Vet fears that pet birds get inadequate nutrition

Pausing with pets

November 07, 1990|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

VETERINARIAN Stephen Romero has a bone to pick with the way pet birds are fed.

He thinks birds have been shortchanged in care and many never get proper veterinary care. ''If I could say one word of the problems I see in birds it is nutrition, because people have a picture that all birds want seeds and nuts.

''This is not always healthy for a bird, especially the bigger birds such as parrots, cockateels, cockatoos, macaws and such, which can eat almost anything their family eats.

''A parrot loves pizza or spaghetti, which is great for it. And, foods for most birds should include fruits, hard boiled eggs, vegetables and meats.

''Bird seed should be no more than 20 percent of its diet. And, people who sell birds are also guilty of presenting the idea that seeds are all that is necessary, because seeds are easy to sell. Yet many seeds are low in vitamins and high in fats, and when birds get accustomed to eating seeds it is difficult to introduce something different,'' he advises.

Romero, 35, practiced for three years with a veterinary hospital in Baltimore and then decided to open his own hospital in Arnold, which he calls the Bay Hills Animal Hospital, at 1292 Bay Dale Drive.

He says he is involved with critical care and remains constant ihis concern for wildlife, particularly birds and specifically the raptors.

A red-tail hawk, he recalls, was one of his Baltimore successes. ''He was brought in to the hospital by the naturalists from the Irvine Natural Science Center. One leg had multiple fractures and the prognosis was poor. His only chance was an operation to mend the leg.

''In the past, the mortality rate with birds from anesthesia has been very poor. However, a new gas anesthesia, Isoflurane, has revolutionized avian medicine. In a one-hour surgery with this anesthesia, the hawk came through just fine. For several weeks I hand-fed him and eventually took him to the Chesapeake Wildlife Preserve in Bowie so that he could recuperate in a large flight cage.

''At the end of three weeks there, I took him back to the IrvinScience Center where he was released. I will never forget my overwhelming sense of satisfaction when I held that hawk up and let him soar away with health and freedom,'' he remembers.

Romero says that ''way back'' when he went to college, veterinary medicine was not on his mind. ''I was and am so interested in a strong environment and renewable resources, and I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, with a degree in natural resource conservation.

''From college I went right in to designing solar systems, but it wasn't profitable, and on top of that I was giving the thought of veterinary medicine more and more attention because it held the possibility of working with something I truly enjoyed, which is pets and wildlife. Although I was older than most of the other students, I went back to school and received my veterinary degree at Ross University in St. Kitts, British West Indies,'' he says.

Romero cares for birds, dogs, cats and ''pocket pets,'' which he describes as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters but ''not snakes. For some reason I do not like snakes,'' he shudders.

His wife, Susan Maturo, is also a veterinarian but does not practice with him. Romero says that he and his wife have enough pets to begin a separate practice.

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