Triaging avian emergencies

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Dr Laila Proença offers her best advice for when presented with these patients

When working with bird patients, regard them the same way you do dog or cat patients, Laila Proença, DVM, PhD, MV, MSc, DACZM, CEO and founder of VetAhead, advised in a dvm360® interview at the 2023 American Veterinary Medical Association Convention. She particularly focused on when presented with avians in critical condition and how as a veterinarian, you already have the necessary knowledge and tools to triage these animals.

The following is a partial transcript of the video.

Laila Proença, DVM, PhD, MV, MSc, DACZM: So, triaging for an [avian] emergency is no different than what you already do for dogs and cats. You know, we will triage for actual emergencies, so a life-threatening event, if there is any bleeding, if there is severe respiratory distress. So, all the common things that would be an emergency for a dog, for a cat, they are the same [for birds].

I think one mistake that a lot of us make is thinking about exotic animal medicine. Actually, I hate that word "exotic" because it makes us feel like it's different. And it's not, that's my entire point. That's why I call it zoo med. Because it's no different than what you already do for dogs and cats, it's more similar than it is different. And when we think about exotic medicine, then automatically our brains go to a different place, and it becomes overwhelming, it becomes a completely different beast. If you think, 'Okay, this is what I would do for dog or cat,' then you're back to your veterinarian or technician brain, then you can process the information that you're receiving and you can think about it...and you can have a system and then you can triage the animal. Independently, if that animal has feathers or scales or fur, the process in which we do it is exactly the same.

So, I would say the best recommendation is to use the knowledge you have, to not reinvent the wheel. It doesn't [have] to be different. Of course, we're going to have some differences in anatomy, physiology, just [as] we have between dog breeds, between a dog and a cat. So, it's the same thing. The learning curve is not that steep. Think about that bird as a dog. What would I do? And start from there.

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