Highly intelligent and curious, Amazon parrots can acquire a large vocabulary and are considered by many people to be the most trainable of all parrots. Tamed Amazon parrots readily adapt to new surroundings and activities; therefore, new owners can immediately expose their parrots to other pets and daily activities in the household. Amazon parrots like to explore their surroundings and need environmental enrichment, interesting toys, and foraging exercises to reduce the chance of behavioral problems. Without enough attention and environmental stimulation, Amazon parrots can be very noisy and destructive.
In the wild, Amazon parrots feed on a variety of seeds, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In captivity, seed-based diets are not recommended because they permit pet birds to select an imbalanced diet. Formulated diets (pellets or crumbles) should make up about 75% of the diet because they provide more complete, balanced nutrition. Dark leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits can account for 20% to 25% of the diet. Treats should be limited to only 5% of the diet. Clean, fresh water should be provided daily.
One of the most intelligent birds ever studied, the African grey parrot has an amazing ability to imitate human speech and precisely mimic sounds within the environment (for example, ringtones and doorbells). African grey parrots can be affectionate, entertaining, and rewarding companion animals; however, owners must be knowledgeable and conscientious to fully enjoy the qualities of African grey parrots. These birds prefer a routine schedule and a stable environment within their enclosure, and they require a substantial amount of interactive time with their owners to develop a trusting, enjoyable relationship. Therefore, African greys may not be appropriate for people who work odd hours, travel frequently, or spend a substantial amount of time away from home.
Common Medical Disorders
What Is Avian/Exotic Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the use of medication to induce the loss of consciousness, a decreased sense of anxiety, or the loss of sensation of a specific part of the body. General anesthetics are medications that are used to prevent the awareness of painful or stressful procedures. Sedatives are used to calm a patient during a procedure. Local anesthetics are used to achieve decreased sensation in an area of the body where a procedure may induce pain. Birds, reptiles, and small mammals differ from other pets in that their metabolic rates vary from one species to the next and specific precautions need to be taken when administering anesthesia to these animals.
Your veterinarian knows that some of these animals eliminate medications at different rates depending upon the size of the animal or its body temperature, thus, doses vary significantly among species. In addition, due to their small size or unique methods of maintaining normal body temperature (thermoregulation), some avian and exotic animals may have difficulty maintaining their body heat under anesthesia; therefore, steps must be taken to keep them at optimal body temperature.
How It Works
The anesthetics used in birds, reptiles, and small mammals are the same medications used in larger mammals and work primarily on the nervous system. However, many of the medications have unwanted effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Commonly, an inhaled anesthetic is used alone when the procedure is thought not to induce post-procedure pain. However, pain management is extremely important and if the procedure is anticipated to be painful, your veterinarian will likely include a pain medication and a sedative in the anesthetic plan. The benefit of multidrug protocols is that if multiple drugs with different modes of action are used overdoses can be avoided.
What Is It Used For?
Anesthesia may be used simply for the collection of data on a patient or to allow your veterinarian to perform procedures in life-threatening emergencies. For instance, a sedative may be used to relax a pet enough to allow for a complete physical exam, blood collection, or radiographs. Use of local anesthesia may make it possible for your veterinarian to perform a short procedure, such as obtaining a tissue sample for biopsy. General anesthesia may be needed for emergencies such as the repair of a broken limb or the relief of egg binding in birds or reptiles.
Types of Anesthesia
Benefits of Anesthesia
In some cases veterinary care itself puts stress upon a pet’s physical and emotional health. Without anesthesia, the health of our pet birds, reptiles, and small mammals would be in jeopardy. Stress is known to impair the body’s ability to heal and maintain wellness. These unique animals pose a significant challenge to veterinarians. Doctors must be acutely aware of the particular physiologic characteristics of the metabolic, cardiac, and respiratory systems of each species. The reduction of stress and pain using an anesthetic plan that addresses the specific needs of each patient will provide for a speedy recovery and a better chance at continued well-being.
Should My Bird Be Eating Seeds?
It is a common misunderstanding that seeds are a sufficient diet for companion birds. After all, wild bird feeders are filled with seeds, right? However, while wild birds enjoy the seeds people provide, they also eat a wide variety of other foods, including plants, insects, nectar, and, for some species, other small animals. In the wild, the same is true for cockatiels, parakeets, macaws, and other parrots. In their natural setting, these birds consume an almost unbelievable variety of foods.
