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The "Ask-a-Vet" page is for educational purposes only. Although the questions below are answered by an avian veterinarian, they should never substitute for an actual examination of your bird by your avian veterinarian. Please do not delay seeking veterinary care for the sick bird waiting for a response.

 

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Do you have a health question you'd like to ask a vet? We can help you, just follow the "Ask A Health Question" link to the lower right. If you'd like to ask a question about bird care or behavior  follow the "Ask An Expert" link.
 
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Q. I was wondering if you could help me. My budgie Lera (about 1 year old) has been ill. At first she held her wings out (as if she were overheated) and they quivered slightly. She is usually VERY active and playful, but was just sitting on her perch with her eyes closed and head tilted back. She is eating and drinking normally, and her droppings look fine. She had one small bout of vomiting. She's wasn't fluffed up at all. Her diet is seeds and Harrison's pellets, and they get organic fruit and veggies every day. Yesterday she started having balance issues. Moved around unsteadily and looked as if she would fall off her perch. We took her to the vet, who seemed to think perhaps she had suffered some trauma (was frightened - she the alpha female of a flock of 8). I never noticed any trauma, but then I'm not with them all the time. He seemed to think with quiet and rest she will rebound. He did not treat her with medicine. Today she is on the bottom of the cage with head tilted up. She is still off balance, but is eating and drinking, and isn't fluffed up. Her eyes look bright, and her cere is clear. Her boyfriend is in the cage with her (I moved her to a separate cage) and they groom each other. Once in a while she will climb to a perch (it is very low), but then heads shakily back down to the bottom of the cage. The off balance movements and shakiness are alarming. Do you have any theories on what could be wrong (Maybe an ear infection)? It's so hard to see her like this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Michelle M.

A. I'm glad to hear you took your budgie to see an avian veterinarian. It's hard to say what might have happened or what exactly is going on. Diagnosing ailments in budgies can be particularly challenging due to their small size and the limitations avian practitioners face in terms of collecting blood samples or interpreting xrays. A thorough physical exam and history are perhaps the two most valuable diagnostic tools, and since I didn't examine her myself, I can't really speculate about the possibility of an ear infection or other diagnosis. Even without knowing exactly what is going on, this sounds like a situation where you could use a supplement called Vetri-DMG. You can read more about DMG on Dr. Margaret Wissman's website www.exoticpetvet.net (here's the direct link about DMG: http://www.exoticpetvet.net/dvms/dmg.html). It comes in a liquid form that she could take on a little piece of favorite food daily. Even if she's already on the mend, DMG can help her recover faster.

Hope this helps!
--JC Burcham, DVM - Member AAV
Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center
www.MariposaVet.com

 


Q. Hello. I'm a new cockatiel owner. I recent purchased a cockatiel named Wally. He is 3. I have two concerns. First off, he has had a few episodes where he freaks out because of a sudden movement or noise so far he has only lost a few feathers but its still scary. What do I do when he does this? And no he doesn't do this at night. Lastly, he has been caught once and a while to be eating his droppings. Is that dangerous to his health? What do I do to stop the behavior? He has cuttlebone, fruits, veggies, and his everyday seeds. Thanks for reading this!

A. Congratulations on your new cockatiel! Do you know much about his history? It's possible that he's having a hard time adjusting to his new environment. Is there a lot of activity around his cage or is it really quiet? If it's generally a very quiet environment, you might consider keeping some background noise (a radio, for example) and possibly even some background "movement" (like a mobile, perhaps?) so he's not so startled by sudden noises or movements. I don't know that there's a whole lot you can do while he's actively "freaking out", other than perhaps removing easily-removed items from his cage (like bowls), so he doesn't hurt himself on them, and talking quietly to him. 

With regards to eating his droppings, it won't hurt him. But I would want to know more about his diet and make sure he's been checked for parasites or abnormal bacteria.  An all-seed diet is lacking in essential vitamins and minerals, and a pelleted diet is generally preferred for most cockatiels. An avian veterinarian can help discuss a proper diet with you and evaluate a stool sample.
 
