Before deciding to bring a pet bird into your life, make sure you fully understand what’s involved. When properly cared for, many pet birds live long lives – some parrots have lifespans of over twenty years. Also, birds can carry germs that might cause people to become sick without the bird appearing sick at all. Therefore, birds might not be suitable in homes where there are very young children or individuals with weakened immune systems. If you have fallen for the charms of a feathered friend (or more than one), here are three tips for you and your family to stay healthy.
- Always Wash Your Hands
Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water:
- After handling your pet bird, its toys, and its food and water containers.
- Following the cleaning of bird cages or perches.
- Before eating, drinking, or smoking.
Adults should make sure that children wash their hands and advise their guests to do the same if they have been interacting with a pet bird. If, for some reason, soap and water are not readily available (maybe you have an outdoor aviary), have hand sanitizer on hand near the birds’ enclosure.
- Pay Attention When Cleaning
When cleaning your pet bird’s cage and equipment, wear gloves, and never pick up droppings with your bare hands. Make sure you thoroughly clean and disinfect everything with a bird-safe disinfectant. Don’t use your kitchen sink to clean any equipment or food and water containers because germs can contaminate your food preparation areas. Use a bathtub or a laundry sink, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately afterward. If your pet bird has died, do not place a new pet bird in the same enclosure until everything has been adequately cleaned and disinfected.
- Avoid Bird Bites and Scratches
Although birds don’t have teeth, they do have sharp beaks that can cause damage if they bite you. Birds also come with sharp nails and talons. Germs can be spread from bird scratches and bites, even when the wound seems negligible. If your pet bird bites or scratches you, you should immediately wash the wound with soap and warm water. And, always closely supervise children around birds. You should seek medical attention if:
- Your pet bird appears sick. Sick birds may lose weight or feathers, seem sluggish, suffer from diarrhea, or have fluid running from their eyes.
- The wound is severe, i.e., if there is copious or uncontrolled bleeding, extreme pain, loss of function, bone or muscle exposure.
- The wound seems fine to begin with but then becomes red, painful, or swollen.
- It has been over five years since you last received a tetanus shot.
Taking Your Pet Bird to a Vet
You need to find a specialized veterinarian and take your pet bird for routine checkups. These vets are usually called avian or exotic veterinarians. If you do have a pet bird emergency and you live in the Columbia, SC area, CVETS does have an exotics veterinarian that is available at certain times. Give us a call to see if she is on duty or on-call or for a referral to another exotics specialist in the area.