Most successful surgical procedures in avian patients, as with other species, require that the veterinarian and his or her
staff give special attention to the details of perioperative management. In some instances, special techniques may be required
to perform and successfully complete appropriate procedures; however, in many instances the same techniques used in companion
species (dogs/cats) may be adapted or adjusted for use in exotic species.
Veterinarians should familiarize themselves with appropriate anatomy, physiology/pathophysiology as well as available protocols
for preparation, instrumentation and perioperative management.
Without a doubt, two of the most critical aspects of perioperative management of the surgical patient are the history and
physical examination. The history obtained from the owner should evaluate all aspects of husbandry including source of pet(s),
length of ownership, diet, environment and current or previous illness(es).
The physical examination will help evaluate cardiopulmonary status, overall physical condition, severity of illness(es) if
present and any conditions unknown to the owner. The veterinarian and staff can then assess presurgical condition and classify
the necessity of anesthesia and surgery. Health problems identified during the physical examination such as anemia, dehydration
and hypoglycemia should be addressed and corrected prior to placing the pet under anesthesia unless absolutely necessary.
The minimum database for any procedure that requires anesthesia should include a packed cell volume (PCV), total protein or
solids (TP) and blood glucose. For more extensive procedures a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, electrolytes,
urinalysis and radiographs may be required. All patients should be as physiologically stable as possible prior to anesthesia
The purpose of fasting is to allow the upper gastrointestinal system, especially the crop, to empty thereby reducing the likelihood
that the patient will regurgitate/vomit or reflux and aspirate the ingesta. Because of the small size of most avian patients
a prolonged fasting period is not recommended. It is important to remember that birds, especially neonatal birds, are unable
to handle prolonged fasting presumably due to the limited hepatic glycogen stores. A three-hour fast is usually sufficient
for most companion avian species. Small species such as budgerigars, canaries, finches may require an even shorter fasting
period. Raptors and especially waterfowl may require a fast of 12 hours or more.
There are numerous sources of information concerning anesthetic protocols for avian species. To become familiar with these
protocols, I would recommend purchasing an appropriate source for this information. Sources include:
- Veterinary Clinics of North American Exotic Animal Practice
- Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine
- Avian Medicine: Principles and Applications
- Avian Medicine and Surgery
- Manual of Avian Medicine
- Laboratory Medicine: Avian and Exotic Pets
- Exotic Animal Formulary*
- Manual of Avian Practice
- Seminars if Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine.
When choosing an anesthetic protocol, select one that will allow you to complete the desired procedure with minimal to no
physiologic changes to the patient. Appropriate emergency drugs should be readily available or prepared in syringes prior
to initiating the anesthetic protocol. This is a time-saving move that allows the veterinarian or attending staff to address
anesthetic emergencies (cardiopulmonary arrest) as soon as they occur. I would suggest intubating any patient that will be
under anesthesia for longer than 10-15 minutes.
Patient preparation is another critical aspect of perioperative management of avian species. Most avian patients have extremely
high metabolic rates in addition to their small size that can make hypothermia a real and constant problem. To minimize heat
loss during procedures use heating pads (circulating water), Bair Hugger Total Temperature Control Systems™ (Augustine Medical,
Inc., 10393 West 70th Street, Elden Prairie, MN 55344) and warm fluids. Another option is to warm the surgical suite. When using heating blankets/pads
or bottles be sure to separate the patient from the heat source by a towel to avoid burning the patient during and after the
To prepare the area for surgery pluck feathers to a minimum distance of 2-3 cm around the surgical site. Additionally, care
must be taken to not damage feather follicles when preparing birds for surgery; feathers should be pulled in the direction
they normally grow. Filoplumes may be clipped with a small clipper or scissors.