I took Santina to the vet for her first checkup. Whenever taking in a new bird, it is important to have it checked by an avian vet. But when adopting from a rescue or other bird-crowded place it is even more important because the potential for communicable diseases is greater. In fact, many rescues require that you take the adopted parrot to the vet within a certain period.
During the first week and a half I've had Santina, all training efforts were focused toward preparing Santina for this vet visit. I knew a visit to the vet would be inevitable and I preferred it to be sooner than later for the peace of mind knowing she is healthy or dealing with issues as they come. However, I do not believe in manhandling parrots or traumatizing them. The phrase "it's better someone else groom the bird so it hates them instead of you" is a load of baloney. The parrot shouldn't be put in the position of hating anyone. These traumatizing experiences on the parrot come back to bite the owner. If not directly, then through the parrot's distrust of all other people.
Shortly after acquiring Santina, I called the clinic and pre-arranged all the tests that we'd be doing. I wanted the first visit to go as smoothly as possible and did not want to be spending time with the bird there discussing tests or prices. By having a list arranged in advance, it would cut the bird's exposure time significantly. I decided to go full board and get most tests done because it is my obligation to ensure that Kili & Truman are not infected by an outsider. I requested the physical exam, CBC blood panel, Chlamydia test, PDD test, and XRays. The XRays aren't mandatory but they are good for establishing a baseline on a new older bird. Perhaps it swallowed something, has a tumor, enlarged liver, calcium seepage, punctured air sack, etc. It's better to know up front. I would be much less concerned about an XRay on a baby.
I knew that Santina is carrier-phobic from the rescue, so I established a backup plan with the vet. Since I knew she steps up but doesn't go in carriers, my worst case scenario plan was to bring her loose in the car and have the towel her while still inside and bring her in. Since they would have to towel her inside or out, that would make little difference. Having this plan in place took all the pressure off of me to carrier train her and allowed me to focus on that task.
In the first few days, I noticed that walking around the room with Santina, so much as going near the carrier would send her into a panic. She would jump off my arm or run up my shoulder out of fear of being shoved into the crate. Thus my first task was desensitizing her to the carrier. I intentionally did not hide it. But I did leave it at the furthest corner of the grand bird room. Santina would be exposed to the sight of it from her smaller cage room and even more so whenever I took her out.
Then I proceeded to teach Santina to climb insider herself. I realized she began to really like the carrier when I put her in for a walnut and she didn't want to come back out. From that point I've been able to just put her in or take her out as needed. Thus I had no trouble loading her up to go to the vet for her checkup.
Lorelei, the chief nurse and office manager came out to get Santina out of the car. She was shocked to find that a week since we talked, the bird was safely in the carrier and did not need to be grabbed out of the car. Santina stepped up for Lorelei and allowed her to handle her. This all changed with the towel came into play so toweling is something we'll need to work on. Lorelei has a great feel for handling birds and is the main reason I take them to the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine. I am not bringing my pets to the clinic to be tortured. It is really important for me to know that they are in good hands and will receive not only a good health evaluation but also proper handling. Lorelei treats animals with respect and dignity and that's why they in turn like her.
The vet performed a physical examination of Santina and asked some questions. Then they brought Santina down to the lab and proceeded to perform some Xrays. I won't get into much detail about how they perform the process. I videoed it for those who are interested in the behind-the-scenes of how a bird is Xrayed and tested. When the anesthetics began to wear off, Santina looked like she was drunk. She wobbled around on the floor but walked toward me for safety. I picked her up and held her but also made sure that she'd go back to Lorelei and make up. I stayed at the center for another forty minutes to let Santina come to her senses but also to show her that being at the vet is not all bad. Less than half the time she spent in the clinic was discomforting so she has less reason to hate it than if she were brought in, handled, and then immediately taken out.
Santina had no problem stepping back into the carrier for me. In fact I think she was relieved to go in. And that concluded Santina's first vet checkup. I'm still waiting for the test results but on xray and physical examination she appears to be healthy.
Yes, thanks for taking the time to post these videos. Very helpful to us parrot-owners-to-be! Hopefully Skeeter will get a bill of health as good as Santina's when he goes to the avian vet next week. It's a bit frustrating that we won't have as much time to teach him to step willingly into the carrier (less than 72 hrs) but we'll definitely look into de-sensitization training once he's settled into his new home.
Yaaaay Santina! She's so sweet!
I WISH we had an avian vet in our area, but since the nearest one is two hours away and costs and arm and a leg, vet checkups for Vivi and Peeper are on a "We already found a problem" basis, unfortunately. It's my parents call. They can't afford it.
I've never actually seen any of this stuff done. I just trim my birds nails with regular human nail clippers. Vivi lies on her back in my hand while I do it without complaint, but keeps moving her feet and gives me a headache. I have to catch Peeper, but he doesn't move his feet on me.
Santina is a beautiful bird. I hope that some day I have the time and space to devote to a large parrot myself. Heart is set on an umbrella cockatoo. <3