The Post-Purchase Exam
Once you have purchased a bird, it is very important that you bring your bird to a qualified avian vet right away so that your bird can receive a Post-Purchase Exam. This exam will ensure that your new pet is healthy from the start. Most good breeders and bird stores will guarantee a bird (for replacement, refund or vet-bills) for 4-7 days. This gives you time to have your avian vet look at the bird and do laboratory tests to see if your bird is healthy. This test is important not only to "start your bird off right," but also to ensure that you are getting what you paid for. Expect to pay $200-$300 for this initial exam and tests, depending on what you have done. Your vet should explain what tests he or she recommends and why they are important. Also they can outline prices for you so you can decide what gives you the best "value" for your dollar. Some of the tests often recommended are as follows:
Physical Exam: This will be done when you bring your bird in for an office call. You vet will look over the bird's body including its ears, eyes, mouth, throat, wings, vent, feet, feathers and oil gland. He or she will also probably discuss proper care and basic behavior. Some signs of illness may be readily apparent on physical exam. However, because birds hide symptoms of illness, your vet will most likely recommend laboratory tests (some of which are described below) to be sure the bird's insides are running properly.
CBC: "Complete Blood Count." This test is fairly inexpensive and simply checks for the amount and nature of the white and red blood cells. It is a good basic test which can be suggestive of problems, but it should not stand alone.
"Chemistries": These blood tests are usually done in blocks running from the basic chemistries set to extremely comprehensive (based on how many are run). These test check various body functions including kidney, liver and certain muscle values. This is a very important set of tests and can be extremely useful not just in post-purchase, but in yearly check-ups and when trying to find the cause of illnesses.
Psittacosis Test: This test checks for a disease commonly called "Parrot Fever." It is caused by the Chlamydia virus and is contagious to humans (most commonly in the form of a respiratory disease). This disease is fairly common and quite contagious in a parrot population. If you can afford it, this is a good test to run. Turn around time on this one can be over a week, so be sure your guarantee covers it!
Culture and Sensitivity: This test is similar to tests you ran in your high school biology. Samples, usually from the throat (choana), the vent (cloaca) or from fresh feces are placed in a growing medium. If an organism grows, it is identified and then several antibiotics are tested on it to see which drugs the organism is resistant or sensitive to (this part of the test is called the "sensitivity"). If no organisms grow, your pet is in the clear. If one does grow, the vet may consider it "normal" or may tell you that treatment is required. He or she can also let you know how dangerous the organism is to your pet's health.
Gram Stain: Usual take from fecal samples, this test may be done in leu of a Culture (for financial reasons). It is a less expensive test that may prove useful in suggesting that your bird has problems. It test for "gram positive" or "gram negative" bacteria. The results of the test, along with results from a blood test, can tell your vet if your bird is healthy, or if further testing is necessary (usually an Culture and Sensitivity).
Internal Parasite Test: This fecal test is usual done at the veterinary facility. It is quick, simple and inexpensive. It simply tests for internal parasite which may be found in the bird's gastrointestinal tract. This might not be recommended as part of the Post-Purchase test battery, however, since internal parasites are not the most common cause of problems in birds (as they often are in dogs and cats).
Blood Sexing: This test is a fairly new recommendation from vets. It is usually recommended whenever another blood test is being run. Vets are starting to believe that it is very important to know the gender of a parrot. This is not simply for reference purposes. Certain symptoms correspond to certain gender-based problems as a parrot gets older. For instance, abdominal swelling or straining can be a sign of reproductive problems in a female parrot. If we know the gender of a bird, some problems can be ruled out from the start if the bird turns out to be ill. This can make the job easier for both you and your vet in the future.
Your vet should be able to explain the costs, pros and cons of all the test he or she suggests. If you have financial difficulties, let your vet know from the start, and they should be able to work with your budget to get the most comprehensive test battery.