Our avian friends can make excellent pets and companions if cared for properly. However, bird ownership can also have many pitfalls that many owners may not realize. The following handout details a few basic steps and precautions to help ensure your feathered friend is healthy and safe.
Proper avian care begins with their housing situation. Many issues we routinely encounter within avian species originates from a cage that is too small or inappropriate for the species of bird in question. In general, large cages allow for better overall activity levels and more opportunities for mental stimulation. Bigger is nearly always better when it comes to bird housing – just be certain that any slats or bars on the cage or enclosure are appropriately sized to make sure your bird cannot escape. It is also important to provide a variety of perches and toys for your bird, as this will help to provide a stimulating and interactive environment. Use caution, however, in providing this interactive environment. Ensure any toys provided are safe as the string from rope toys often frays and can become tangled around your bird, often leading to serious injuries. Cages should be kept as clean as possible.
Diet is extremely important to the health and wellbeing of your bird. Common bird diets that are primarily seed-based are nearly always deficient in many minerals and nutrients, especially vitamin A. Birds should be fed a high-quality pelleted diet in place of seed based diets whenever possible. Bird diets should also be supplemented with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Some healthy fruits and vegetables to give to your bird include papaya, mango, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and spinach. Seeds and nuts should not constitute more than 10-20% of your bird’s diet but can be suitable as the occasional treat. If transitioning your bird to a new food, please be cautious and transition gradually. Birds are well known to be picky eaters and often will refuse new foods if not introduced properly. Please contact us for further recommendations if your bird is having difficulty transitioning diets.
Certain foods can be quite toxic to birds and should be avoided. Chocolate, avocado, onions, garlic, comfrey, apple seeds, cherry seeds, and sugar-free candies are all known to be dangerous and in some cases even deadly to birds. Although not toxic, dairy products can commonly lead to diarrhea in birds. If there is ever a question about the safety of a food, please reach out to your veterinarian.
Common Dangers to Birds:
With their unique behavioral qualities, ability to fly, and highly specialized anatomy, birds face many unique dangers around the house. Flighted birds can often be injured by objects such as ceiling fans, curtains, and blinders, and can also be in danger of landing on unsafe objects such as curling irons, hair straighteners, light bulbs and stovetops. Common household cleaners, aerosol sprays, nail polishes, paints, and tobacco smoke can all provide extremely irritating odors to birds that in some cases lead to respiratory disease and even death. Even everyday scented objects such as glade plug-ins, scented candles, essential oils, and dog and cat behavioral diffusers to can pose a threat to birds. Non-stick Teflon coatings on cook wear, which is released into the air when cooking, is known to be highly toxic to birds. Standing water can be dangerous to birds as well, so be sure to close toilet lids and make sure sinks are drained before letting your bird out of their enclosure.
Other pets in your household may pose a risk to your bird as well. Any dog or cat scratches or bites need medical evaluation immediately. Birds should not be around cat litter boxes, as eating the litter granules can cause major issues. Birds that are housed together can sometimes become aggressive towards one another and can even cause major injuries.
Signs of Illness in Birds
Birds are notorious for hiding symptoms of disease or illness. If your bird is showing any signs of lethargy, appetite changes or difficulty eating or drinking, nasal discharge, or diarrhea, please contact a veterinarian. Birds also frequently develop feather issues when sick. This can include dull plumage, a puffed appearance, or the loss of feathers. Changes in vocalization habits may be a sign of illness in some species of bird as well.
We Are Here To Help!
Please contact us if you have any issues or concerns about your bird. Our skilled staff is happy to help in any way we can. If we are unable to assist you, we are also able to provide referrals to other clinics.