--JC BurchamDVM - Member AAV
Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center
www.MariposaVet.com
 

Q. I just got my bird and I'm new to taking care of, a sun conure, the pet store said she was almost a year old. I brought her home and she was eating the first night then the next day all her focus was on me and she started to stay puffed up and chirping and flicking her wings continually. When she's close to me I tried to give her food but she keeps ignoring the food and trying to get on my hand. Should I go to the vet soon or am I worried for no reason? She didn't act like this at the store? What do I do? - Kandise
 
A. Sometimes when a bird is stressed or sick, it will revert back to "baby" behavior, such as puffing up, flicking wings, and acting like it wants you to feed it. The best thing to do anytime your bird is refusing food or not acting right is to take it to an avian veterinarian. Some birds may not realize that a new food is, in fact, food--try mixing it with food you know the bird will eat, or demonstrate that the food is edible by pretending to eat it in front of your bird.
 

--JC Burcham, DVM - Member AAV
Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center
www.MariposaVet.com


Q. My yellow sided conure has been itching her head and her feathers are falling out. She is bald on the top of her head plus it is white and scaly on her scalp. - Cheryl
 
A. Lots of things can cause a bird to scratch at her head to the point where she's losing feathers. A diet that is lacking vitamins and minerals, otitis (ear infection), sinusitis (sinus infection), dry skin, dermatitis, ingrown feather follicle, parasites, and even skin cancer are just a few of the possibilities. Symptomatic treatment (e.g. applying aloe or other topical ointment) is not recommended until an avian veterinarian has evaluated your bird. A thorough medical history and exam are essential for diagnosing and treating the problem.

--JC Burcham, DVM - Member AAV
Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center
www.MariposaVet.com


Q.  2 weeks ago I was given 2 parakeets, was told approx. 3 years old. No food was ever given daily, water dish was so dry it was crusty on the bottom. Now they're fed/watered daily and are fat compared to 2 weeks ago. Well now one of them has a red, swollen bottom and the butt feathers are kinda frazzled. Now today there's poop on his bottom! He looks sick! The closest avian vet is 2 hrs from me. What can I do! I thought I was doing a good job! Please help!!! - Kim
 
A. Thank you for providing a good home for these 2 birds. Without an examination by an avian veterinarian, it's not possible to determine what has caused the red bottom, or why poop is sticking to it. If you can, hold this bird in a light cloth (like a wash cloth or dish towel) and gently run warm water over the vent, or cloaca (where the poop comes out), and rinse off the poop. It's unlikely that you've done anything to cause this to happen, but without a thorough examination and history, it would be dangerous for me to advise on treatment beyond what I've just described.
 
--JC Burcham, DVM
Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center
www.MariposaVet.com
 

Q. How often do cockatiels need to visit the vet? B&W takes care of grooming. My birds get so frantic when I take them to the vet I fear it may cause more harm than good if they aren't actually ill.

A. Wellness exams are one of the best things you can do to ensure you're doing everything possible to keep your bird healthy. Because birds are so good at hiding signs of illness, an avian veterinarian relies on getting to know your bird at a time of health in order to be able to detect the earliest signs of a problem. This is why I recommend wellness exams every 6 months for all birds. I realize that the stress of transporting your birds is a concern. But when your birds' health is your highest priority, nothing is more important than establishing and maintaining a relationship with an avian veterinarian who you trust.

--JC Burcham, DVM
Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center
www.MariposaVet.com


Q. Hello, I have an African grey parrot and he seems to be really sick. His breathing seems hard, his nose seems to be leaking and his left eye is swollen and redish and he is keeping it closed. He seems very weak. What should I do ? Amanda

A. Please don't wait for a response here, your bird needs to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Q. We have a blue & gold macaw and a sun conure. They both eat Zupreem. We like the Natural blend because of the lack of dyes but had trouble getting the birds to eat it. We started mixing the Natural with the Fruit blend about half and half which has been working very well. We were recently told by a pet store employee who said she has raised birds for 10 years that mixing the food like that causes liver issues. Is this a true concern that we should have? Thanks, Jennifer

A. You're wise to question this piece of advice/information. There is no reason that mixing the natural and fruit-blend varieties of Zupreem would lead to liver issues. I do not know what kind of birds she raised, and without more information about her experiences, it's impossible to say what would cause her to make such a statement.

