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Avian Medicine

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by sheepishsheep, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. sheepishsheep

    2+ Year Member

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    Hello everyone! I graduated from UCLA last quarter and I'm planning on applying to veterinary school within the next year. Specifically, I'm passionate about and interested in studying avian medicine, and I had a couple of questions. I've had a lot of trouble finding information specific to avian veterinary medicine (both online and firsthand from avian vets), so any help would be appreciated!

    1. Does anyone know about the job prospects as an avian vet specifically? Do you think it would be feasible to have a practice that specifically serves avian patients (or maybe avian and exotic)? Just seeing how many avian vets there are in L.A. (I only know of 3), I'm questioning the job prospects as an avian vet. Why are there so few avian vets? Is it that not many people are specifically interested in avian medicine, or is it that there is no market for avian vets?

    2. How does the salary of a vet that specializes in avian medicine compare to that of a general small animal vet? I have been unable to find any information regarding salary that is current and compares different specialties.

    3. Are there any vet schools that you know of that have strong avian medicine programs? I know of Tufts and Florida. How does Davis compare? And in general, how much of an opportunity is there during vet school to study avian medicine specifically? Is it an elective at most schools? Is it possible to spend more time on avian courses/internships and less on other species?

    4. I was speaking with an avian vet about avian/exotic residency programs and she seemed to be against residency programs. She explained that they require you to pay a lot of money when, instead, you could gain the same experience by just working alongside an avian vet for a few years. What are your opinions on that?

    Thank you for your help. Hopefully there are some bird people out there who can answer a few of my questions :)
     
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  3. Nechochwen

    Nechochwen LSU SVM c/o 2014
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    I'll say what little I can surmise. Very incomplete, but whatever I might know something about.

    1. I know of a vet who runs an exotic medicine clinic; his special interest is in avian medicine. His ability to have such a clinic is due in large part to being near a metropolitan area (New Orleans). I think that without a large population center, you would have a hard time maintaining an avian exclusive practice.

    2. Can't give any data on salaries...so no comment.

    3. I'm not sure about which schools have great programs specifically in avian medicine. I have also heard good things about Tufts' and UF's wildlife/exotic(avian) program (I've also heard good things about LSU, but I'm biased :D) I may be wrong, but I think that with summer externships, rotations between schools, and conferences, you can make any school work. Some schools have avian electives; I would imagine most schools have an exotics class. This would be something to research on the schools websites. As for concentrating more on avian and less on the other species, it is once again school specific. Some schools "track" more than others and allow you to focus on a specific field to the exclusion of others; all schools (I believe) are going to require a certain competency in the domestic species, however. As for UC Davis, I'm not sure. They have a great campus and school. As for avian specifically, they do have a raptor center, but that's probably not the kind of avian your thinking of (even though they're cool:cool:)

    4. No opinion...yet. I'm going to the AAV conference in a few weeks and maybe then I'll have a better feel for it.
     
  4. Minnerbelle

    Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    Avian medicine is one of those specialties where it's not uncommon to find non-boarded practitioners who are just as, if not more knowledgeable/experienced than boarded specialists (or at least that's what I've been told). The great thing about ABVP is that you do not need to go through a formal residency program to sit for boards. It might take longer (at least 6 years), but you can earn a normal vet salary as you're working towards it. If I go the GP route, this is something I would definitely like to consider. I don't think I can afford a residency, so this is a great compromise for me. It might be a couple of jobs before I can find employment at a clinic with an avian vet to help mentor me and have an established avian case-load, but ideally that's what I'd like to do.

    I think as for salary, I would think it really depends on your location, as well as your practice demographics. I kind of doubt that you can plop yourself in any part of the US or clinic and expect a clientele of bird enthusiasts who really value your work. It would be awesome to work at an exotics/specialty practice that is like the go to place for hobbyists with hyacinths and the like go... but dunno how realistic that is. With my luck, I'll probably end up doing mostly husbandry/feather picking consults, and dealing with clients who call their cockatiels "cockatoos." I kind of doubt that I'll chance on a clinic that'll allow me to have more than a 50% avian caseload. But then again, I'm happy with dogs/cats, and birds will be an extra bonus, so it's not a do or die for me. If I don't get board-certified it won't be the end of the world, as long as I can become a competent birdie GP that can work up common problems and refer for more complex things.
     
  5. sheepishsheep

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    Thank you for your answers! I actually really wanted to go to the AAV conference this year but unfortunately it was out of my price range :/ hopefully in the future though.

