Avian Expert Articles

18 Ways to Drive an Avian Vet Crazy

PoicephalusThe following list is compiled from experiences I had working for twenty years with avian veterinarians. Each is true. Bird owners drive their avian veterinarians crazy when they do the following.

1. Leave a message for the avian veterinarian to call, then expect a callback within 5 minutes, no matter what.

Avian veterinarians are generally incredibly busy caring for sick birds and talking to their owners. It is often late evening before they finally have to a chance to sit down and start returning messages that have accumulated through the day. Bird owners have to wait their turn. As an aside, if owners suspect a problem with their bird, they should schedule an appointment, not leave a message for their veterinarian to call.

2. Call in hysterics when their parrot preens out a feather and they think it is starting to pluck … and then don’t call when the bird is too quiet for a week.

Feather damaging behaviors — while upsetting — are not a medical emergency. Yes, the bird definitely needs to be checked by an avian veterinarian, but this is not a Life Or Death issue. On the other hand, a parrot being too quiet for a week could very well be a medical emergency, and an avian veterinarian should see the bird NOW.

3. When the avian veterinarian finally gets a chance to return a routine call at 10 PM, owners tie her up for 45 minutes with “while I have you on the phone, I have one more quick question about a bird I used to have…”

If the avian veterinarian doesn’t return a call until late, odds are good that she’s had a long and exhausting day. I know how tempting it is to ask multiple questions that are unrelated to a current case. I always have questions for my avian veterinarian who knows so much! But please, give your avian veterinarian a break!

4. Stop medications your avian veterinarian prescribed without consulting with your vet because, “He was better…” or “He didn’t LIKE it…”

Owners should NEVER stop medications for ANY reason, without first consulting first with their avian veterinarian. Stopping an antibiotic too early can enable bacteria to become immune to a drug, and the bird is likely to relapse and become MUCH sicker the second time around. Other medications, such as steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can be extremely dangerous if stopped abruptly. It is vital that all prescriptions be given exactly as directed, as often as directed, and for as long as directed.

5. Don’t inform the avian veterinarian about financial constraints when extensive testing is recommended, then complain loudly about the bill to the receptionist and clients in the waiting room.

Owners have to advise their avian veterinarian if there are financial restrictions. If they say nothing, veterinarians will assume there is no problem with expenses. (Besides, it’s a cheap shot to complain to the receptionist, since she has nothing to do with billing.)

6. Don’t follow the avian veterinarian’s instructions because “someone on the internet” or “someone in a pet store” (they don’t remember who) said it wasn’t a good idea.

The internet has been sardonically nicknamed the MISinformation Highway, thanks to the incredible amount of bad information posted there. Anyone can pose as an “expert,” no matter how little they actually know. If you are careful, there is excellent information as well, but it you know little, it is difficult to judge what is accurate and what is not. As you learn in the beginning, stick to websites recommended by your avian vet as having good information about companion birds.

As for assuming that someone working in a pet store must be knowledgeable, that is sadly far from true. Many pet store employees have little or no accurate information about birds. After all, working in a store doesn’t guarantee someone has actual knowledge about the products they sell.

Bird caretakers have to trust their avian veterinarians, rather than a faceless stranger or a clerk in a store. An avian veterinarian has specialized training, has seen the bird, knows its history (IF the owner has told him/her everything) and has test results (IF the owner has allowed him/her to do diagnostics). The stranger does not. If owners don’t trust their avian veterinarians, then they should find another avian veterinarian that they dotrust.

7. Don’t allow the avian veterinarian to do the required diagnostics … then complain when (s)he can’t give the owner a diagnosis, or the bird doesn’t get better.

When an avian veterinarian is not allowed to do the recommended diagnostics, he/she isn’t able to collect all the information needed to properly help a sick bird. Without sufficient data, even the most experienced avian veterinarian in the world can only guess what is wrong. Consequently, if a bird does not get better, it is not the fault of the avian veterinarian – it is the owner’s fault for not allowing the avian veterinarian to do a proper work-up.

8. “It’s not my fault because… nobody TOLD me …” [Fill in the blank]: … an all seed diet was bad, … overheated Teflon kills birds, etc, etc, etc.

