How to Take Care of a Parrot: An Avian Vet Tech’s Guide
Published on August 26, 2020 by arothstein
Why Does Someone Become an Avian Vet Tech?
A lot of people become avian vet tech because they want the opportunity to help animals and they love birds. Some people find the field exciting when they hear about birds being rescued and working in wildlife sanctuaries. It’s rewarding to help heal a sick or injured bird when you love animals. Another reason that many people choose a career in avian veterinary technology is that they derive a lot of joy from educating other bird owners about providing the best care for their pets.
What Are the Common Types of Pet Parrots?
Parrots are among the world’s most popular pets following dogs and cats. Hundreds of species of parrots live in various areas of the world. Parrots are social, intelligent, and have stunning plumage. A lot of people who love birds choose parrots as pets because of their ability to talk. Here are some of the species that learn to talk quickly.
African Grey Parrot
The African Grey Parrot has the ability to speak clearly, has a distinctive accent, and the ability to learn a vast vocabulary.
Alexandrian Parrots are larger versions of the Ring-Neck species. They have beautiful green plumage with touches of pink. The male has a distinctive ring around its neck. Alexandrians have the ability to learn to talk very easily.
Amazon Parrots are very chatty and can repeat what they’ve just heard. Amazons can mimic the voices of those speaking around them, in the exact accent. There are several sub-types of Amazons and they can all learn to speak well, especially the Blue Fronted, the Yellow Crowned, and the Yellow-Naped Amazons.
The male Budgerigar can speak fluently if the owner takes the time to train them. However, they’re more difficult than other parrots to train.
The Cockatoo is a very affectionate bird and entertaining to watch. Cockatoos seem to love the sound of their voices and are enjoyable to be around. They can learn to speak quickly and, if trained, can repeat entire sentences.
The plumage on the Eclectus Parrot is vibrant and colorful. They can speak clearly when their owner takes the time to teach them.
Macaws are the largest variety of parrot and are sometimes referred to as King Parrots. They can mimic the speech of humans, household noises, and like to whistle. The Blue and Gold Macaw have the ability to put phrases together more quickly than some other types of parrots.
The Lifespan of Parrots
If you’ve considered a parrot as a pet, you should be aware that some of them have incredibly long life spans. You should only consider one of these beautiful birds if you’re willing to make a lifetime commitment. The lifespan of a parrot depends on whether it’s bred in captivity or born in the wild, and the environment in which the bird lives. Here are some of the popular parrot species and their average lifespan.
- Macaws – 50 to 100 years
- Cockatoos – 40 to 60 years
- Amazon Parrots – 70 years
- African Grey Parrots – 60 years
- Eclectus species – 65 to 85 years
- Senegal Parrots – 50 years
- Caique and Conure Parrots – 30 years
- Small species like Lories and Lorikeets – 13 to 25 years
- Cockatiels – 20 years
- Lovebirds – 15 to 25 years
- Parakeets – 8 to 12 years
How Does Someone Take Care of a Parrot?
Parrots are brilliant and make wonderful family pets. They aren’t domesticated like dogs and cats, so they retain the characteristics of parrots in the wild. An important point to consider is that there are many different parrot species, and each has distinct qualities.
Diet and Nutrition
Parrots like variation in their diet. Seeds and pellets should be the base of their diet but it should be mixed with other foods. Most parrots like green beans, carrots, cooked squash, and peas. Fruits include apples, grapes, bananas, and berries. Fruit should be in limited amounts due to the sugar content. Some parrots like to take the meat out of nutshells. Make sure your parrot has plenty of fresh, clean water to drink. The ideal container should be large enough for bathing.
Never give a parrot alcohol, caffeine, onions, or avocado. Avocado is lethal to parrots. Toxic foods to avoid are salty sugary or greasy foods, dill, cabbage, rhubarb, honey, and eggplant. Raw or dry beans should also be avoided.
Cage Size and Cleaning
Rectangular or square cages are best for parrots. These birds feel uncomfortable in cages that are round and don’t have corners. The cage should be large enough for the parrot to move around and climb in. The cage should be large enough for food and water bowls, perches, toys to play with, and comfortable places to rest. Large birds should have a cage at least 5 feet wide, 6 feet high, and three and a half feet deep.
Smaller birds can live comfortably in a cage that is 3 feet high, wide, and deep. Every two days, the droppings from the bottom of the cage should be removed, and a fresh liner should be placed in the cage. Spot cleaning on perches and other areas should be done at least once a day.
