One of the most important things you can do as a responsible steward for your parrot is to have a good working relationship with an avian veterinarian. Many times, during your years of being a bird owner, you are going to need to rely on this relationship to help keep your bird(s) healthy and happy.
Recently I found myself in this very position. Stirling, my 39-year-old Congo African grey, was favoring one foot. Realizing this behavior was not normal, I made an appointment with my avian vet. Things were a little more stressful for us going to the vet this time due to Covid-19 and knowing I could not be in the exam room with my bird. Thankfully, my husband drove me the 90 miles and sat with me in the car to distract me while Stirling was not in my view.
Find One Before You Need One
I have always emphasized to parrot owners that one of the most important things you can do is find an avian vet prior to needing one. When your bird is not well, the last thing you want to do is scramble to find a qualified veterinarian or, worse, visit one who knows nothing about birds and lose precious time helping your bird to recover.
Another relevant thing to keep in mind is to be able to find your vet information quickly. I keep a list of qualified local avian veterinarians hanging in a cabinet in the bird room that will inform anyone who would have to care for my birds in my absence where they can go if needed. It contains phone numbers, the hospital name, doctors’ names and directions. When traveling, I also leave a signed check for our bird sitter in case emergency funds are needed for their care. A note should always accompany the check so the vet is aware that this person is allowed to treat your pet and use your payment form.
Prep For The Trip
Another thing to do is get your bird used to the carrier and keep them accustomed to it. Take them on rides other than to the vet so the carrier is not associated with a scary place to be. Be sure the carrier is secure, and make the trips fun. I would often visit my husband at work on the military base with the birds prior to his retirement. The soldiers liked seeing the birds. Offering something like fruit in a food dish works better than water to provide hydration and prevent the bird from getting wet from spills.
Take a dry run to the veterinarian’s office prior to needing them if this is an option. Locate the facility and notice the drive time that it takes you to get there. Get familiar with the parking if you have to travel to a neighboring city. Some clinics do not have onsite parking or have valet parking that you need cash for.
There are not a lot of board-certified avian vets, so you may even have to travel to a bordering state if you need a specialty. Luckily, some vets have adapted to conducting phone or video conference consultations and are willing to work with your vet locally or internationally if you are not able to secure one near you.
If you have a bird that happens to get car sick, you can offer a little ginger to calm their bellies before the drive. Some will eat ginger root but others, like mine, will not. I have to make a ginger water concoction for Emma Lynn, because our travel time without it is about 45 minutes until she starts to throw up and then every 20 minutes thereafter. Limit food the morning of the visit so there is less to throw up. Should you need to do this, talk to your vet first to confirm that this is something they agree with as well. If any procedure is being done, your avian vet can advise if your bird needs to have an empty stomach.
As for Stirling, after X-rays, it was found he has slight osteoporosis and arthritis in his left hip joint. He will be on daily supplements to help ease the pain, tart cherry juice to help with inflammation, as well as additional Lafeber’s Senior Pellet Berries that are designed to aid older parrots lead healthier lives. A big thank you to Dr. Lauren Powers, Dr. Anthony Pilny and staff at the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital as well as Dr. Scott Echols, for being part of Stirling’s care team and for guiding us through this aging process.