Birds as Pets

We care for many types of birds, including Pigeons, Mynahs, Macaws, Conures, Keets, Parakeets, Lories, Lorikeets, Cockatiels, Caiques, Cockatoos, Finches, Canaries, Toucans, Toucanettes, Parrots, Parottlets, Doves, Hornbills, Turacos, Falcons, Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Herons, Ducks, Geese, and Swans.

Birds as Pets

Care Recommendations

  • Complete Physical Examination Every 6-12 Months

  • Yearly Fecal Examinations For Parasites, Yeast, and Abnormal Bacteria

  • Wing, Nail, And Beak Trimming

  • Vaccination For Avian Polyomavirus

  • Routine Blood Testing

Other Available Services

  • Hospitalization and Surgery

  • Microchip Identification

  • DNA Sexing

  • Grooming

  • Day Care

  • Leg Band Removal

  • Radiology

Common Avian Diseases

Birds are able to mask signs of disease until it is very advanced. Once symptoms are advanced, treatment may not be effective. Even the manipulation required for diagnosis or treatment may be to dangerous to perform. Routine physical examinations every 6 months make early detections of disease possible before it becomes advanced. If your pet is showing signs of disease (especially the inability to perch or a tail-bob when breathing) please call ahead for mobile services to decrease the chance of respiratory failure during transport. The following are common diseases or conditions in most species of captive birds.

  • Viruses – Psittacosis, Psitticine Beak and Feather Disease, Pacheco’s Disease, Avian Polyomavirus, many others

  • Respiratory infections – (fungal, bacterial) inability to perch, tail-bob when breathing

  • Intestinal disorders – diarrhea, colitis (copious malodorous soft feces, occasionally pink urates), intestinal parasites

  • Malnutrition – parasites, infections, nerologic diseases, difficulty prehending food, crop stasis

  • Liver disease – billiverdinuria (green urates), Psitticosis

  • Pododermatitis – ulcers, infection, scaly leg mites

  • Crop stasis – infection, crop burns

  • Kidney disease – excessive urates

  • Skin conditions – feather mites, scaly leg mites, vitamin A deficiency

  • Gout – uric acid accumulation in joints and organs

  • Egg binding – calcium deficiency, hormonal

  • Beak deformities – genetic, Psitticine beak and feather disease, vitamin A deficiency

  • Eye disorders – conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, cataracts

  • Weanling death – crop stasis, Avian polyoma virus

  • Tumors – sarcomas, fibrosarcomas, mast cell tumors

Avian Preventive Care

  • Routine physical examinations every 6-12 months with blood chemistry analysis annually

  • Viral screening as needed – Psitticosis is highly contagious to other birds and to humans causing flu-like symptoms and liver disease

  • Routine annual intestinal parasite, bacterial, and yeast screening

  • Annual Vaccination for Avian Polyomavirus especially for breeding pairs (to avoid weanling death) or those who will be spending time with birds of unknown viral status (to avoid carrier status)

  • Regular beak trims for overgrowth or deformities to maintain proper food prehension and avoid malnutrition

  • Regular nail trims for overgrowth or brittle nails that break easily to enable proper perching and avoid pododermatitis, foot chewing, plantar ulcers, bleeding, joint infections, bumblefoot, arthritis

  • Feed a vitamin A rich pelleted diet with fruits (non-pitted) and nuts such as almonds (avoid shelled peanuts due to fungal infections or pitted seeds due to toxicity) as treats

  • Six week quarantine with viral testing before and after quarantine before introduction to healthy aviaries

  • Avoid gatherings of other companion birds where viral status of other birds is unknown

  • Avoid ambient temperature below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and/or drafts and cover cages when transporting to avoid stress/cold/drafts

  • Avoid scented sprays, candles, incense, etc that could be inhaled into air-sacs or settle on feathers or perches and cause irritation

Polyomavirus Vaccination for Pet Birds

Birds are able to mask signs of disease until it is very advanced. Treatment once symptoms are advanced may not be effective. Even the manipulation required for diagnosis or treatment may be to dangerous to perform. Routine physical examinations every 6 months make early detections of disease possible before it becomes advanced. If your pet is showing signs of disease (especially the inability to perch or a tail-bob when breathing) please call ahead for mobile services to decrease the chance of respiratory failure during transport.

