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Welcome to Topics in Avian Medicine

clinician examining macaw

This course is designed to introduce veterinary students to clinical avian medicine, and is recommended for students who are planning to enter small or mixed animal practices.

Interest in avian medicine is expanding exponentially. In fact, in the year 2003, approximately 15-25 million exotic birds were owned as pets within the United States.

Why study birds?

There are numerous beneficial reasons to consider this course of study for veterinary professionals.

  • Avian Medicine is interesting!! And many of the patients and owners are also very intriguing and captivating. The potential vocabulary and cognitive skills of some our avian species have in fact, so intrigued researchers, that they have devoted their time and energy to this one area of specialty!
  • Economics. The math is simple. The more species that you are able to treat + more clientele=$$ added revenue to a clinical practice.
  • Career enhancement. As the number of pet birds rises, the demand for those skilled in avian medicine also increases. Numerous job advertisements currently request those candidates that are trained both in small animal, as well as exotics. Basically, it makes good business sense.
  • Environmental significance. Based on the "canary in the coal-mine," theory, birds may be the first indicators of problems in our environment. Having the skills to triage an injured or sick bird, prior to release to a rehabilitator, may help in the overall population of a species.

Course activities will depend on the particular clinical caseload at the time of the rotation, but will include management of outpatient and hospitalized avian patients, possible field service calls to aviculture collections, participation in rounds discussions, clinical pathology, radiology and special procedures labs.

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Study Objectives

At the conclusion of the study, the student should be able to:

1. Identify common psittacine (parrot) species
2. Obtain a complete avian history
3. Demonstrate proper capture, restraint, and physical examination methods for different avian species
4. Know how to collect routine diagnostic samples, including venipuncture and microbial samples.
5. Demonstrate skill in performing treatment procedures, including IM injections, tube feeding and subcutaneous fluid therapy
6. Demonstrate skill in applying bandages in birds, including Figure-of-eight bandages, wing-body wrap bandages, and toe and foot bandages
7. Demonstrate skill in placement of intraosseous catheters, airsac cannulas (avian), and endotracheal tubes
8. Evaluate hematology samples, perform estimated white blood counts and white blood cell differentials on the blood smears
9. Evaluate fecal Gram stains, fecal floatation, and direct fecal smears
10. Determine which clinical pathology tests to use, what samples to collect, interpret the laboratory results and explain their relevance to each clinical case
11. Set up and take good quality radiographs and interpret radiographs of common infectious and non-infectious problems seen in birds and reptiles
12. Anesthetize patients and monitor and regulate their depth of anesthesia
13. Develop effective oral and written communication skills through observation of faculty clinicians, acceptance and solicitation of feedback from clinicians, and incorporation of suggestions into practice.


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Page last updated December 10, 2003