Birds: The Quiet OR Not So Quiet Companion

Birds are popular pets, but ownership in Australia has decreased by 11 per cent since 2013, with the bird-owning population at 4.2 million in 2016.

Sadly, birds are often the ‘overlooked’ family pet when it comes to their health. From finches to cockatoos, pet caged birds provide companionship, entertainment and interest for their owners. Budgerigars are the most commonly kept cage-bird, while canaries, lovebirds, finches, galahs and various parrots and cockatoos are favoured by others.

Regardless of how well-cared for a bird is, a multitude of illnesses can affect them. Many of these illnesses are related to stress, poor nutrition, caging or age.

Unfortunately, sick birds all tend to look the same regardless of their complaint. The most common signs are fluffing or ruffling of the feathers, drooping eyelids, head tucked under a wing and, perhaps, bobbing of the tail. Any of these symptoms for a prolonged time can be an indication that your bird is unwell and should be seen by your local VetLove vet.

VetLove vets are trained to help you treat bird illnesses, and while a phone call to your vet clinic may help, a visit may be necessary for proper diagnosis, because, as mentioned, most sick birds show the same symptoms.

There are several tips for taking birds to your local VetLove:

  1. Take your bird in its own cage, without removing any toys etc.
  2. Leave food in the cage, but remove water.
  3. DO NOT clean the cage, as valuable diagnostic evidence may be destroyed.
  4. Take any remedies or medicines you have been giving your bird with you.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions concerning signs you’ve seen, feeding, length of illness and environment.

Modern veterinary science is placing increasing importance on pet birds as ‘companion animals’, the same as dogs and cats, and treatment for most avian illnesses is available. Surgery on birds is performed on a regular basis for things such as fracture repair, tumour excisions and wound suturing.

As some pet birds are bred to live for many years (decades in the case of galahs and cockatoos), their health can be better maintained by increased attention to their basic care, nutrition and caging.

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