What is Avian Polyomavirus?

Polyomavirus is one of the most feared, and often most misunderstood, viral infections of pet birds. This virus can infect many speciesof birds including pet parrots, finches, canaries, and chickens. Budgerigars (parakeets), eclectus parrots, macaws, conures, lovebirds, caiques, and Ring-necked parakeets are considered particularly susceptible to infection. While polyomvirus is typically considered a disease of very young birds, adult birds can become infected and become carriers of the disease. These carrier birds, though they show no clinical signs ofillness, are thought to be responsible for transmitting the disease to other birds. Transmission occurs via contact with contaminated feces, feather dander, crop contents or other aerosolized particles.

What are the signs of this disease?

Clinical signs associated with polyomavirus infection vary depending upon the age of the affected bird. Pediatric birds in the heavy pin featherstage are typically most severely affected. The most commonly observed signs include depression, loss of appetite, slow crop emptying,regurgitation, diarrhea, dehydration, and hemorrhage under the skin. Young birds usually die within 12-48 hours after developing clinical signs. A second form of the disease is characterized by weight loss, intermittent loss of appetite, poor feather condition and recurrent infections.

Is there a test for polyomavirus, and can it be treated?

A blood test is available to confirm if a bird is infected with polyomavirus. If a bird has died, it is important to perform a post-mortem examination and microscopic examination of its tissues for polyomavirus. This is particularly important if other birds have been exposed to the sick bird. Unfortunately, there is no known effective treatment for this disease.

Can polyomavirus be prevented?

The best known method for preventing avian polyomavirus infections is through the use of a safe and effective vaccine. The vaccine used in our clinic is given beneath the skin over the birds’ breast. The first time your bird receives a vaccination, he/she will need to receive a booster shot in 2 – 3 weeks. After this initial series, thevaccine is administered once each year, at the time of your pets’ annual physical examination.

Are there side effects associated with vaccination?

Reactions to the vaccine are not common, but they can occur. The most commonly observed reaction is a yellowish discoloration of the skin or formation of a small lump at the site of the shot. These signs usually go away without treatment over a period of three to six weeks. Rarely, more serious reactions may occur, including the formation of a cyst or mass at the site of vaccination that requires medical or surgical treatment. Again, these types of reactions are rare. Any reaction should be reported to the veterinarian to determine if treatment is needed.

Should my bird(s) be vaccinated for polyomavirus?

To best protect the health of all of the pets that stay with us, it is a requirement that all birds that will board in our facility are vaccinated for polyomavirus vaccination is also encouraged if you will be bringing new birds into your home, taking your bird to pet stores, bird shows or fairs, or if you board your bird in a facility where other birds are present. If you have questions or concerns about polyomavirus or vaccination, please ask. This is a scary disease, but with proper vaccination and attention to sanitation, the risk to your bird can be minimized.

In the case of an outbreak in the aviary/nursery, what do we do?

The use of closed aviary practices, in combination with vaccination, is the most effective means of preventing further spread of the virus. Disinfect everything that passes from one group or clutch of birds to another, including your hands, feeding instruments, incubators, and scales. Remove any birds showing clinical signs of disease, and do not introduce any new chicks into thediseased aviary. Maximize sanitation with particular attention to reducing dust, feathers, and aerosolized particles. Concurrent diseases or infections may be present that can increasethe severity of the outbreak. These should be identified and addressed. If birds in the nursery have died, postmortem examination is strongly encouraged. Vaccination, in combination with closed aviary concepts, can be an important means of controlling this virus. Neonates can be vaccinated starting at 21 days of age with a booster at 25 days of age. It is thought that protective status” is achieved within two weeks of the booster vaccine (49 days of age). Breeding adult birds should also be vaccinated to prevent potential viral transmission to the nursery. Consider having a booster vaccine for adults annually.

Assoc Avian Veterinarians
Assoc Exotic Mammal Veterinarians
American Federation of Aviculture
American Veterinary Medical Association
Assoc Avian Veterinarians
Assoc Exotic Mammal Veterinarians
American Veterinary Medical Association
American Federation of Aviculture