The best time to find a veterinarian is before you need one. As soon as you adopt your new bird, start looking for a good veterinarian. Usually, your new feathered family member will need to be seen by a doctor within 72 hours for an initial health check. Then, you and your veterinarian can work on a vaccination schedule, talk about caring for your bird and discuss what to do in case of illness or injury. It is unlikely you will ever face an emergency situation, but don't wait until you are facing a crisis to start looking for a vet.

Starting Your Search

It may be more difficult to find a good veterinarian for a pet bird than it is for a dog or cat, but it is worth the effort. Look for someone Board Certified in Avian Medicine by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. You may also want to concentrate your search on clinics or hospitals that only treat birds. However, there are many full-service veterinarian hospitals that have an avian veterinarian, so be sure to ask.

It's best to get to know as much as you can about the veterinarian before you schedule an appointment so you can avoid having to switch doctors in the future. A veterinarian who knows your bird's history and personality can be a valuable asset when you are facing an illness or injury.

Ask your bird-owning friends who their veterinarian is and if they would recommend him or her for your pet. It may also be helpful to make a list of possible care providers. These are both good ways to start your search.

The Well Pet Visit

Once you have found a veterinarian who seems to have the same philosophy as you, regarding the care of your pet and you are satisfied with the care they are able to provide, schedule a well-pet visit. While at the office you can further assess your vet by making careful observations.

Ask for a tour of the facility you have chosen and observe what kinds of equipment are available as well as the overall condition and cleanliness of the office. Ask as many questions as you need to ask in order to have all of your concerns addressed.

Make sure the costs seem reasonable in comparison to other vets for similar services. Keep in mind, however, that avian medicine can be more expensive than small animal medicine or other unspecialized medicine.

When you see the veterinarian, observe how he or she interacts with your pet. Make sure you are comfortable with his or her bedside manner and how your pet responds. Notice if the facility seems adequately staffed with enough staff members to help you without being rushed.

It may also be helpful to ask if the vet owns a bird. And, if the practice is full-service and not strictly avian medicine, ask how many birds a week they normally see.

Types of Veterinarian Practices

Full-service Practice: A full-service veterinarian clinic or hospital provides an array of services for all small animals, birds and exotics. Services may include x-ray, surgery, grooming, dentistry, allergy testing, trauma and diagnostic services as well as grooming and boarding.

Specialty Practice: A specialty practice can concentrate in many different areas of medicine. For example, the practice might focus on managing specific areas of the body such as the heart, the diagnosis and treatment of specific diseases such as cancer, or treating a particular species or animal group such as birds, small or large animals, rodents or cats and dogs. Specialized practices are becoming more and more popular in veterinarian medicine with the emergence of new technologies for treating and diagnosing diseases in animals.

Emergency Practice: Open on weekends, holidays and after normal veterinarians' office hours to treat traumas and other emergencies.

Holistic/Alternative Practice: Concentrates on treating pets with natural medicines such as herbs and stimulating the body's own healing abilities.

Avian Practice: Specializes in the treatment of birds.

Types of Veterinarians

After graduating from a veterinarian school, students have the choice of completing a one-year internship in small or large animals and a three-year residency in a specialty area such as internal medicine, surgery or dermatology. After residency, veterinarians are eligible to become board certified in their area of specialty.

Some terms to be familiar with include:

DVM: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, usually a four-year program.

MS: Master of Science, with length of training depending on area of concentration, e.g. animal behavior.

PhD: Doctor of Philosophy, with program length depending upon emphasis.