Although some birds can talk, their vocabulary does not include words to tell you when they are sick. Since they can't tell us, it is important for birds to have regular health checks by an avian veterinarian and for you to observe any unusual behavior and communicate this information to your vet.

You are the best resource on your bird's health. You know her normal behavior and appearance better than anyone, and by observing any changes in how she looks and acts, you are her first line of defense against disease.

An annual veterinary examination is critical to maintaining your bird's good health. The examination is the best way to ensure you catch diseases early enough for successful treatment. Your vet can also notice congenital problems and give you the best advice about caring for your bird and encouraging her to behave so she becomes, or continues to be, a welcome member of your household. But even the best veterinarian in the world can't see in an hour what you have observed through the entire year.

The first time you visit a new vet or take a new pet to your vet, you will have to answer a series of questions about the pet and your household for the medical record. If the veterinary hospital is large enough, an assistant might take this information from you before the vet does an actual examination.

Typical Questions Asked at a Routine Visit

What is your bird's name? A pet's medical records are usually filed under both her name and the owner's name.

Where did you get her? Whether she came from a breeder, a pet shop or a shelter, your bird will have certain medical risks related to her place of origin. The vet will understand these risks and help him decide what tests or vaccinations might be necessary.

How old is she? If you don't know your bird's history, the vet will try to estimate her age for you.

What vaccinations has she had? If you don't know the complete history of your bird, she will most likely need some shots.

Have you had any problems with her? Your vet can offer advice on changing your bird's behavioral habits.

How is she getting along with your other pets? It can be tricky to bring a new bird into a household in which another pet already rules the roost. The last thing you want to do is banish one pet from your house because of incompatibility, so your veterinarian can offer advice on encouraging the pets to live together in harmony.

In addition to this round of questions, the vet will want to take your bird's temperature, weight, collect a stool sample to check for intestinal problems and take a blood sample to check for diseases.

Even after that first visit, a trip to the vet for an annual physical exam and vaccinations can be a harrowing experience. Your bird might remember the last visit and might not be happy about another trip to stand on a cold metal table to be prodded by a stranger.

Many owners manage to get through the visit by constantly talking to and stroking their birds. Some birds, however, can only be controlled using restraints. If your bird is transformed into a demon at the vet's, don't be embarrassed. No doubt your veterinarian has seen worse behavior, and he knows just how to handle an angry or scared bird without hurting her.

You need to be prepared to answer some basic questions about her health and progress since the previous visit. It is a good idea to think about or write down your answers to likely questions before you go, so you will have time to concentrate if your bird is upset. Some of these questions are intended to gather standard information, while others might be asked because of something the veterinarian notices. These questions will likely include:

  • Has your bird had any problems lately such as diarrhea, coughing or sneezing?
  • Is she passing urine and feces without problems? Problems with urination and bowel movements can signal a number of ailments, some of them serious.
  • Has she had a weight gain or sudden weight loss?
  • How much do you feed her? What type of food? Have you changed her diet recently?
  • Has her eating or drinking habits changed recently?
  • Is your bird active and getting exercise?
  • Where do you keep her cage and how is she housed?
  • Are there other birds in the home? What is the state of health of the other birds? Any problems?

Since you have been working to control your bird while the vet has been examining her and giving you information on her condition and instructions for her care, you might feel a bit overwhelmed, especially if the vet has recommended specific treatment. Don't let all the information go in one ear and out the other. Ask the vet to repeat the diagnosis or even to write it down if you don't recognize the words. That way you can research more information later if you need to.

Also, since you might be focusing on your bird, during or shortly after the exam, write down any important information or instructions you've been given, such as: diet recommendations, including the brand name of recommended foods and the amounts to feed your bird; medication information, such as how much, how often, how long and how to administer it; recommended exercise level or any activities your bird should avoid; when to schedule a follow-up visit.

The more information you can give the veterinarian about your bird's history, the better able he will be to assess your bird's current health, both by knowing if there are specific things to look for during the physical exam and by adding to his general knowledge about your bird. Make sure you notice, keep track of and report any abnormalities or changes in your bird's behavior or physical condition.