The BEST piece of advice I can give is find a veterinarian before you have an emergency. Ideally find an Avian Exotic Animal Veterinarian before you purchase a bird. Also, make sure you have a suitable carrier handy so when an emergency does occur, you have a safe way to quickly transport your precious pet.
Any veterinarian can call themselves avian veterinarians. An Avian Veterinarian who belongs to the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) is a veterinarian who has paid their dues to the Association of Avian Veterinarians. What determines a qualified avian veterinarian is a veterinarian who has Avian Certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). Certification is given by the ABVP when an avian vet has had six years of extensive, documented avian experience or formal training and has passed a series of complicated exams.
Many excellent avian veterinarians out there do not have their certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Nevertheless, just because a veterinarian is interested in birds does not mean he is proficient enough to treat them. The best way to find a good avian veterinarian is word of mouth. Talk to other people that have birds. Call up raptor centers and find out who takes care of their birds. Speak to different breeders and organizations and find out whom they use. Look through the yellow pages for vets listed under exotics, call them, and see if they specifically treat birds. Get recommendations from regular veterinarians. Talk to pet stores that handle birds for their recommendations. If there is a local zoo, call and find out whom they use. There is an excellent search engine on the AAV website to locate Avian Veterinarians.(You will find this link under subjects, and then either birds or health.)
After you compile a list of possible veterinarians, make an appointment to visit them and their clinic. Compare each practice before making a final determination. Discuss your expectations with the veterinarian. Look over the clinic; is it clean? How do the technicians interact with the animals? Can they be reached in an emergency? What are the procedures for an emergency after the clinic is closed? Who takes over the practice when the regular veterinarian is on vacation or is ill? Make sure you can communicate with the veterinarian.
Birds are notorious for hiding their illness, your observations and communicating them to the veterinarian is crucial for your birdsí health and well-being. Do find out how often they handle birds compared to other animals. Does he or she continue his or her education and knowledge on the latest information in avian and exotic pet medicine? Is he or she a member of the AAV? Members of AAV are informed of the latest developments in avian medicine by reports in The Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery; published by the AAV.
What kind of equipment and testing equipment do they have in their facility? What kind of special equipment do they have specifically for birds? Do they have access to specialists? Do they have access and a good rapport with an Avian Certified Veterinarian? Be on the alert, if you hand over the potential veterinarian a large macaw and the vet looks terrified, look a little further on your list. Make sure the vet is comfortable handling the bird.
A good Avian Veterinarian will joyfully spend time discussing your bird with you. He or she will offer suggestions on care and potential problems that could occur. Do not be afraid to ask your vet to clarify things you do not understand. Often when you show a great deal of interest, the veterinarian will spend more time with you. An Avian Veterinarian will be an invaluable ally to you and your bird. All these precautions may seem to be a time waster until you have a real emergency or illness.
Don't forget to subscribe to the Birds Newsletter. I am also the Exotic Pets Editor. Take a look there are animals you never began to consider :)
Diana Geiger Exotic Pets Editoron
Handbook of Avian Medicine, 2e [Hardcover]