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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello there! First time poster. I have a cockatiel who's balding under his wings. I am desperate for help. :( I've done a write-up so someone can read his entire history, in hope of getting some help. We only have two avian vets in the area and I'm starting to lose faith in the one he's been going to.

Basics: Mateo is a male (I’m guessing by his behavior) lutino cockatiel. He was born about May of 2004, so as of this writing, he’s about 4.5 years old. He was hand-fed and came to me tame. He was bought from a local pet store in August of 2004.

Home life: Mateo lives in a large cage by himself in our livingroom. He has many toys, things to chew on and a lot of room to move about in his cage. He’s out with us at least one hour a day (often more). He showers with me a couple of times per week.

Mateo lives in the livingroom next to a cage housing my other four birds – one English budgie and three “American” parakeets. Mateo does not like the parakeets as one in particular (Oliver) antagonizes him. He does not have out of the cage time with the keets.

History: Mateo does not have a history of any real problems. For the first two years of his life, he’d have a night fright about every four months, usually causing some serious damage to some blood feathers. After I moved into my house in the summer of 2006, he does not have any night frights. He has gotten spooked when the keets have one, but has not had one on his own for over two years now.

Food/diet
: I just recently got Mateo off Kaytee Exact Rainbow Cockatiel pellets, as they had ethoxyquin in them, a potentially harmful preservative. Mateo ate those for nearly four years. He’s currently on Harrison’s High Potency Fine (seems to like these) pellets along with some Roudybush Daily Maintenance pellets, TOP Organic Pellets (which he doesn’t seem to like – too big) and Laber’s Parakeet. He also gets Lafeber’s Nutriberries, Lafeber’s Avicakes, some seed and water from our tap. He does not get any fresh fruits or veggies (doesn’t seem to like them), but will eat eggs, bread and pasta. He has never been on any supplements or vitamins until now.

Current treatments
: AviX Soother Plus Cream under the pits for his problem and AviX Sunshine Factor daily orally.

I first noticed Mateo’s wing pits balding about August of 2008. I noticed them when he was flying across the room. I took him to see the vet on August 8th, 2008. He’s been to the vet three times.

1st visit
: Weight 98 grams. Tested for giardia – negative. Blood test run, general check up. Vet said he looked to be in good shape.

2nd visit
: Weight 94 grams. Did not test for giardia, but put him on ronidazole. Did not help.

3rd visit
: Weight 86 grams. Did a fecal test again. Negative for giardia or any other protozoans. Gave me some AviX Soother Plus cream. 2X daily. Oddly enough, vet didn’t seem concerned with weight loss.

He’s getting the AviX Soother Plus cream on his pits twice a day, and honestly, he looks worse. The area is bald, red, but I can’t tell if it’s irritated or not. He HATES having the cream put on.

I am desperate for help. I don’t know what else to try. There’s another avian vet across the river, should I see him? He’s been tested for giardia twice now, and yeast – what else can be tested for?

His behavior, eating and pooping is all the same. Nothing major in our lives have changed. He’s acting the same way he always has. He just preens the area under his wings hard. He doesn’t really seem itchy or anything.

Please help! I’ve read and read and read and read…I don’t know what else to try.
 

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Firstly...Welcome to the forums. I would be concerned as you are that your Vet isn't concerned about Mateo's weight loss! There are a wide variety of bacterial infections that can cause weight loss as well as feather picking. A small amount of scant feathers under the wings is not unusual but the weight loss IS. I didn't recognize the name of the drug he was given on the second visit but I'm curious if the Vet suggested probiotics. Benebac or Ornabac are two of the names they are sold under. They aid digestion and are destroyed by antibiotics. They can also increase a birds appetite. If I were you (you obviously care) I would take my bird to the other vet. You could ask your vet what he thinks of the probiotic Idea.
 

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My 'tiel never has had many feathers on the top of his head or under his wings. My vet told me on two occasions that this was hereditary and the top of his head part was especially so. My 'tiel is also a lutino. As he's gotten older (he's almost 6 months) it has filled in more, but there are still bare spots that I'm sure will always be there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Firstly...Welcome to the forums. I would be concerned as you are that your Vet isn't concerned about Mateo's weight loss! There are a wide variety of bacterial infections that can cause weight loss as well as feather picking. A small amount of scant feathers under the wings is not unusual but the weight loss IS. I didn't recognize the name of the drug he was given on the second visit but I'm curious if the Vet suggested probiotics. Benebac or Ornabac are two of the names they are sold under. They aid digestion and are destroyed by antibiotics. They can also increase a birds appetite. If I were you (you obviously care) I would take my bird to the other vet. You could ask your vet what he thinks of the probiotic Idea.
Thank you for the response. :)

I do have an appointment for Mateo to go to the vet on Friday at the other place. I am a worried about his weight, too.

