The Avian Health Exam
What happens during a thorough Avian Physical Exam? A physical exam is an important part of an avian health checkup. An example of an excellent one is offered below and begins with a hands-off visual evaluation of the bird and it's environment. Next is the hands-on exam where the veterinarian checks your bird from top to bottom with the assistance of an Avian Health Technician. Here is a list of many of the things that are evaluated:
THE HANDS-OFF EXAM
Your Bird Cage
Is the size appropriate to accommodate your bird's wingspan and tail feathers adequately?
Is the material the cage is made of safe?
Does your bird have the toys that appropriate for him?
Evaluating Your Bird's Attitude
Is your bird bright, alert and responsive? Is he vocal and interactive with owner?
Is your bird quiet, alert and responsive? Not vocal, but alert and just stands around
Is your bird depressed? Are his feathers ruffled, does he stand on bottom of cage, are his eyes half-closed
Evaluating Your Bird's Droppings
Check feces for amount, color (should be brown-green) and consistency
Check urates: should be white to tan and a chalky consistency
Check urine: should be liquid and clear
Check for blood in feces
Evaluating Your Bird's Posture
Stance: how does he stand?
Wing Placement: are his wings symmetrical and in the correct position?
Evaluate Respiratory Effort
Evaluate Tail position and movement
Having Your Bird "Step Up"
Evaluate perching ability. Does each foot grip with equal strength?
THE HANDS-ON EXAM
Toweling Your Bird. Your bird will be restrained in a towel and held by an assistant (Avian Health Technician) so the veterinarian can proceed with the "hands-on" portion of the exam.
Examining the Eyes
Are the bird's eyes clear, symmetrical and centered in the socket?
Is the conjunctiva (the delicate mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and covers the front part of the white of the eye) pale pink and moist?
Check for swelling or symmetry between the eye and beak
Examining the Nares and Cere (thick skin without feathers between the forehead and the upper part of the beak)
Check for change in color
Check for discharge from nares (external openings of the nose; i.e. nostrils)
Check for symmetry
Check for hyperplasia (abnormal overgrowth of cells)
Examining the Beak
Examine growth of upper beak and lower beak
Check for proper occlusion (contact between surfaces)
Check for necrosis (death of tissue)
Examine for prognathism (abnormal protrusion of one or both jaws)
Examining the Mouth
Evaluate jaw tone
Examine tongue and mucous membranes for abrasions, moisture and color
Evaluate choana (slit in palate of the bird's mouth) and surrounding sharp papillae (small skin outgrowths)
Examining the Skin and Head Feathers
Feathers should be symmetrical and smooth
Is there evidence of mate preening?
Are the feathers wet and sticky? Is there vomitus (matter ejected when vomiting) on the head?
Are there any missing, broken or misshapen feathers?
Does skin show any signs of swellings, proliferations (cells growing rapidly, dividing frequently and increasing in number) or abrasions
Examining the Ears
Is there presence of discharge, blood, or erythema (redness or inflammation of the skin)
Examining the Crop (the organ between the esophagus and stomach of birds, which serves for temporary food storage in the digestion process)
There should be evidence of food in the crop
Examine vascularization (the formation of blood vessels) or thickness, if exam indicates need
Feel for swellings, thickening or presence of foreign bodies
Examining the Feathers and Skin of the Neck
Evaluate for thickening, lumps, ulcerations, scabs, discoloration, masses or emphysema of skin
Check for over-preening or plucking of feathers
Examining the Pectoral Muscles and Sternum
Evaluate sternum (keel shaped bone in the bird’s trunk which anchors some flight muscles). Should be straight and slightly elevated as compared to pectoral (chest) muscles.
Palpate (examine by pressing on the surface) for evaluation of weight, or any atrophy of musculature
Examining the Skin and Feathers of the Ventral (the belly or front) Body
Evaluate color, texture and feel for masses in skin
Look for scabs, ulcerations, etc.
Normal feathers will be smooth, symmetrical and clean
Evaluation for over-preening or feather plucking
Examining the Abdomen
Palpate (examine by pressing on the surface). Normal is slightly concave.
Evaluate the color of the skin and look for scabs or ulcerations
Evaluation feather condition
Palpate lateral flank areas for fat storage
Examining the Cloaca (final enlargement of intestinal tract into which digestive, reproductive and urinary systems empty, and then exit the body) and Vent (outside opening of the cloaca)
Mucosa (moist lining of internal areas that open onto the skin surface) of the Cloaca should be moist and pink
No feces should be evident on feathers around the vent
Evaluate for erosions, hypertrophy (abnormal enlargement), erythema (redness or inflammation), feather picking, etc.
Examining the Wings
Evaluate symmetry, range of motion, joints, look for bone abnormalities
Examine skin. Look for tattoo (birds are sometimes tattooed to identify sex)
Examine feathers for color, shape, uniformity, presence of parasites, stress bars. Look for bleeding, broken or missing feathers
Examining the Feet and Legs
Look for uniform color, texture of skin. Are scales present?
Feathers on legs should be uniform and smooth
Look for abrasions, calluses, erosions, ulcerations, proliferative lesions (cells growing rapidly, dividing frequently and increasing in number), broken toe nails, missing toes, swollen joints, weak grip
Recommend removing leg band if present to prevent possible necrosis, swelling and trauma. Band will be saved for owner.
Examining the Skin, Feathers and Vertebrae of the Back
Feathers and skin should be smooth and uniformly shaped and colored
Examine for over-preening, plucking, ulcerations, scabs, etc.
Trace backbone for scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
Examine for feathers stuck together as an indicator of nasal discharge while in sleeping position
Examining the Tail and Uropygial (oil or preen) Gland
Normal tail feathers are clean, unbroken, unfrayed and free from stress lines
Evaluate uropygial gland for swelling, erythema, ulceration and rupture
Auscultation (listening for sounds within the body)
Evaluate cranial thorax for cardiac and respiratory sounds
Evaluate thorax and back for wheezes, crackles, pops, whistles and gurgles
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