The bird is first carefully observed from a distance, followed by a hands-on evaluation by feeling the bird. In many cases, a swab is taken from the throat, the windpipe or the crop. The collected material is then examined closely under a microscope. This allows the avian vet to find any possible parasites, fungi and yeasts. Even birds that are not visibly ill can still carry these inside them, which can lower the bird's performance.
An examination to find worms or other intestinal parasites can be done on the spot. Testing for pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli or salmonella, takes several days. Should there be any problems with pathogenic bacteria, the vet will look into which antibiotics are most useful.
An endoscopic examination can be performed if needed. A miniature camera is inserted in the abdominal cavity of the bird. The camera enables the vet to determine the sex of the bird, both the ovary and the testes can be seen. This is often a lot more difficult to see in young birds due to underdevelopment. An endoscopy can also tell the examiner more about the sexual activity of the bird. A hen with a small, underdeveloped ovary is not expected to be overly active in terms of fertility. The biggest advantage of an endoscopic examination above DNA testing is that the veterinarian can also analyse the overall condition of the bird. For example, fungal infection can be diagnosed if there are white growths of fungus on the air sacs and organs.
A general blood test helps to evaluate the function of the organs. The different values tell a lot about how well each respective organ is functioning.
In addition, blood tests can also show, or even exclude, certain diseases. The standard tests performed in a purchase examination are: PBFD (Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease), Avian Polyomavirus (Budgerigar fledgling disease) and Parrot Fever (Psittacosis/chlamydia). With parrot fever tests, a swab is taken from the cloaca in addition to a blood test.
Because these are diseases that are not always easy to detect from the outside, it is highly advisable to have these tests done. Especially if you already have birds at home that could become infected after introduction of the new bird.
If your bird dies, or if you own many birds and a number of those birds have passed away, you can have an autopsy done. There is quite a good chance that the cause of death of the bird or birds can be established.
It will not make any difference for the deceased bird, but the knowledge gained can certainly help the other birds. What's more, if you're planning to buy a new bird, it can be very useful for you to know what the last bird died of. It could very well be a contagious disease. Some viruses, parasites or bacteria can remain active in the environment for a long time.
During the autopsy, the bird's body is opened up and the inner organs are examined, which can already provide valuable information. For example, the lungs may show irregularities or the liver may be enlarged. This gives the veterinarian an idea of what the cause might be. Bacteria can also be cultured from the organs. Additional test can by performed to rule out several other diseases, such as Polyoma or Parrot Fever.