--JC Burcham, DVM, Member AAV
www.MariposaVet.com


Q. I bought a blue and gold macaw. The breeder just called me to tell me she took her to the vet today for the vet check before shipping her to me. The vet found a small spot on her beak and pressed on it and caused a indention. She said the vet told her it could be infected later down the road and need antibiotics can you tell me what this might be? I asked her not to send the bird until I have time to talk with someone about this . I have no experience with birds and don't want to start with a ill bird. The bird was born in April and is still not completely weaned (to me seems odd, but what do I know). Thanks for any help you can give me. Lisa

A. The veterinarian who examined the bird should be able to provide an explanation of the findings. Although the beak of a baby macaw will be softer than that of an adult bird, it generally should not be so soft as to indent when pressed upon. Beaks are susceptible to trauma from parents are siblings--is it known if the bird sustained any trauma? If there is concern about infection, are antibiotics appropriate at this time? If you are unsure about the health of this bird, it may be worthwhile to request a second opinion. A baby macaw should be weaned by 3-4 mos of age, and a failure to wean could indicate an underlying problem.
--JC Burcham, DVM, Member AAV

www.MariposaVet.com


 
Q. I notice my Panama Amazon’s beak and nails are turning white. I was wondering why that is? maybe vitamins? or age? She is about 8. Thanks for your help.
 
A. As long as the nails are healthy looking and not falling apart, color changes can happen.  Many Amazons that we see have different colored nails.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM

 
Q. I have a 6 month old African Grey. He is happy, whistling, eating anything and everything but I swear I can hear a wheeze or bubbly noise every so often is his breathing. Its been just the last two days. The only thing different is I switched his pellets 2 days ago to Harrison's High Potency. Could this be an allergy?
 
A. Anything is possible, but it is unlikely that it is an allergy.  Upper respiratory problems are very common in parrots, sometimes requiring nasal irrigation and/or antibiotics.  We generally swab the throat and look at the organisms under the microscope to determine whether treatment is necessary.  Some parrots, especially cockatiels, can benefit from adding apple cider vinegar to their drinking water at a ratio 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 pint of water.  You didn't say what he was on before but the Harrison’s should help to prevent these low grade infections if that is the issue.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM

 
Q. Hi, We have a Alexandrine Parrot which just 4 months old, from past 1 month he has started scratching and removing feathers. We took him to a local vet, he told us to give him bath after 15 days and gave us vitamin drops to put in his food but there was no improvement so we took him to another vet. He suggested to apply neem and aloe vera. After applying that the scratching has been reduced but not stopped. When we started applying oil he has started sneezing a lot and also stopped making noise for the past 1 week. Is there anything of concern and can you please advice anything for it.
 
A. Self trauma with feather destruction is the most common problem avian veterinarians see.  Also the most difficult.  I would suggest that if you can travel to an experienced avian veterinarian that you do so.  However, given this birds age I would look carefully at the ambient humidity the bird lives in, the quality of the diet, and his activities.  AVIX makes excellent products that are safe for birds for bathing and a second for soothing dry skin.  I would never apply anything described as "oil" to a bird.  Regular misting and weekly soaking baths are very helpful.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM

 
Q. Hi, I have a 2 year old Green Cheek Conure and just a couple of days ago he just started bleeding from his nostrils. At first I thought my cat got to him, but when examining him, it came solely from his nostrils with no cause. He sat and sneezed blood for about 10 minutes. Of course I helped him through this experience, and he recovered fine. Do birds just have nose bleeds or is this something else? I have had a couple of birds now, this is my first experience with nose bleeds. I love my Green Conure & want to help him.
 
A. The first things that come to mind are possible injury and sinusitis.  It can be difficult to properly examine a bird's oral cavity.  I use magnification with a light source and a speculum to hold the mouth open for a good examination.  If the bleeding returns I would be sure to have your conure properly examined.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM

 
Q. We have a baby cockatiel at the pet store where I work that in the past 2 weeks or so has had red swollen eyes and sometimes a discharge coming from her nose and eyes. She is eating fine, drinking fine, and pooping fine (sometimes her poop is regular size but other times she poops dime size poops). I am switching her seed diet to the Zupreem fruit pellet diet for cockatiels slowly. I'm not sure what she is allergic to. Hopefully you can help.
 
A. Cockatiels commonly get upper respiratory infections.  Antibiotic or antifungal medications is usually necessary when their eyes are involved.  The over the counter antibiotics sold in pet stores no longer have any benefit and can hide organisms from professionals.  I would recommend 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 1 pint of drinking water for any cockatiel sick or otherwise.  I congratulate you for switching from a seed diet to any formulated diet (pellets) as this is by far the most important problem in all caged birds.  Suggestion:  train to eat plain colored pellets rather than colored pellets.  They will always sort the colors and waste a lot of food. 
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM

 
Q. Hi, I have an 8 month old female cockatiel. Lately she has been puffed up and shaking and doesn't play much anymore. i can only tell she is shaking because her feathers seem to vibrate and when she's on my finger I can feel it. When I woke up this morning I have a habit of looking at her as soon as I get up and I noticed her cere is flaky looking. It just doesn't look like my male's cere, his is smooth. They're both on the same food, neither one will eat any fruit or vegetables so they're on nothing but seeds. Is it a vitamin deficiency? What illness causes my female to fluff up, shake (vibrate), not play, and have a scaly cere? Thank you very much!!!
 
