HealthyParrot articles appear in each edition of In Your Flock magazine.

Pay For the CBC

From Winter 2017 IYF Column

It’s important to have your avian vet do a complete blood count (CBC) during your parrot’s annual wellness exam, especially as your bird ages. You have scheduled his well-bird checkup for 2017, haven’t you? Let’s talk about that first.

The yearly wellness exam by an avian veterinarian gives you and your vet the opportunity for more than a nail trim and getting an annual weight on file. Hopefully you’ve subscribed to In Your Flock companion parrot magazine because you wish to learn more about caring for your pet parrot than you can find with random online searches. To that end, let me reiterate that a good avian veterinarian is an indispensable partner in augmenting the quality of care you offer your companion birds.

I don’t want to disparage veterinarians who have put in the time to get a medical degree to care for canines, felines, bovines, equines, etc. Those medical professionals have vast knowledge that can assist pet owners in expanding our bird care. But it is a fact that avians have different health concerns than the two most numerous pets (dogs and cats) in North America. Our pet birds have different dietary, physical and psychological needs, just to name a few. In fact, depending on the species of bird you have in your life, the dietary needs change.

Depending on the species of bird—I’m looking at the Amazons (Amazona) in our living rooms—the predilection for obesity increases. Yes, parrots can develop diabetes.

Depending on the species of bird—I’m looking at the eclectus (Eclectus roratus) in our aviaries—the use of fortified vitamins and supplements could be dangerous. Yes, we can poison our parrots with the buildup of toxins.

By taking your parrot in for his annual well-bird checkup with a veterinarian who understands and treats birds, you are being proactive and responsible.

When you go in, the vet will ask if you want to do blood work. She might call it labs. Either way, what she’s asking is if you’d like to have a small amount of blood drawn from your bird so the sample can be checked for indicators of disease. She’s looking for anything that might be wrong inside your feathered friend that high numbers of white blood cells or misshapen blood cells in general could indicate. The Veterinary Clinical Pathology Laboratory spells out on its website, “The complete blood count (CBC) forms the foundation of diagnostic blood work by providing information regarding the numbers and morphology of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.”

One of the challenges veterinarians—and their techs—have when it comes to looking at a bird’s blood is the sample size. Think about that for a minute.

When you have a physical, your doctor orders a blood draw, which may involve two or three—or more—vials of blood taken from your arm. That gives a technician a great deal of material to plug into centrifuges and analyzers. Vet techs don’t have that volume of material to work with, and the Veterinary Clinical Pathology Laboratory researchers explain that they end up using automated analyzers that have been validated over the years. “Automation does not supplant the need for a personal review, so every sample is also examined microscopically by a trained technician.”

You want a competent, trained technician studying the sample because this step is important. He or she is essentially comparing your bird’s blood to a standard of a healthy animal.

The cost of the CBC pays for itself in early detection and treatment of problems, or in peace of mind. When you schedule your pet bird’s annual wellness exam, let your avian vet know that you’re proactive and responsible on every level; you’re ready to have a CBC to rule out any disease or illness in your feathered charge. ><



Evaluate Your Bird’s Droppings to See Health Changes

By Dr. Peter S. Sakas

From Aug/Sept 2014 IYF Column

One of the most important indicators of the health of your bird is its droppings. Changes in the droppings are usually one of the early signs of illness in pet birds. You don’t have to make the diagnosis yourself. Understanding that the droppings have changed in some manner should prompt you to seek veterinary assistance and identify a disease condition in an early state, which leads to a much better prognosis.

Ideally you should examine the droppings daily so you can properly evaluate the character and number of the droppings. For example, a parakeet should have 30+ droppings daily, a cockatiel 20+ (yes, I know it seems like they have an endless supply). A reduction in this number could indicate a decrease in eating or an interference with the passage of fecal matter.

Paper on the bottom of the cage is ideal to allow for ease of viewing/evaluating the droppings. If you use corncob bedding or wood shavings on the bottom of the cage, you should have the means to check the droppings, as with these materials it is difficult to visualize the dropping as it becomes mixed in the substrate.

parrot droppings PDD
Examples of Parrot Droppings. All images in this sidebar courtesy Dr. Peter Sakas

A normal dropping consists of three basic parts: a formed fecal portion, an off white urate (crystal) portion, and a liquid urine portion. The fecal portion is usually green in seed eating birds because seed imparts no color to the droppings allowing the green bile color to predominate. However, if the bird eats foods other than seed the color of the fecal portion will change. For example, a bird eating pellets will have brownish droppings. A bird fed strawberries would have reddish droppings.

The consistency of the droppings will vary with the variety of bird and its diet. A bird that eats fruit, vegetables and other succulent foods will have more watery droppings. Pelleted diets, in addition to causing brownish droppings, may also lead to increased water intake and hence more watery droppings with a less formed fecal portion and increased urine.

Droppings that have suddenly changed consistency and color could indicate disease. The amount of fecal portion should be checked. If the bird is not eating, there may be a scant fecal element or a dropping that is mainly urine with a small amount of bile.

One of the important determinations to be made is whether or not the bird is eating. Even though a bird may appear to be in the food bowl it may not be eating. Is seed being hulled or scooped out of the cup onto the floor? Check for seed hulls in the food cup. Sometimes a bird may hull the seed but not ingest it. Hulled, uneaten seeds may be found on the cage floor. This is common in newly weaned parrots that have been taken off formula because the owner thought that the bird was ingesting the seed, but actually only playing with it.

It is normal for a bird to “urinate,” which is when it will pass only liquid urine and urate crystals with no fecal matter. However, this is only an occasional occurrence. If it happens predominantly, a problem exists. Remember that although a reduction in the number of droppings or amount of fecal portion indicates reduced food intake, it may also indicate interference with normal passage of fecal matter, such as with vomiting.

If there is hulled seed on the bottom of the cage, you must determine whether the bird is regurgitating or vomiting. Regurgitation is a normal part of courtship behavior. During courtship, regurgitated seeds may be seen on or near a mirror or toys. However, vomited seeds can be seen in sticky clusters throughout the cage—often adhering to the bars. Further evidence of vomiting is that the head feathers of the vomiting bird are pasted with vomitus, sometimes mixed with seed.

parrot dropping, poop
This is an example of a healthy conure dropping. Photo courtesy Editor Sandy Lender
watery droppings Eclectus parrot
This picture shows watery droppings from a female Eclectus. Photo courtesy Editor Sandy Lender
male Eclectus healthy dropping
This dropping is from a healthy male Eclectus. Photo courtesy Editor Sandy Lender