Bird Care Facts - Gram Stains
Gram stains signal changes in the bacterial flora of the choanal slit in the roof of the mouth and in the feces. These changes guide us as avian veterinarians to determine if your feathered friend needs treatment and what the treatment should be.
The reason behind the use of gram stains is based on the nature of your companion bird. These birds are basically preyed upon by hawks and other predators in the wild. So it is very important that they appear “normal” to those around them including their friends in the flock and to predators. If they don’t act normal, they could get pushed out of the flock where they would be more vulnerable or they could be picked off directly by predators. This means that most companion birds when starting to get ill, tend to hide their symptoms. That requires that you, as their owner and helper, need to be very watchful for subtle signs of illness. These early warning signs are extremely important because getting your bird to us as soon as possible often helps enhance a quick return to health. Waiting until the bird is on the bottom of the cage is often to late and costly.
So what are these early warning signs?
Any changes in their appearance and posture along with changes in the quality and color of their feathers. The nares or nostrils may have material in them or wetness on the feathers surrounding them. There may be swellings of the head, or changes in breathing including abnormal sounds or the bird stops vocalizing. Any changes to the color or volume of the droppings, increased amounts of urine or changes in the amounts of food consumed or water drunk should be investigated. Behavior changes are also cause of concern.
When Should My Bird Have Gram Stains?
This early warning system of gram staining the choanal slit and the feces helps us determine if there are changes in the normal flora of the respiratory and GI tracts. These results help guide us in the overall diagnosis of your bird’s health and wellness. It is important to have gram stain’s performed at least once a year but it is best for them to be done in the fall before the bad weather hits and again in the early spring.
Once your bird has completed or is near the end of its medications, we must recheck the gram stains to make sure the infection is gone and that the flora has returned to normal. We have had increasing problems with resolution of the infection so have had to keep birds on the drugs for longer periods or have had to switch medications. If you think that you bird is not improving while on the medication selected, it is important to give us a call right away. If you think your bird is experiencing a problem with the drug or it is not taking the medications, we also need to know. We all want to make your bird health and happy and want to work as a team to help make that happen.