CVMA-ACMV

Keep Your Bird in Good Health for Life

October 24, 2012

There exists a pet bird for all particular tastes, from a singer, to a talker, to a whistler, to a playful friend who loves to be caressed. Each species has its own special characteristics for each bird keeper's needs. A person wanting a singing bird which does not take up too much space and only demands a little attention will choose a canary. The bird par excellence for the beginner, however, is the budgie. Initial investment is minimal and the budgie can be a faithful companion, living from 10 to 15 years if well taken care of.

What is meant by good care?

Well, stretch your imagination and compare your bird to an automobile. You take your car to a garage regularly to have it checked. In the case of your pet bird, do not forget to take it to your veterinarian for a general examination annually.

Choose the Right Veterinarian

Not all veterinarians look after birds. Ask your veterinarian if he or she treats birds when you call to make an appointment. In some cases, they will recommend a veterinarian who practices exclusively in birds.

An annual check-up is not all it takes to keep your pet bird in good health. With your car, you must fill up with gas, check the oil, and drive carefully. With birds it's about the same when it comes to good nutrition, vitamins and mineral supplements, and accident prevention.

Nutrition is More Than Just Seeds

The major health problem encountered by veterinarians examining birds is one of malnutrition. Secondary problems include problems caused by serious accidents in an unhealthy and unsafe environment.

When it comes to nutrition, the general public recognizes budgies, finches, canaries, parakeets, and parrots exclusively as grain eaters. In the wild, the animals have an extremely varied diet. Seeds are deficient in many nutrients and a diet based uniquely on seeds will result in an inactive bird with poor plumage, and susceptibility to many diseases.

What's more, birds on seed-only diets will not live nearly as long as those on a balanced diet. A good diet is made up of 50 per cent of an appropriate seed mixture, 45 per cent of nutritious vegetables (broccoli, ground corn, cauliflower), and five per cent of high protein foods (well cooked meat, eggs, cheese) and fruits.

Birds are very conservative and will not always accept new foods easily. If your bird will only eat certain foods and not others, you must supplement its diet with vitamins and minerals.

Supplements Come in a Variety of Fashions

There exists on the market today many mixes of seeds enriched with vitamins and minerals. If the seeds are sprinkled with supplements, however, your bird may not get much out of them because they do not eat the husks. Look for mixes of seeds which have their husks already removed then the supplements are added. This is much more beneficial to your bird.

You can also find diets said to be completely balanced, with all nutrients necessary for your bird. These come in the form of pellets and need no supplementation. It is not always easy to get your bird to accept such a diet, but once it is done, you will avoid many headaches with this well-balanced meal.

Always provide your bird with a source of calcium of their choice, through a mineral block, a powder of liquid calcium, oyster shells or a cuttlebone. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also available for mixing with your bird's water. This is an easy and fool-proof way of supplementing their diet. Be sure to change the water daily.

If you add gravel to your bird's diet, pay close attention to any signs of illness (which can sometimes be very hard to detect). A sick bird has a tendency to over-eat gravel, compounding the health problems.

Environment Plays a Major Role

Your bird's environment, that is, its cage and surroundings, plays a major role in its state of health. When you serve your bird fresh food, make sure to do so in a separate bowl. Fresh foods spoil quickly and should not be left in the cage for more than a couple of hours. Water must always be available. Soft food and water containers must be washed thoroughly every day to prevent the growth of life-threatening bacteria. Dry food containers should be cleaned once a week.

If your bird does not leave its cage very often and has only one perch, it may have a tendency to develop foot problems (redness, swelling, and aches). It is a good idea to exercise your bird outside its cage and add another perch in the cage to promote activity. Perches of natural wood are best and are available from the florist. Good, easy to clean, plastic branches are also available from your pet shop.

Also, make sure that your bird's nails are always kept short of they may get caught in the bars of the cage or in their nest materials and cause a delicate claw or limb to break.

Be Very Careful With Your Bird outside the Cage

A bird faces many dangers when it ventures outside its cage. Cover your aquarium and close the toilet seat because a drowning can easily occur. Do not allow your bird in the kitchen when you are cooking. It could be attracted to boiling water or oil. A bird which flies freely in the house can also crash into mirrors or windows, so be sure to keep these items covered.

To avoid these types of accidents, your bird's wings can be clipped. Ask a professional for more information. Wing clipping is not painful for the bird and feathers return after moulting.

Watch your other animals. Cats, dogs and ferrets can quickly make a meal of your bird. And watch yourself too. Birds are so small that you can easily sit or step on them if you don't pay attention.

Like children, birds are curious and want to touch and taste just about everything. They can easily be poisoned by chemicals and certain plants around the house. Lead poisoning is very frequent from tiffany lamps, old paint and curtain weights.

Ask your veterinarian about the ways to detect signs of illness in your particular species of bird during your next visit. Take good care of your winged friends, feed them well, keep their environment safe and they will reward you with a long, happy, song-filled life in the comfort of your own home.