How to Take Care of Birds: A Vet Tech Guide
Published on September 27, 2019 by arothstein
A veterinary technician is a vital asset to any veterinary practice. The field of veterinary medicine is growing at a faster rate than many other professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field for vet techs is expected to grow by 20 percent from 2016 to 2026.
More U.S. households include pets as family members, and that figure is expected to rise. Another reason for the need of vet techs is that veterinarians are allowing their veterinary technicians to handle more of the general care for client’s pets. Vet techs are trained to conduct diagnostic procedures, enabling veterinarians to focus on more critical care patients.
Why Take Care of Birds?
Like any other species, birds need attention and care. Hundreds of wild bird species have been threatened by the reduction of their habitats due to urban sprawl. The food supplies of many species have diminished due to the use of pesticides, agriculture, and forestry.
A bird is an intelligent creature with incredible abilities, like being able to navigate by using the earth’s magnetic field. Different species help to keep our ecosystems in balance. Further, a bird can disperse seeds over a wide area and pollinate plants. Birds are inspiring and fascinating to watch for the millions of bird enthusiasts who observe them.
How Long Can Birds Live?
A lot of factors determine how long birds can live. With wild bird species, usually, the larger birds like albatrosses, parrots, and raptors live longer than smaller species. Each species of bird may have different life spans.
Several factors determine the mortality rate of birds, including:
- Available resources that include breeding sites, availability of food sources, and suitable habitats
- Methods of conservation including preserving natural habitats and breeding in captivity
- Diseases contracted by individual birds and epidemic diseases that spread through colonies or flocks
- Artificial and environmental threats, including natural disasters like hurricanes or wildfires, climate change, or oil spills.
- Managing hunting and illegal practices like trapping and poaching
- The individual experience of birds with more ability to survive changing environmental conditions
- Injuries that have an impact on the success or failure of breeding or those which cause fatalities
- The presence of predators that threaten birds and their habitats
Other Factors in a Bird’s Mortality
The mortality rate is usually at its highest level in the first 12 months after a bird hatches. Some ornithologists have estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of all baby birds don’t live to maturity.
One pair of mated birds may raise so many broods that they can increase the bird population by 15 to 20 new birds every year. If the mortality rate for birds wasn’t so high, it could create serious over-population problems. Due to factors that include the high mortality rate for certain bird species, the bird populations stay balanced.
There are some surprising statistics for the lifespans of birds in the wild. Although birds in captivity usually live longer, some species that have been banded and observed for years have shown higher longevity rates than expected.
Captive Birds Have Less Hazards
Captive birds aren’t subject to the same type of hazards that wild birds face each day. Birds in captivity don’t have to deal with the stresses of birds in the wild. Birds in captivity always have an available food source and aren’t usually stalked by predatory animals. Domesticated birds don’t have to use excessive energy to forage for food or migration. Birds in captivity have access to veterinary care that many wild birds don’t have, which makes them less susceptible to developing illnesses or having injuries.
Proper Nutrition for Birds
When it comes to providing the proper nutrition for your pet bird, a good rule to follow is to provide them with nutritious foods that everyone in your family can eat. Nutritious means your bird shouldn’t be allowed to have snack foods. You can feed your bird nuts and grains that are high-quality and don’t contain any additives, and plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables.
Bird Care and Toxicity
Some foods are highly toxic to birds and should be avoided. The Beauty of Birds has a partial list of toxic foods on their website. However, if you should have doubts about a certain food, you should always consult your veterinarian before offering it to your pet. If your bird should consume a toxic substance, immediately call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
Basic Diet for Pet Birds
The best diet option is to start with a high-quality, dry mixture. It’s best to stay away from commercial bird foods that are sold in pet stores since they contain a lot of fillers that may be harmful to your bird. The best option is to buy natural, dry, organic mixes. Foods that are “all-natural” or “organic” contain high-quality ingredients to help keep your bird healthy.
What to Avoid
It’s also best to stay away from birdseed that contains sulphurated dry produce. Although it sounds like a good option, chemicals which could be harmful are used in the process. Some vets sell food for birds at their practice. If you’re in doubt about food, ask your vet or vet tech for advice.
