Written by Karine, TaffyWduck
What exactly does the vet do when you visit him for the first time? I have to admit it is pretty scary to take your bird in and have absolutely no clue of what this person, whom you -in most cases- don't know, will do to your precious baby. Of course if you are anxious, imagine what your bird is going through! The first vet visit is very important for a number of reasons, two being overly important:
- The first visit is the one when, ideally, you decide whether or not this vet is competent to treat birds.
- It's the perfect occasion for you to learn more about your baby.
First things first, transportation, how to make that trip the least stressful as possible? The best thing is to drive to the vet. Public transportation can be very stressful for both you and the bird. It's often over crowded, some people have a very bad personal hygiene and some wear way too much perfume, all of which is not that good for the bird. Plus, it wouldn't really be safe for you to be standing up in the bus and not everyone will be ready to give you his/her seat. People in bus (or subway) push, step all over the place and do not pay attention to that carrier thingy that is in there way, so an accident could easily happen where someone kicks the cage.
There is the temperature factor to take into consideration, if it's winter, the temperature fluctuation (home-bus-clinic-bus-home = hot-cold-hot-cold) could be harmful to the bird. If it's raining, the bird could get wet (plus rain water= nasty water) and if it's summer and its really hotů body odor comes back to mind (if it doesn't hurt the bird, it will certainly hurt you!). The only thing that would probably not be a problem would be the danger to other issue (aside from stepping on the cage and falling all over the place) since your bird would be contained and not in a position to attack anyone.
Anyhow, if you don't have a car or someone (family or friend) to drive you to the vet, your best bet is to take a taxi. Yes it's expensive, but it's worth it considering all the bus issues mentioned above. If you take a taxi to go to the vet, there are a few things you should make sure of to ensure you get a peaceful ride. When you call for the cab, mention that you have a bird with you that will be in a pet carrier with no possibility of escape. This is important because, since you mentioned it to the operator, they will send you a driver who doesn't mind transporting animals and who isn't allergic to them. Call companies a few days before the appointment so you are sure that you will find one with such a driver. Also, this is very important, ask for a non-smoking driver if possible, or politely ask the driver not to smoke while you and your bird are in the car (hey, your money, your bird, your safety... tobacco is bad for everyone).
In the best case scenario you either have your own car, or have someone who agreed to drive you to the clinic and back home. There again there should be no smoking in the car while you and the bird are in there (tobacco is bad in any car!) and the bird must be properly restrained. Make sure you know all the directions (and the address of the clinic) so you can minimize the driving time. Once you get to the clinic, have your friend drop you off in front of the clinic so you don't have to walk much with the carrier: it will minimize the chance of accidents and the temperature fluctuation.
Carriers have been mentioned several times, and here are a few suggestions as to what to use to transport your bird safely. The ideal would be to carry the bird in its regular cage, but it would have to be a pretty small cage so that's often out of the question. A simple cardboard box with hole pierced in it can do the job, however it can only be used once to carry a sick bird, and birds have a tendency to chew through cardboard and should be watched carefully. Plus most cardboard boxes are hard to close safely and the last thing you want is for your bird to get loose and escape!
What about flight suits and leashes? Well, rare are the birds who will accept the flight suit in the first place and not cost you several chunks of skins. Plus the outside world is full of danger for your bird, a cat (or other predator) could easily jump and yank him out of your protective arms, a noise could scare the bird and throw him into a panic frenzy etc. It's better to have your bird contained, especially since this is his first visit to the vet and we want the bird to be stressed as little as possible.
I have found that the best option, in my opinion and experience, is to use a small cat carrier (since I have cockatiels, this is big enough, if you have a larger bird, get a carrier big enough so the bird can be comfortable inside). I put paper towels on the bottom of the carrier with some millet spray and cover the carrier with a blanket so it's dark and warm in there. This usually calms the birds down and limits their stress. Most cat carrier have openings on the sides which could allow you to place a perch inside, should you decide to do so.
Once you get to the vet, the receptionist will talk with you and open your bird's file, gather some general information about your bird (specie, gender, etc) and take your phone number/address etc. Once you are in the waiting room, you can uncover the carrier, but it is better to leave the bird in there (especially if there are other birds in the waiting room), talk to your baby and make sure he's doing fine. Look around to see if the clinics looks clean, what kind of product they carry etc.
Then the vet will call your name and will lead you into the exam room where, finally, you will take your bird out of the carrier. The vet will handle the bird, look at its feathers, ears, eyes, vent, weight the bird and, if you brought the cage paper with you, take a look at your bird's droppings. The vet will talk with you about your bird's diet, cage, and general requirements. Feel free to ask any questions you might have, because an avian vet is often the best person to ask! Make sure to ask if the vet would recommend medication in the water (in case anything was to happen to your precious baby). If the answer is yes you'll have to find another vet who's more qualified to treat birds, because medication in the water doesn't do much good at all. But generally, certified avian vet will know better than to give medication in the water and often recommend either medication by mouth or by injections.
It would also be a good idea, if you thing your bird might be sick or is acting weird, to tell the vet about it. A complete checkup can include blood tests and fecal smear test to determine if there is any underlying conditions that your pet isn't showing symptoms of so it's a good idea to ask for those tests at least the first time you go in the vet. The vet will tell you if it's necessary to go through with the testing.
Your first vet visit should be a positive experience for both you, and your bird, because vet care is part of pet ownership it's always better if it's pleasant!
If you haven't found an avian vet in your area, you can check this site to find one: http://aav.org/vet-lookup/