The truth about seed diets is that they are comparable to eating only snack food and dessert. Seeds are very high in fat and deficient in protein and other nutrients such as vitamins A and D. Over the long term, a parrot that eats nothing but nuts and seeds is susceptible to liver disease, skin and feather problems, obesity, and many other medical conditions.
What Should I Feed My Pet Bird?
The current dietary recommendation for maintaining a happy, healthy avian companion includes feeding a combination of pelleted bird food; healthy, fresh foods; and a small amount of treat foods. And, of course, fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
Pelleted diets are made by several reputable pet food companies and are widely available in pet stores or from veterinarians in most areas. These diets are formulated based on current knowledge of the dietary requirements of birds. It is recommended that pellets account for 60% to 70% of the diet of a healthy bird. The remaining 30% to 40% of the diet should be a variety of fresh, low-fat, low-salt foods. These can include the following:
Foods that you should not give your bird include chocolate, avocados, onions, and high-fat, salty foods.
Treat foods should make up less than 10% of the diet. Included in this category are seeds, treat sticks, spray millet, and nuts.
How Can I Get My Bird to Eat a New, Healthy Diet?
The most important thing is to make any dietary changes gradually. Birds can be very stubborn, particularly if they are accustomed to eating a very tasty diet of mostly treat foods. Some birds may actually starve themselves before they will eat an unfamiliar diet, so make sure you see your bird eating as you are introducing diet changes!
To gradually change your bird’s diet, try following these steps:
1. Start by placing a layer of your pet’s regular diet in his or her regular food bowl, and cover it with a layer of pelleted bird food. Mixing foods simply teaches your bird to select preferred items out of the dish, so layering is a better approach.
2. Add a second food dish near your bird’s favorite perching spot. This will usually be near the highest perch in the cage. Put only the pelleted diet in this dish.
3. Over time, gradually decrease the amount of the old diet and increase the amount of pellets in the first dish.
4. Moist foods, such as beans, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables, should be offered in a separate dish from dry foods and should be removed from the cage after a few hours. These foods will support the rapid growth of bacteria if left in the cage for too long.
Monitor your bird’s eating habits, and be creative! For stubborn cases, try offering only pellets for a while in the morning when your bird is most hungry. You can try making pellets tastier by soaking them in natural fruit juice. Some birds may take several months before they will accept a new diet, but be patient. Most can be converted, and remember: it is the best thing for the health of your bird!
What Are Gastrointestinal Parasites?
Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites are any parasites that live in the digestive tract of a host. The following are among the GI parasites that can affect pet birds:
How Do Pet Birds Become Infected With Gastrointestinal Parasites?
In most cases, eggs or infective stages of GI parasites are shed in fecal material. Once parasites are in the environment, other birds can be exposed through direct contact with feces or exposure to fecal-contaminated food or water.
Tapeworms are slightly different in that they can be transmitted indirectly when birds consume certain insects that are infected with the parasite. The immature stage of the tapeworm lives inside the insect. If your pet bird eats the insect—and the tapeworm inside—the tapeworm can hatch inside your bird and continue its lifecycle. Keeping insects away from your bird’s living area can help reduce the risk of exposure to tapeworms.
What Are the Clinical Signs of Gastrointestinal Parasites?
Feather plucking, diarrhea, weight loss, and weakness can be among the clinical signs of GI parasite infection in birds. Infected birds can even die. However, many infected birds don’t show any clinical signs at all. The best way to tell if your bird is infected is to schedule an examination with your veterinarian and have your pet tested for parasites.
How Is Fecal Testing Performed?
Your veterinarian can begin a fecal analysis by examining the appearance of your bird’s fecal material. If the stools are abnormal, discolored, or have an unusual odor, this can indicate a problem. Your veterinarian may recommend performing more than one type of fecal test. The most common types of fecal analysis are the following:
Fecal testing can detect GI parasites in many cases, but your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to help confirm a diagnosis. For example, Trichomonas is more commonly diagnosed by examining a direct smear of material from the mouth or throat (instead of from feces) to look for the microscopic organism in this material.
Even if testing doesn’t confirm parasites, your veterinarian may recommend treatment as a precaution. This is not harmful for your bird.
Why Is Fecal Testing Important for My Pet Bird?
In many cases, birds infected with GI parasites don’t exhibit clinical signs. That means the only way to tell if a pet is infected is to perform fecal testing periodically to screen for parasites.
Your veterinarian can recommend a schedule for checkups and fecal testing that can help protect your pet bird from these dangerous parasites.
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