WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN I TAKE MY NEW ECLECTUS TO THE VET FOR A HEALTH CHECK?
I'm sure you already know not to take your eclectus anywhere unconfined. There are too many accidents waiting to happen. Use a small carrier and take along a towel in case it is cold or drafty there, or as one of our clever list members suggested earlier, slip the entire carrier, if it is small enough, into a pillow case to possibly keep out airborne germs and prying eyes. I use the "under the seat" airline carriers for taking birds on short trips. You can place a folded towel or the nubby dog bedding that you can buy in discount department stores in the bottom of the carrier. He will not need a perch for the trip. While riding, it is easier for birds to keep their balance if they are sitting on the floor of the carrier.
If this is your first trip to an avian vet, I hope that you chose him or her carefully by getting references from friends or by inquring of pet shops and breeders in your area. To minimize the risk of exposure to disease, it is a good idea always to ask for the first appointment of the day, before any sick birds have been brought in.
On your first visit, arrive a few minutes early to fill out records on your bird. Be sure to take along all pertinent information from the breeder, such as hatch date, weights, species specific information*, diet, early medical records if applicable, and a list of any symptoms that Willobee might have. If you do not actually make a list of questions that you want to ask the vet, you are likely to forget some of them. You might ask the vet to show you how to clip wings and nails while you are there.
Many of us on the list do not like the idea of having our birds taken into a separate room without us being there to offer support to the bird. If your vet needs to take him into another room, ask politely if you may accompany him in order to help keep the bird calm.
Some of the things to look for in a good vet clinic are:
Your vet will know what needs to be done. If you are concerned about any particular health problems, your vet might suggest a CBC and a blood chemistry profile. He will take blood from the bird and determine the health status by the test results. The CBC counts the various white cells, red cells, and platelets and can detect such things as infection, anemia, and blood protein level. A Blood Chemistry Profile measures enzymes, electrolytes, and cells in the blood, all of which are changed by diseases, and therefore give an indication of illness.
Blood tests can be used to diagnose some diseases such as:
Other tests that your vet might consider necessary are:
Often, if a bird appears perfectly healthy and the owner has no specific health concerns about it, and if the vet does not need to establish baseline readings on the bird, he will perform only a gram stain, as your vet has indicated he will do tomorrow. This measures levels of yeast, as well as "gram negative and gram positive" bacteria. If the ratio between these two categories is within normal range, it is an "indication" that the bird has no bacterial problems.
*Here is some species-specific information that you might want to print out and take to your vet. It was written by Dr. Brian Speer, DVM.
Stress-related leukocytosis is a frequent observation. It is not uncommon to see an estimated white blood cell count as 25,000 to 28,000 or even higher in birds that are stressed in the exam room. Physical demonstration of stress by the bird does not always correlate with these hematologic changes, however, and this makes the anticipation of a stress leukocytosis challenging following a stressful examination. The differential cell count usually remains normal in these birds, although some may shift either towards a relative and absolute lymphocytosis or heterophillia. No toxicity or reactivity should be noted in these cells if stress is the sole cause of the leukocytosis. Often, when these birds are examined under less stressful circumstances such as at the home or in the aviary, more normal parameters are seen--supporting our assumption of a stress-related etiology.
In layman's terms, this means that eclectus parrots can get upset about going to the vet and show a highly elevated white blood cell count. Some vets unfamiliar with the species might treat them with antibiotics as a precaution. Therefore, on your first visit to the vet, you need to be sure that he or she is aware of this "eclectus quirk".
MY YOUNG MALE ECLECTUS IS NIBBLING TOO HARD ON MY FINGERS. HOW DO I TEACH HIM NOT TO BITE ME?
The same methods don't work for every bird, so I'm not sure that a video or a how-to book would serve you as well as your own intuition, and a "whole lotta love"!
When my eclectus babies get old enough to play together, "beaking" each other is one of their favorite games. They like to beak wrestle, biting each other on the neck, wing, legs, feet and anywhere else they can reach. Usually it is playful, but just like kids in the sandbox, now and again they get a little aggressive. Xander probably is acting out this same playfulness with you because you are his flock. However, when he is older and learns the power of his beak, this could be a problem. Better to distract him now than to suffer painful bites later.
If Xander isn't trained to step up when asked, that's something you can work on to distract him when he's trying to chew on your hands. If he refuses, lift up one of his front toes. Once you have that toe off the floor or perch, he's yours. It could be because it breaks their grip with that foot, but holding a front toe in your hand will make all the difference in his attitude. You then can set his foot on your hand or arm, and the other foot will follow. There are other behaviors or easy tricks that you can work on with him when you need to distract him from beaking you. Notice games that he plays when he's alone and try to make them into games that you can play together.
While he is in this testing phase, carefully choose your times to work with him--not when he is hungry, scared, overstimulated or just plain tired and cranky. Work with him when he is fed, rested, and happy. I don't ever "force" compliance at any age, but by consistently working with them at the right times, somehow they all come around and become loving and cooperative birds by the time they get through adolescence.
We haven't discussed my *intensive love* method since you've been on the list, so I will detail it below. If you let Xander know what you expect of him when you work with him, and that YOU are the leader of the flock, and then let him know that you love him and that being loved by youis pleasurable, you soon will win him over. I get really good results by making the young birds "love me too much to hurt me." Sounds funny but it works....
When he goes after your fingers as you described, firmly tell him "NO" and he will know by the tone of your voice and the look on your face that you are serious. If he continues trying to bite your fingers or biting at everything he sees, try my "palming" method by cupping the palm of your hand over his head and eyes and gently but firmly holding his head still. I don't actually use force, but the darkness of having their eyes covered, and the slight pressure of my hand on their head seems to have an instant calming effect. Maybe it reminds them of being under their mother with the bare brood patch of her chest touching the top of their head. As soon as he gives in and stops trying to nibble or bite, let him up and give him a snuggle or a session of intensive love and then return him to his cage to settle down and eat and drink.
You must use whatever non-force methods you can to maintain your position as leader. Guiding him in step-up training or in fun and games can distract him from bad behaviors. Cupping your hand over his head immediately establishes YOU as top bird and in command, as it settles him down. You must act like the flock leader so that he will be confident in "following" you and doing what you expect of him.
By the time you get through this testing stage with Xander, you will know just how clever eclectus babies really are! He will test you to the limit, no less than a human toddler would test his mother. If you treat him as though he understands what you are saying to him, he soon will! Actually, I'm betting that he already understands a lot more than you would think.
If you use your intuition as you work with Xander, you will be able to determine the methods to which he responds best. Above all, don't give up on him...just when you think you can't handle anymore challenges, he will become exactly what you wanted him to be all along! You, as the loving flock leader, will have guided him to become a *good psittacine* and an enjoyable member of your flock!