Interaction with the Family
Parrots are very social and love the interaction with their flock in the wild. In captivity, their family is their flock. The parrot’s cage should be placed in a room to hang out and participate in family activities. Parrots that are isolated can develop separation anxiety. They should be a part of family life.
A parrot’s nails can grow quickly, they should be trimmed approximately every two months. If a bird is having perching problems or trouble getting around, it’s time for a trim.
Toys to Play with
Fun toys keep parrots from getting bored and offer mental stimulation. Toys with a variety of sounds, colors, and textures are best. Small birds love mirrors. Larger species like to chew, so tougher toys keep them happy. Make sure to rotate toys every few days and throw away any that are damaged or have rough edges.
Annual Wellness Exams
A lot of parrots live a long life without any serious health complications. However, annual wellness exams should be part of a parrot’s life as it is with all family members. Most of the time, serious complications can be avoided with preventative care.
Time Out of the Cage
Small species of parrots can be taken out of their cage for about two hours a day. Large species need more time for exercise and should have three hours outside the cage each day. Parrots need time to experience the sounds, smells, and sights of their environment.
Most parrots thrive on a sunrise to sunset schedule and require 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Room-darkening curtains or a cage cover will allow a parrot to get the rest they need each night.
Companion or Solo Parrot?
It’s a matter of personal preference. The reason most people only have one parrot is that they’re such affectionate birds and see themselves and their owner as the flock. However, a parrot does get lonely if they are left on their own too often.
Common Health Issues and Diseases to Be Aware of
Each species of bird has different health issues and diseases. A parrot owner should talk with their avian vet tech to understand more about the common health issues and diseases of their parrots. The most common symptoms of sickness or disease in pet birds are:
- Ruffled feathers
- Breathing through the mouth
- Changes in vocalizing
- Weight loss or gain
- Cloudy eyes
- Reduced appetite
- Unusual droppings
If a parrot shows one or more of these symptoms, it’s a sign that something isn’t right, and the bird should get to the vet as soon as possible. Birds have delicate immune systems, and an early diagnosis could save the life of the parrot. Some of the most common diseases in parrots are parrot fever of psittacosis and PBFD.
Parrot Fever of Psittacosis – symptoms of Parrot Fever are weight loss, diarrhea, lethargy, difficulty breathing, eye discharge, and depression. This is a life-threatening disease and must be treated immediately.
PBFD – a virus that can affect the liver, brain, and immune system. The common symptoms include pneumonia, rapid loss of weight, premature shedding of feathers, a beak that becomes elongated, and diarrhea. This is a severe disease but can be treated with antibiotics and excellent care.
Avian Vet Tech Education and Job Requirements
Vet techs complete an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology degree. Most students can complete their coursework in less than two years. Vet tech programs offer a course in exotic animals including birds. To become an avian vet tech, graduates must compile a specified amount of work experience and pass an exam for avian vet tech certification.
General Duties of An Avian Vet Tech
Many avian vet techs can work in big cities or small rural towns. The higher the population, the more avian veterinary services are needed. An avian vet tech has the following day-to-day responsibilities that include:
- Handling and restraining birds for examinations
- Assisting with radiographs
- Catheter replacement and venipuncture
- Processing lab samples
- Prepping birds for surgery and monitoring vital signs
- Scheduling patients and following up with post-op instructions
- Communicating with pet owners, staff, and suppliers
- Checking in/discharging patients
- Caring for and maintaining equipment
- Managing inventory, cleaning, and stocking
The duties of an avian vet tech may vary considerably, depending on the state in which they practice. In some states, an avian vet tech may be able to assess the injury of a bird and determine the cause behind it. The avian vet tech may also assist the veterinarian in the care of a broken wing that must be wrapped tightly to the animal’s body to prevent further injury.
Career Opportunities for Avian Vet Techs
The latest statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the job growth rate for veterinary technicians is exceeding that of many other professions. The growth rate of 19 percent is higher than average and expected to continue through 2028. Although the growth rate is general and not for specific veterinary technology fields, see below for a list of several reasons for the increase:
- Advances in veterinary medicine require vet techs with more skilled training
- More Americans include pets as family members
- Vet techs that are trained to take on additional responsibilities allow veterinarians to handle more critical cases.
Once you have graduated from a vet tech program and passed the VTNE, you may join the Association of Avian Veterinarians. Many certifications for avian vet tech involve a specific amount of job experience and certification in avian vet tech. If you love birds and want to be a part of a team that cares for them, becoming an avian vet tech is the right career path for you.
Do you have birds of your own? Do you want to educate pet parents about the right ways to care for birds? 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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