We sat down with AAV member Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP, to discuss the Association of Avian Veterinarians.
How did the AAV start?
The Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) started in 1979, when a group of vets realized that pet bird ownership was increasing. There was that perfect timing where vets were getting into birds as a science, and birds were being seen as important members of the household. There was an understanding that we really didn’t know as much as we should. [The AAV’s] purpose was to further the knowledge of birds — all birds whether it be parrots, backyard poultry, wild birds or for conservation.
AAV grew from a newsletter to a bulletin to a journal to our annual conference. We still have so much more to learn. This was much truer in the ’80s and ’90s. Many of the things we see when we meet in person, where one vet mentions seeing something and another says they’re seeing it too, becomes something to investigate. Back in 1979 that wasn’t happening. It was so expensive to even call someone. AAV started as a way for vets interested in birds to get together and share their research.
What challenges does AAV face?
There are some unique challenges. Right now in terms of avian medicine, we don’t have enough avian practitioners in vet schools. We want them teaching the right skills and to have an appreciation of birds. With cutbacks, exotics take the most hits.
There are also not enough avian veterinarians in vet schools. In a vet school, they are supportive of research in a private practice; it’s much more challenging. We have less people doing avian research.
The demographics of birds are changing. People are keeping smaller birds, which makes it harder to do minimum testing. The challenge is that all the medicine we’ve trained for is harder to do on smaller birds. To get a blood vein is much more difficult in a budgie than a macaw, for example. Vets can get 10 times as much blood to test in a larger bird than a smaller bird. A lot of our blood tests/ intravenous fluids are set up for larger birds. We have to retool what we think about these birds.
We’re also seeing a decrease in people bringing in their birds. We’re also seeing more pet birds being relinquished. We’d like to get real data on why birds are being relinquished.
Does AAV work with other organizations?
We’ve partnered with the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians and the Association of Reptiles and Amphibians because many of our members don’t do just birds. We try to maintain strong ties with avicultural organizations. In terms of conservation, in every city we go to, we have a field trip, which usually involves bird watching. We try to partner with conservation groups in that area.
We also have a link association with the European Association of Avian Veterinarians, which we helped start in the 1990s, and the Austral-Asian AAV, a sister organization to us, which we helped in 1990s. We also reach out to colleagues all over the world. We have scholarship to members (vets) from impoverished areas. We pay for them to attend our annual conference, where they make contacts to help them bring information back to veterinarians in their country and, perhaps, to bring about another AAV chapter.
AAV also gives out at least $10,000 a year to research. We closely examine people who need those research dollars. If a bird club was looking to raise money for an avian cause, our research committee has already narrowed down what we think are the projects that will make an impact on avian medicine.
How does AAV work with pet bird owners?
When you see an AAV member plaque on the wall of your veterinarian’s office, it assures the owner that the person has the most up-to-date information on birds. A vet who belongs to AAV gets the journal and a wealth of information.
There is so much we don’t know about birds than we do for cat or dogs. For example the medicine doses are completely different; birds need it more frequently as their metabolism is so much faster. If you’re not working with a vet who belongs to AAV, there’s a chance they won’t know these nuances. In regard to the latest in avian diseases, such as PDD and borna virus testing, a regular vet wouldn’t know where to send your samples to or the latest tests … you wouldn’t have that knowledge. An AAV vet will be on the cutting edge. We can’t all know everyone, but by belonging to this organization, you can call another member to talk cases to. For more information, visit the AAV website.