An avian veterinarian is a ordinary veterinarian that has training to specialize in the treatment of companion birds, birds of prey in nature reserves and zoos, and domesticated poultry. There do not, however, tend to be official university programs to obtain a degree in avian medicine. Many veterinarian organizations do offer extensive coursework, mentoring, and internships towards specializing in the treatment and surgery of avian and exotic animals.
Avian veterinarian jobs are often focused on the specific care of birds and the unique diseases that birds contract. Since birds have an anatomy and other features such as breeding habits and digestive systems that are very different from the typical animals that a vet sees, an ordinary veterinarian will often refuse to treat birds. The costs of taking a bird to an avian veterinarian are often higher than what a typical veterinarian charges to treat pets. This is usually to be expected by avian pet owners who likely have paid a large amount of money to acquire their bird in the first place. Avian veterinarians also perform surgery on birds, and have expert knowledge in exotic species that is not be easy to obtain elsewhere.
Certification is offered for some avian veterinarian jobs by different organizations throughout the world. The American College of Poultry Veterinarians (ACPV) in the United States is a certifying board for veterinarians that requires an annual exam to be taken for certification and an avian residency to be completed after standard veterinarian school. Another organization that supports avian veterinary medicine is the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV). The services of the AAV include continuing education courses, the publication of scholarly articles in the Journal of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, and periodic conferences for the interested avian veterinarian. The American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM) is an international organization which is not an actual college, but offers certification for an avian veterinarian and specializes in animals living in natural environments.
Due to the fact that avian veterinarian duties are highly specialized and expensive, the training to become an avian veterinarian can be equally rigorous. Members of the AAV are the most highly respected in the field. An avian vet has to practice bird medicine for six or more years before they are allowed to become members of the AAV.
Some veterinarian hospitals also offer courses in avian medicine. One program offers a 54-week training course that is only open to veterinarians with small animal experience and good recommendations. It trains veterinarians to become board-certified specialists in an extensive range of fields, from neurology and ophthalmology to radiation oncology. Radiology and cardiology are other training specialties for the treatment of birds that it includes. Such programs certify a avian veterinarian in a wide array of medical disciplines from internal medicine, to emergency care and specialties like ultrasonography, echocardiography, and soft tissue and orthopedic surgery for birds.