Finding an Avian Vet
Tariq Abou-Zahr BVSc CertAVP(ZooMed) DipECZM(Avian) MRCVS
Parrots are not considered a “core” veterinary species in the UK, unlike other animals like dogs, cats and horses. While all vets should be able to provide first aid and emergency treatment to parrots, many non-avian veterinary professionals who predominantly treat cats and dogs or other species (and not many birds) may not have an in-depth knowledge of the conditions affecting birds and the ways to treat them. Similarly, without considerable familiarity with the species, safe and appropriate handling of birds may sometimes be a skill that requires further training and practice.
If you have a pet bird(s), you need to find an avian vet within a reasonable travelling distance, who either has an interest in, or holds additional qualifications in the medicine and surgery of birds.
It’s obviously important for birds to go to the vet when they’re ill, but we also recommend some preventative health care too – including a health check from an avian vet at least once, but preferably twice a year. Microchipping is a very good idea in case of escape or theft (which does sadly happen). If possible, a blood test once or twice a year is also a good idea, to check internal health, including the liver, kidneys, calcium levels, cholesterol levels, whether there is an anaemia, whether the immune system seems to be in order etc.
For new birds, birds that are going to be in contact with other birds, or following contact with other birds, it’s also a good idea to have them tested for common contagious diseases like Chlamydia, ABV (Avian Borna Virus) - which causes proventricular dilatation disease/syndrome, PBFDV (Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease Virus), Polyoma virus and Herpes/Pacheco’s disease. Some parrot boarding establishments require testing for these diseases before birds go in for boarding. Some birds may need their beak and nails to be trimmed periodically too.
There are “3 tiers” within the veterinary profession in the UK, regulated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).
Some general practitioners have a special interest in birds and lots of experience treating them, even without necessarily holding additional qualifications in this field.
The middle tier. In the UK, birds fall under the discipline of “zoological medicine”, which is often referred to as “exotics”. Advanced practitioners in zoological medicine have achieved a post-graduate certificate on top of their veterinary degree, in the medicine of “exotic” species, which includes birds.
The highest tier of qualification. Specialist status is not easy to achieve and recognised specialists have gained a diploma level qualification or its equivalent, have national and international acclaim and must be available for referral by other veterinary colleagues. Specialist status can be in “zoo & wildlife medicine” in general, or specifically in the sub-specialty of avian medicine and surgery. Vets on the specialist register in the UK are RCVS specialists, but some may also be recognised as specialists internationally, such as European veterinary specialists or American veterinary specialists.
Some species are listed under appendix 1 of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and require either a closed leg ring or a microchip, plus a certificate called an Article 10, to be legally sold. A common example is the African grey parrot. Some of these birds may therefore already have a microchip before you acquire them.
To find vets with an interest in birds in the UK, there are a few places that you can check. As well as the links below, various bird clubs, societies and online communities keep a list of vets that they know to have an interest in birds, or that their members have used in the past. Some good places to check would be as follows:
Firstly, the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) has a “Find a Vet” facility, which lists vets that are members of the association. To access this, visit the AAV website here and click on “Find a Vet”: Association of Avian Veterinarians (aav.org)
Secondly, the Parrot Society UK (PSUK) has a list of vets that are interested in birds. This list is available at the link below: Avian Vets - The Parrot Society UK
If you would to check whether a vet is an Advanced Practitioner or a Recognised Specialist, you can search for a vet on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons register, here: Check our Registers - Professionals (rcvs.org.uk)
If you would to see a list of RCVS Advanced Practitioners in Zoological Medicine, you can find one on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website, here: Veterinary Surgeons found who are Advanced Practitioners in Zoological Medicine - Find a Vet (rcvs.org.uk)
If you would like to see a list of RCVS Recognised Specialists in Zoological Medicine, you can find one on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s website, here: Veterinary Surgeons found who are Specialists in Zoo & Wildlife Medicine - Find a Vet (rcvs.org.uk)