It is the parrot owner’s responsibility to read, learn and question. It is impossible for anyone to teach someone all they need to know… That would take years!

9. Go through all the testing to make certain a parrot is healthy, then take it to the local pet shop for grooming because it is cheaper than going to the veterinarian.

By taking a bird into a pet store for grooming, an owner exposes a bird to other birds and therefore possible disease. This is NOT what you would call “saving money,” right?

10. When entering the exam room for an appointment, the owner removes the parrot from its carrier and allows it to climb on his/her shoulder… and then is unable to get it off when the avian veterinarian wants to examine it.

This is a tremendous waste of an avian veterinarian’s valuable time (and makes the owner look very silly).

11. Treat a sick bird with over-the-counter (OTC) medications from a pet store, and then complain when the avian veterinarian cannot do proper diagnostics.

Pet store medications are rarely (if ever) effective in curing a bird’s illness. However, they can affect some diagnostic tests to the point of invalidating the results. This is not the avian veterinarian’s fault.

12. Expect an avian veterinarian to provide state-of-the-art avian medicine — but get furious when he/she is unavailable because he/she is attending an avian veterinary conference (which is how he/she stays up-to-date so he/she is able to provide state-of-the-art avian medicine).

No explanation is needed for this one, but it happens, none-the-less!

13. If a bird dies, an owner doesn’t allow a necropsy (veterinary equivalent of an autopsy).

By not allowing a necropsy, an owner is denying the avian veterinarian knowledge that he/she could use to aid other birds in the future. We bird owners have the responsibility to help avian veterinarians learn as much as possible, so they can better help other sick birds. Also, if the owner has other birds, the avian veterinarian has no way of knowing if the other birds are at risk of contagious disease unless a necropsy is done on the bird that died.

Another example of this are clients who do not allow an avian veterinarian to treat a sick finch because it is an inexpensive creature — then complain that avian veterinarians know too little about finches. Knowledgeable breeders have post mortems done on anything that dies, including eggs.

14. Don’t do annual check-ups with their birds, only bringing in a bird when there is an emergency.

By doing annual check-ups, the avian veterinarian has a normal baseline for a bird, providing a norm against which future test values can be compared. This can enable the avian veterinarian to pinpoint slight changes that might indicate the very early stages of a problem developing, long before it can become serious.

15. Read about a bird’s medical problem on the internet and then ask their avian veterinarian to diagnose the condition.

Veterinarians (avian or otherwise) cannot diagnose a problem in an animal they have never seen. Neither can medical doctors. Don’t ask, ’cause they can’t tell.

16. Buy a bird at full price to “rescue” it from sub-optimal conditions, and then expect the avian veterinarian to discount his/her bill because the “rescuer” is such a good person.

Let’s remove the rose-tinted glasses and translate this into reality. Purchasing a bird under the above circumstances is actually rewarding the facility for shoddy care. By expecting a discount at the veterinary office, they are asking their veterinarian to work for less money — and veterinarians are already the lowest paid medical professionals in this country. So the substandard store stays in business (to screw up another animal’s care) and the avian veterinarian ends up working as a greeter at Wal-Mart. Does this make sense? Also, let’s clarify something else: if someone buys a bird from a pet store at full price, then that is a purchase, not a rescue.

17. Refuses to let the avian veterinarian do the diagnostics he/she recommends because the owner “just doesn’t have the money right now…” and then (s)he buys another bird on the way home.

Avian veterinarians have a bitter expression — especially about certain bird breeders: They can’t afford proper avian medicine, but they can always afford another bird. Sad, but often true. I suppose it’s a matter of priorities, yes?

18. Expect the avian veterinarian to discount his/her services because (s)he loves animals.

This is an amazing example of extraordinarily distorted reasoning. No one expects a lawyer to discount his services because he loves the law, nor does anyone expect pediatricians to cut their prices because they love kids.WHY do people think veterinarians (who are already making less money their fellow professionals) should do this because they love animals? You don’t believe me? Look it up. Veterinarians are the lowest paid professionals in the USA, making a starting salary of only $35 to 50,000 a year — and that is with four years of college and four years of veterinary school!

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