New Bird Testing & WELL-BIRD Exam

NEW BIRD TESTING & WELL-BIRD EXAM: what veterinary tests should you provide new birds with as well as reasons for different examinations and some of their uses.


Reasons for different examinations and some of their uses

Index of Bird DiseasesSymptoms and Potential CausesBird Species and Diseases They are Most Susceptible to

Resources: Avian Vet Search … Do-it-Yourself – Disease Testing Labsor Do-it-yourself Disease and Sex Testing

New Bird In The House

So you bought a new bird. Whether this is to be an only bird or added to an existing flock, you should take it to an Avian Vet. Quite often an Avian Vet is not available and we have to rely on the knowledge of a practicing veterinarian. The following is meant to give you a basis for an exam. Birds, unlike other animals, have a knack for hiding the fact that they are sick. This is a form of preservation in the wild. A sick bird soon becomes someone’s dinner or in the case of chicks, does not get dinner. Survival of the fittest. Keeping this in mind you need to be watchful for any changes in appetite, water consumption, droppings, appearance, etc. With birds, by the time they are sitting fluffed up, quite often it is too late. Be alert and observant.

New Bird Exam

The purpose of a new bird exam is to rule out common problems and diseases that would make the new bird a poor pet as far as health and diseases and to protect other birds in the household, present or future, from common contagious diseases.

The most commonly recommended basic tests and exams are as follows:
1) Physical examination
2) Fecal Parasite Check and examination of droppings
3) Fecal and Choanal Gram Stains
4) Chlamydia Testing
5) Polyoma Virus Testing
6) Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Testing
7) Complete Blood Count

Blood chemistries (i.e., ALT) and total serum proteins are also occasionally run at the discretion of the attending veterinarian. If abnormalities are found in the above data base, further diagnostics such as complete chemistry panel, culture and sensitivities, urinalysis, and radiographs may also be performed.

Well Bird Exam

The well bird exam is used to confirm that the bird is free of any problems. It is impossible to guarantee that a bird is free of all diseases possible, but it is used to determine that the bird is displaying no detectable physical or physiological evidence of disease and is in reasonable good health. The basic well bird exam consists of the following:
1) Physical examination
2) Choanal and Fecal Gram Stain
3) Fecal parasite check

Other ancillary tests may be performed at the discretion of the attending veterinarian. Such as a Complete Blood Count, Serum Chemistries, Cultures, etc.

Reasons for different examinations and some of their uses:

1) Physical Exam – The physical exam is used to guide the veterinarian to any part of the bird that may be diseased, injured, malformed or malfunctioning. This is an extensive thorough procedure that can detect a wide array of diseases and conditions in multiple body systems.

2) Fecal Parasite Check – The fecal parasite check is used to rule out infestation with intestinal parasites such as worms, coccidia and giardia.

3) Examination of Droppings – Since the droppings are a combination of urine and feces they serve as an indicator of both gastrointestinal and renal health.

4) Gram Stains – The Gram stain is used to detect gram-negative bacteria and yeast. A vast number of birds are either ill because of gram-negative bacteria or have become immunocompromised from other disease processes and have become invaded by opportunistic organisms such as yeast or gram- negative bacteria. Identification of such infections aids treatment and recovery of the patient.

5) Complete Blood Count (CBC) – The complete blood count is a sensitive indicator of the general health of any animal. The parameters routinely examined include a total and differential white cell count (WBC), hematacrit, red cell characteristics (RBC), Thrombocyte count, plasma characteristics and the presence or absence of blood parasites. Changes in many of these parameters are indicative of many different disease processes and are often noted before any other sign of disease is present.

6) Chlamydia Testing – Testing for Chlamydia psittaci is used to determine if the avian patients may be a carrier of ‘psittacosis’, ‘ornithoris’, or ‘parrot fever’, a disease that can be spread from bird to bird and bird to man. This is a treatable condition.

7) Polyomavirus Testing Polyomavirus causes budgerigar fledgling disease (BFD) and can cause high mortality in aviary conditions amongst young birds. Birds with this virus should not be exposed to other birds or bred at all and often have a greatly shortened life span. There is no effective treatment for this disease at this time.

8) Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease – Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a virus that can affect many organ systems at many stages in a birds life. This disease can cause acute death, dystrophic malformed feathers, immunosuppression and oral lesions. Birds with this disease usually have a greatly shortened life span and should not be bred or exposed to other birds. There is no effective treatment of this disease at this time.

The information on the New and Well Bird Exams was provided by Shannon McGee, DVM at Collierville Animal Clinic, Collierville, TN through Wanda Elder

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