don't feel qualified to give advice on this one. Ask your vet. They'll be able to explain it to you, correctly and in depth.
Q. What's a hospital cage?
A. It's a small, enclosed cage that has a heater in it, and usually a humidifier. A hospital cage can be warmed up, which makes it easier for the sick bird to maintain its normally high body temperature. The humidifer helps ease respiratory problems. You can make such a cage by using a small aquarium, and placing a heating pad under it. Put a thermometer in the bottom corner where the bird will be. Put some bedding in there, along with food and water, and cover with towels. Place in a dim room. The temperature should be about 85 to 90 degrees Farenheit (27 to 32 degrees Celsius). If you're really in a pinch, place the cage, wrapped in towels, near a lightbulb.
Q. What are some common hazards?
A. Animals (Cat and dog saliva is very hazardous to birds)
Aquariums (Uncovered = drowning)
Carpet (getting snagged)
Children (Unless they know how to handle the bird)
Curtains/Drapes (can get toenails caught)
Electrical wires, fixtures
Pots on the stove
PTFE (found in Teflon, Silverstone)
(Polytetrafluoroethylene)--given off by nonstick pans overheated
to 536 or higher degrees Farenheit (280 or higher Celsius)-- is
very toxic to birds, death occurs within a few minutes.
Q. What are some of the common household poisons?
A. Aerosols Drain cleaner Pine Oil
Alcohol Gasoline Paint remover
Antifreeze Insecticides Paint thinner
Aspirin Kerosene Rat/Mouse poison
Bleach Medicine Shellac
Caffeine Mothballs Shoe Polish
Cigarette smoke Paint (Lead-based) Suntan lotions
Deodorants Perfume Waxes
Q. I have plants in my home. What ones are safe and what are dangerous?
A. Tom Przybylski firstname.lastname@example.org posted the following list of dangerous plants (taken from the October '87 Bird Talk Magazine) to the group:
The article gives latin names as well that I did not copy in. The symptoms codes are: GI = gastrointestinal, CV = cardiovascular, BL = blood abnormalities, CNS = nervous system, IR = irritant, UR = urinary tract, CY = signs associated with cyanide poisoning, RE = reproductive. The text of the article gives more information and detail on the symptoms.
All or part of the listed plant may be deemed hazardous
COMMON NAME SYMPTOMS
Autumn crocus or Meadow saffron GI
Horse, Fava, Broad Java BL
Glory, Scarlet Runner CY
Rosary peas, Ind. Licorice GI
Bird of Paradise GI
Bleeding Heart or Dutchman's Breeches CNS
Bracken Fern BL
Daffodil, Narcissus GI
Calla Lily IR
Cardinal Flower CNS
Chalice or Trumpet Vine GI
Cherry Tree CNS
Chinaberry Tree CNS
Christmas Candle or Rose GI
Clematis or Virginia Bower CNS
Coral Plant GI
Cowslip, Marsh Marigold CNS
Death Camas CNS
Dieffenbachia, or Dumb Cane IR
Elephants Ear or Taro IR
Eucalyptus Tree - not dried, dyed, treated CY*
Euonymus or Spindle Tree GI
False Hellebore CV
Firethorn, Pyracantha IR*
Four O'Clock GI
Golden Chain CNS
Grass: Johnson, Sorghum, Sudan, Broomcorn CY
Ground Cherry GI
Horsechestnut or Buckeye GI
Ivy, English, varieties GI*
Jack-in-the-Pulpit or Ind. Turnip IR
Jasmine GI, CNS
Jimson Weed or Thornapple CNS
Kentucky Coffee Tree CNS
Lord and Ladies or cuckoopint GI
Lupines or Bluebonnet CNS
Marijuana or Hemp CNS
Mayapple, Mandrake GI
Mock Orange GI, CNS
Monkshood, Aconite CV
Morning Glory CNS
Mushrooms - Amanita, others GI, CNS
Nettles CNS, CV
Nightshades: Deadly, Black, Garden GI, CNS
Woody, Bittersweet, Eggplant GI, CNS
Jerusalem Cherry, Potato shoots GI, CNS
Philodendrons: var. Split Leaf, Swiss Cheese IR*
Poison Ivy IR
Poison Oak: Western, Eastern IR
Pokeweed or Inkberry GI
Rain Tree GI
Ranunculus, Buttercup CNS
Red Maple GI
Rhubarb leaves UR
Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Laurels GI
Sandbox Tree GI
Skunk Cabbage IR
Sorrel, Dock CNS
Spurges: Pencil Tree GI, IR
Snow on the Mountain GI, IR
Candelabra Tree GI, IR
Crown of Thorns GI, IR
Sweet Pea and related peas CNS
Tansy Ragwort CNS
Tobacco, Tree Tobacco CNS
Virginia Creeper GI
Yews CV, GI
Yellow Jasmine CNS
* These plants have been used in aviaries without reported problems
and may be considered of questionable hazard to birds.
Q. I'm worried about my bird getting stolen. What can I do?
A. Your best bet is not to tell people the worth of your birds. If you have to transport them, do so in a covered carrier and tell them you have a canary. If you have a big bird, you might want to lock it in the cage and keep the keys with you. I doubt a crook will try to make off with a 215 pound wrought-iron cage just because the bird's locked inside of it. Teach your bird your name, address and phone number. If you have a lot of birds, invest in an alarm system. Don't put the bird in a window where people can look in and see it. If you have a very rare, expensive or just much-loved bird, consider having a transponder planted in its chest. It's painless and effective.
Q. How can I make sure that I can postively identify my bird should it be stolen? (Heaven forbid!)
A. Teach your bird your full name, address and phone number if at all possible. Keep your receipt, which should have the bird's band number on it. The thief will, in all likelihood cut off the band, though. Make an audiotape of the bird speaking, especially if it says something that's unique. Make a videotape of the bird, if it does tricks. Take photographs of feet and beak, they're just like fingerprints, each unique. With Macaws, the feather lines on the facial patch are good identification. All these lines vary slightly from bird to bird. Photograph any unusual physical features, like scars or marks or missing toes and the like. You can get the bird tattooed with an I.D. number, but bird skin is thin, and doesn't hold the tattoo well. It fades quickly and has to be retouched every so often. It also is very stressing for the bird. Transponders are effective, painless and undetectable.
Q. Is there such thing as bird insurance?
A. Yes, there is. You may be able to get additional coverage from your company, but usually not. The loss of a bird will not be covered by your homeowner/rental policy, either. However, there is a company called Avi-Care that has a standard policy which provides coverage against theft and death. Premiums begin at 9.5% of the bird's market value. There is also an optional veterinary coverage at additional cost. For futher information call or write to:
Complete Equity Markets, Inc.
1098 South Milwaukee Avenue
Wheeling, IL, 60090-6398
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