Dr Paul Gibbons Customer Complaint

A customer of Dr Paul Gibbons, certified avain vet in Wisconson, was sent to me to be posted on our "Find an Avian Vet" page.

I am not confirming that any of this is true, I am just posting what a reader of Parrot-and-Conure-World.com posted.

Dr. Paul Gibbons has sent a response, please read his response as well.

Blue and Gold owner complaint

I noticed that you've included Dr Paul Gibbons in your list of avian vets here in Wisconsin. That is, no doubt, because he is Board Certified. Well...let me tell you how he treated my 14 year old Blue & Gold Macaw when I brought him into the clinic he works out of.

First, I was assured that an avian specialist would be on hand to examine my bird as this was an after hours situation in which my parrot had fallen in the cage and was whimpering and refusing to use his leg/foot. I felt he needed to be examined and that it could not wait until the next morning to be seen at his regular vet.

My 23 year old daughter took our beloved pet in to the emergency clinic that Dr Paul Gibbons works out of. It was recommended that he have an x-ray of the leg which I anticipated. (I am a medical professional and had to go to work that evening so could not take him in myself). Because the bird was frightened, he became feisty and my daughter was called into the back of the clinic to calm him down. It was deemed necessary to anesthetize him for the couple minute x-ray.

He was intubated for the extremely short procedure instead of simply being masked with an anesthetic gas. The leg was pronounced fit and my daughter brought him home. We were all relieved.

However, two weeks later, the bird developed xanthogranulomatosis directly attributable to his having been intubated for the x-ray. This is the growth of a membrane across the trachea which closes off the airway. Emergency surgery was done to clip this growth out but we were told that it was 100% sure to recurr.

Six days later it did and we had to put our much loved pet to sleep. I am enraged that this intubation was done for a simple x-ray. To put my bird at risk for this complication for a mere leg x-ray is unbelievable. The clinic's contention that this is an extremely rare complication is not at all accurate.

I invite anyone reading this to Google "Parrot Intubation" or "Xanthogranulomatosis". I've spoken to avian clinics around the country and none would recommend this approach for anesthesia for a simple x-ray. The risk far outweighs the benefit in this species.

So...you see, I cannot recommend Dr. Gibbons based upon my experience...even if he is BOARD CERTIFIED.

Dr. Paul Gibbons response

I am deeply saddened by the loss of the Blue and Gold Macaw that was reported to your website. I understand the anger, guilt, and denial that can accompany such a devastating loss. I recently lost one of my own deeply loved pets and felt similar emotions.

I must respond, though, to this posting because it reports the events surrounding the loss of this wonderful and healthy bird in an inappropriate and inaccurate manner. It is my opinion this bird was needlessly euthanized, and the post is a damaging method of working through the difficult emotions. I forgive the person who posted the message because I understand the emotions, but I must defend the actions of the veterinarians who provided care to this patient, namely, the emergency veterinarians with whom I work and provide guidance.

First, I have been involved in the anesthesia (directly or indirectly) of more than 10,000 beloved companion birds like the Blue and Gold Macaw described in this post. This is, however, the first patient that has experienced tracheal trauma as a result of intubation. So, this is approximately 1 in 10,000 chance of the problem occurring. It is true that we are not the first veterinary group to experience this. A report of this problem was published in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery several years ago. The information is available on the Internet.

Second, I have observed and heard about hundreds of cases in which problems occurred when birds are anesthetized with a mask, but not intubated. These life-threatening problems include acute respiratory arrest, regurgitation with aspiration, and accidental inhalation of liquid or other foreign materials. An anesthetized bird that is not intubated is a great risk of problems; possibly as high as 1 problem in every 10 cases. Many bird patients have died from the problems associated with mask-only anesthesia, which today is performed only by poorly-trained veterinarians.

There is no doubt I would be the subject of many angry Internet postings if I recommended that veterinarians use a mask alone, rather than using an endotracheal tube. In fact, I could lose my license if a bird were to experience one of these problems while anesthetized with a mask rather than an endotracheal tube. This practice was common 20 years ago, but modern avian veterinarians do not take this unacceptable risk.

Third, the "surgical" procedure that was performed by the emergency veterinarians to provide temporary relief to this Blue and Gold macaw was not recommended as a method to repair the problem and the family clearly understood this reality.

Fourth, there is a surgical procedure to repair this problem. The section of traumatized trachea is removed and the cut ends are reaffixed to form a proper airway. This procedure has a very high probability of life-long success. The procedure was recommended to the family, but they declined treatment and instead chose euthanasia.

Before carrying out this euthanasia our veterinarians and staff made a concerted effort to help this bird via local bird rescue organizations or donations. Unfortunately all of the bird groups that were contacted were currently inundated with birds and could not take on the care of this patient. With great sadness our veterinarians carried out the wishes of the family and took the life of this beautiful Blue and Gold macaw. Clearly, it suffered a terrible complication of the best possible medical care performed by a team of dedicated, caring, and experience veterinarians and staff who weighed the available options and selected the absolute best.

What I have learned:

1) It is not possible to inform everyone about all the rare possible complications of the work I do every day, so I will ensure that my clients have ample opportunity to understand the common risks so they can make informed choices.

2) I will redouble my efforts to counsel clients to choose options that provide the highest likelihood of helping my patients while minimizing the risk of harm.

3) I will recommend veterinary health insurance to all my clients so they will be able to afford care when their animals need it most.

4) I will ensure that I am open and available for consultation with my colleagues about the veterinary care of companion birds.

5) I will do my best to educate the general public about modern avian veterinary medicine so people understand what is considered "best practice" by the community of avian specialty veterinarians. I will continue to give regular seminars for people who love their birds.

6) I must do my best to help people learn about the difference between veterinarians who "do" bird medicine and those who "know" bird medicine. I will do my best to direct people to information about how to tell the difference between a knowledgeable, experienced, conscientious, evidence-based doctor who works in the best interest of his/her patient vs. a vet who shoots from the hip and says what a client wants to hear.


Paul M. Gibbons, DVM, MS, DABVP (Avian)

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