Fruits & Vegetables That Are Safe
Leafy greens, vegetables, sprouted seeds, and fruits should make up at least 25 percent of your bird’s diet. If you feed organic foods to your pet, you can leave the skin on. Otherwise, wash the produce very thoroughly or remove the skin to avoid pesticides or chemicals. Always make sure to cut veggies and fruit into pieces that are manageable for your bird to eat.
Dehydrated Fruits & Vegetables
When fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, you can substitute dehydrated fruits and veggies. Most birds love them because they’re crunchy. Since birds tend to toss these foods into their water dish to soften them, make sure to change your bird’s water more frequently. If you buy dehydrated foods for your pet, make sure that you choose all-natural foods that don’t contain sulfur dioxide. Not many fruits or vegetables are toxic to birds, but one that you must always avoid is avocado.
Treats That Birds Can Eat
Some treats that are safe for birds to consume are apples, bananas, cantaloupe, mango, and pomegranate. Birds also enjoy snacking on beans, and one of their favorite treats is alfalfa sprouts.
Foods to Avoid for Your Pet Bird
Stay away from milk products. Birds don’t suffer from lactose intolerance; however, their systems don’t have the enzyme that’s needed to break down the lactose in milk. Symptoms that can arise from milk products are digestive problems or diarrhea.
Avoid Grain Products
Pet birds should never be fed grain products like bread or cereals. Grain products for human consumption may be iron-fortified. Birds can’t tolerate iron supplements and may develop iron overload disease, which is fatal to birds. Fortified bird foods are considered to be the cause of disease in birds and should be avoided.
Providing Clean Water
Approximately 75 percent of a bird’s weight is comprised of water. Birds need to drink at least 5 percent of their body weight each day to replenish what’s lost. Dirty water in a bird’s bowl is a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Ceramic crocks, bowls, or water bottles are great options for providing water. Make sure to clean out your bird’s water container daily and refill as often as possible with clean water.
Keeping Your Bird’s Cage Clean
It’s important to keep your bird’s cage clean and sanitary. Here are some steps to follow daily, weekly, and monthly. Each day you should change the liner in the cage, thoroughly clean the food and water dishes, and wipe down all surfaces including bars, perches, and toys. Make sure only to use soap and water that’s safe for pets.
At least once a week, you should wash the cage’s tray and scrub the grate that goes beneath it. Thoroughly clean the perches that go in the cage. You should always have a few extras to use while the newly washed perches are drying.
Wash and rotate your pet’s toys. Toys should be washed each week, and you should have a few different ones that you can rotate so your pet doesn’t get bored playing with the same toys all the time.
The entire cage should be washed, scrubbed, and thoroughly dried at least once a month. Keeping the cage clean and germ-free can add years to the life of your pet.
Companionship with Other Birds or Humans
Canaries and finches don’t usually interact much with their human owners but enjoy the company of their species. These two species thrive very well in small flocks and are the ideal pets for people who love to watch their feathered friends.
What is an Avian Vet?
An Avian Vet is a veterinarian who is trained in the care of all bird species whether they’re domestic, wild, companions to humans, or in zoos and sanctuaries. Avian vets have specialized training in treating domestic pets, birds of prey, and waterfowl.
After earning the necessary degrees, an internship and residency in private practice or a facility that treats exotic fowl are a requirement. Graduates looking to become Avian Vets should become an affiliate of an organization like the Association of Avian Veterinarians to network with their peers.
What an Avian Vet Tech Does
A veterinarian in general practice may handle specialized pet care for most bird species. Although some species survive better in the wild, people often make pets of exotic species. An Avian Vet Tech may work in general practice or other settings including:
- Research facilities
- Wildlife sanctuaries
When a bird has an examination, the vet tech checks the animal in, gets their weight, takes the vital signs, and records the information for the attending veterinarian. The skills of an Avian Vet Tech include:
- Conducting exams
- Collecting samples for analysis
- Working as a nurse or anesthesiologist
- Assisting in surgery
- Taking diagnostic images
- Educating owners about the care of their pets
How Do You Become an Avian Vet Tech?
The first step in becoming an Avian Vet Tech is to earn an associate degree at a two-year school and become licensed by the NAVTA as a vet tech. Continuing education will prepare you for a career as an Avian Vet Tech.
An Avian Vet Tech must possess skills that include caring for birds in rescue situations. The vet tech may teach pet owners and team members about treatment options and how to be an advocate for domestic and wild species.
Want to Learn More?
Did learning about how to take care of birds interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.
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