A. By far and away the most common problem for all caged birds is malnutrition.  When they only recognize seed as food they do not get enough vitamins, minerals, and protein in their diet.  Then they become weak, obese, poorly feathered, have weak bones, get egg bound, and get upper respiratory infections to name a few.  You need advice from an expert on how to teach your bird to eat pelleted diets.  I would use a lamp off the end of the perch to provide quality heat to this bird.  All sick birds look the same and yours is not able to keep it's body temperature at the normal level causing her to shiver and puff up her feathers.  This means she is in an energy deficit and needs help as soon as possible.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM
 

Q. We have two macaws and our blue and gold likes to tear up our ruby's feathers. We made it so they can't do that anymore. So how do we get his feathers to grow back faster? Also I notice that there are little white spots on the ruby's beak what does that mean?
 
A. Good quality nutrition will allow the feathers to cycle through their normal growth.  When the quality of the food is poor they can retain their feathers for a longer time.  There is nothing that will speed up the process.  I would have to examine a parrot with white spots on its beak to say what the cause might be.  Some birds don't use their beak much because they were never taught.  This can leave little pieces of beak that is sloughing off normally.  That may be what you are seeing.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM
 

Q. I have 2 tiels and they are both young, they are sisters. When I first got them they had all their feathers. After about 3 months of me having them I noticed that they were bitting off their tail feathers. The breeder I got them from had clipped their flight wings and they still have not grown back and I have had these birds for 6 months now. Their tail feathers had started to grow back but once again they were bitten off. I have a total of 5 tiels, 3 female 2 males, and 3 parakeets. They are all young except for one male tiel and one female tiel we rescued. These two females that have no tail feathers are ruff looking. I don't know what is going on. I hope this is normal and eventually their tail feathers will grow. Thank you. 
 
A. I rarely see tiels "bite off" their tail feathers unless there is something wrong with the skin. Most get broken from perching too close to cage bars or climbing on the sides using their tails as support. Feathers will take 6 months or more to fall out and grow new feathers. Diet is critical to growing sturdy and good looking feathers. Seed diets do not provide the building blocks necessary to grow quality feathers. Formulated diets fed to birds that have been trained to recognize these diets is the best answer.
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM

Q. Thursday my almost 17 year old female Sun Conure picked the feathers off her chest. The skin looks healthy (no rash or injury visible), but there is a bit of a bump/bulge on her lower neck area. It looks like it is filled with fat just under her skin maybe. I don't know if this is what her skin usually looks like at the base of her neck or if it is something new. She is acting normal otherwise. P.S. There are Bluejays nesting on the house and I think she can hear them sometimes. I'm not sure if this stressed her out possibly. Thank you in advance for your help.

A. Feather picking is possibly the most common disorder in pet birds. The various causes could fill a book. It is possible that your conure pulled the feathers due to what you are seeing on the skin. A few of the things you could be seeing are food in the crop, normal fat accumulation from a high carb diet, or a xanthoma or benign growth. Many other possibilities exist. Please have your bird examined by a qualified avian veterinarian to narrow the possibilities and determine a course of treatment. 
 
Mark G. Romain, DVM
 

If you have a health question you'd like answered, use the email form below and we will send it to our vet. If he is able to help we will post it to the website.  Your question just might help another bird lover. If you continue to have concerns about your birds health, a visit to your avian experienced vet is advised.
 
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Tips From Our Vets

We all know how important clean water is to our bird but it isn't always easy to keep bacteria from growing in our birds water. Adding 1 tsp APPLE CIDER vinegar per liter of water can help keep it fresh.

Giving medication to a parrot can be tricky, some liquid medicines can be injected into a grape or orange segment or soaked into a small piece of bread to make them more readily taken by a bird.  Another method that may work for your bird, and may be less stressful for him/her if it does: While your bird is inside the cage, hanging on the bars, facing you; put one hand in the cage and cover its back (you can use a small towel). Use the fingers of this hand to gently manipulate the bird's head and open its beak, if necessary. Use your other hand to administer the medication right through the cage bars. Be very careful not to squeeze the bird against the side of the cage. Of course you'll need to discuss the best way to give a medication with your vet.

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