    Also,

    haha I hate it when people think I own "cockatoos" :rolleyes:
     
  6. Minnerbelle

    Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    lol. I get it the other way around. When people ask I usually just say I have birds or parrots, and if they ask what kind I will say I have a cockatoo and a grey (i mean... if they ask, I sort of assume they know their general bird spp). I get lots of "I used to have one of those too!" The best was when a lady said "oh yes, I have them too! But both of mine are yellow.":rolleyes:
     
  7. jmo1012

    jmo1012 SGU (NCSU) c/o 2015!
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    be careful when you say "avian" medicine as I believe that more commonly refers to dealing with poultry/food birds! we had a guest speaker last semester who is boarded in avian med and everyone (myself included and i scheduled him!) thought that when it said avian specialist it meant exotic birds and pets not turkeys! what a surprise we got!
     
  8. moosenanny

    moosenanny UC DAVIS class of 2014!!!
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    Davis has some pretty cool avian electives (in addition to learning about birds in our core classes, like Respiratory Physiology). We have a raptor handling course at our raptor center (I'm taking it this upcoming quarter and am super excited!). There are also courses entitled "Comparative Avian Anatomy and Pathology" and "Companion Avian Medicine" that third year students can take. In addition, there are exotic animal electives that certainly won't focus on birds solely, but sound like they probably include bird cases/examples ("Companion Exotic Small Animal Medicine and Surgery" and "Case Studies in Small and Exotic Animal Clinical Toxicology"). While the curriculum is changing, I don't think these learning opportunities will be going anywhere.

    ETA: I forgot to mention that there are 5 or so students in my class who have a strong interest in avian medicine.
     
    #7 moosenanny, Jul 26, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
  9. GellaBella

    GellaBella Penn Vet V'14
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    My only veterinary experience before applying to vet school was shadowing an avian/exotics vet for 2 years so I'll give you what I learned from that experience.

    1. I think that there aren't many avian only vets because compared to cats and dogs, there just aren't as many bird owners, so the market for an avian vet is not as good...that being said, if you can be GOOD at what you do, people will travel to you because you will become "the bird doctor". The vet that I shadowed was a bird breeder before he decided to go to veterinary school and he is AMAZING with birds. This guy is like Dr. Dolittle, these crazy birds just love him. He has established a place in a large veterinary hospital where he sees only birds and household exotics. People travel from several states to see him (He's in NJ, I've seen them come from central PA and upstate NY to visit him on a regular basis). The bird stores use him as their veterinarian and many vets refer to him and send him referrals when they are uncomfortable with birds or cannot find a solution to the problem. He specializes in dealing with avian behavioral problems (Hello cockatoos!) and often has behavioral consults with clients. So I think a market is there, but you have to expect that it will take awhile to build up a fan base, and for that, you've got to be excellent. (The other avian/exotics vet in the practice was not quite as good and would have to see dogs/cats as well because people would specifially request to see THE avian vet, and would be willing to wait if he wasn't in that day).

    2. The vet I shadowed worked on a base salary with commission. We talked one time bluntly about salary (the hospital was trying to lower his % commission bc they were in trouble financially after building a huge addition to the practice). He said he brought in over $200k/mo in just avian/exotic work for the hospital. I know that he personally made around $200k/year. I know that the other avian/exotics/dog/cat vet made significantly less, but she was also more part-time.

    3. When I asked him about this he said there really isn't ONE great place to learn. He went to school at Iowa, he taught for awhile at Penn. He think that you really just have to go out and find the opportunities to work with these animals and that no curriculum is really much better than another for this. (In Iowa he actually started an avian and exotics practice at the hospital there because at the time they hadn't had one apparently, bc of this they hired him for awhile after graduation).

    4. My vet was also against residency programs. He said that he has seen board certified avian vets do some ridiculous things that harm the animals. He does think that hospitals want to say they have board certified vets on board, because it makes the hospital sound better, but he thinks you can be an amazing vet (and he certainly is) without doing a residency.
     
  10. sheepishsheep

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    Thank you so much for all of your responses!

    Now for one other question...I'm planning on asking if I can shadow an avian/exotics vet, but I'm not sure how to go about it. They don't have a website and probably don't have a set volunteering program. Would you recommend that I call and ask over the phone, or that I stop by with my resume and ask in person? I don't want to be blown off over the phone but I don't want to seem too pushy by showing up. Suggestions?
     
  11. scb44f

    scb44f Llamas and cattle and sheep, oh my!
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    If you can stop by, do, however if they work independently AND do house calls (like the vet I shadowed) it may be hard to predict when to stop by. I was living in a different city when I set up my shadowing an avian vet, so I called and asked if I could come in and speak with her on a day that I knew I would be in that town. It worked out that she loooves having someone she can teach (i.e. a bird newb like me).

    As for doing residency, this woman didn't. She worked in a small animal only clinic for 2 years before deciding it's not what she wanted to do. She moved to a different clinic closer to home, when she found that there were a few clients who had birds. She'd offer to try but explained that she didn't have a great knowledge base to pull from so she would be learning in the process. Since then (a couple of decades?) she has opened her own clinic which is avian-only and runs a bird rescue on the side.
     

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