He's totally bald under his wings - both on his body and the wing itself. It looks really horrible. Of course putting that cream (AviX Soother Plus) makes it look worse. I gave him a shower this morning and just lightly sprinkled him with water and instead of it rolling off him like it usually does, he got soaked. I think I've used too much of that cream. He looked horrible.

I am so worried about him. I love him so much and not being able to help is frustrating me!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My 'tiel never has had many feathers on the top of his head or under his wings. My vet told me on two occasions that this was hereditary and the top of his head part was especially so. My 'tiel is also a lutino. As he's gotten older (he's almost 6 months) it has filled in more, but there are still bare spots that I'm sure will always be there.
Mateo is a lutino and does have the bald spot on top of his head. He never was bald at all under his wings until about 4 months ago and it's just gotten worse from there. The area with no feathers has increased. :(
 

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I found this after a bit of research and thought it might be helpful. Since your bird is on a pellet diet It's probably not due to poor nutrition but the other thing they pointed to was light. I use full spectrum lights (tho you have to be careful) Birds really benefit from the UV rays. Sun thru a window just doesn't cut it. You can get a small fluorescent fixture for about $10 at Wal-Mart and an 18" full spectrum fluorescent tube at a pet store. These are nicer than the bulbs because you can use them for years as opposed to 6 months for the bulb. The save level of UV is .05. .10 will burn your birds eyes (I know this from personal experience). Proper light also increases appetite, is good for feathers and makes for a happier, more active bird. Your move certainly isn't recent so whatever the conditions are he has been in them for over 2 years. Anyway the new vet will be able to answer these concerns. Here's a bit of that article:

90% of feather plucking problems according to some published veterinary medical studies and research is due to nutritional causations




Some feather plucking that begins as the result of physical cause such as this or any one of those mentioned above, may end up a ‘habit’ – and once it’s a behavioral issue, it’s even more difficult to stop.




Once organic/physical cause is relatively ruled out (all tests come back in) , you can try to modify the behavior with various environmental changes



Sometimes it's as simple as the lighting. Try replacing fluorescent bulbs with full spectrum bulbs or at least try a different (newer) brand of fluorescent. Birds see at different wavelengths than humans and there may be 'flickering' perceived from a fluorescent bulb that drives them to frustration - which leads them to plucking.

Sleep deprivation may also contribute to this (and sometimes increased screaming and nipping). You may want to try establishing a separate sleep cage in a room that’s quiet with dim lighting - or offer the bird an opaque cover in their present cage, keeping the sounds and activity down in the house while it’s in

Here is what will surprise you: Birds need 12 hours of sleep time, preferably the same hours every day. For example, if you tend to get up at 7 a.m. every morning, try to put the bird to bed at 7 p.m. every night and make it your priority when you get up (don’t leave them covered/in sleep cages while they can hear you up and about or it will only lend to their frustration and possibly stress levels).



A rule of thumb among avian veterinarians is a predominantly pellet diet with seeds, nuts, fresh fruits/vegetables/legumes and grains supplemented daily. We give them whole multi-grain oatmeal with cut up apple and/or banana in it for breakfast every day (just add warm water to the oatmeal, no need to fully 'cook' it) and their mid-day meal of whole wheat couscous and whatever veggie in season (choose the darkest greens like kale, collards, broccoli, etc).




Cuttlebone and mineral block are also essential, not just for the calcium, but for the outlet to bite and scrape their beaks.


Instead of the misting, try sharing the shower :) I'd just recommend that you use only baby safe products on yourself for this shower to reduce any possibility that the bird is harmed from regular soap/shampoo

When it comes to getting him onto heathier foods like pellets, try to offer
a pellet from your fingers as a treat (if your bird is used to taking treats from your fingers that is) and go ahead and try one yourself so the bird can see. I’m serious – try it yourself. Your bird shouldn’t be expected to eat anything that you wouldn’t eat yourself.


I’ve mixed pellets in with cereal too, especially a good, healthy, low sugar type. Try crushing them into an all natural yogurt or baby food of mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash or the like. One of our macaws started to love them when she found them in with her blueberries and other cut up fruit.



I’ve found it’s not a good idea to mix the pellets in with the seeds, but be creative otherwise.

One warning is that if you mix the pellets in with anything wet or even make a ‘mush’ out of the pellets using plain water, a natural, low sugar fruit juice – you must remove the dish (must!) after an hour or two, tops. There’s too much chance for bacterial growth in wet foods and this only makes a problem worse.

While making the conversion you need to monitor your bird very carefully. I strongly suggest getting regular weights.



A gram scale is one of the best investments a bird owner can make since many illnesses are not noticed until pretty far along. With a regular weight monitoring, you’ll know when a weight loss (or gain) trend occurs and may be able to stave off serious problems by catching them early.




I weigh everyone every Saturday morning, right after a dropping. They’ve come to expect it and happily step up on the scale when it’s their turn.

Finally, offer some jarred baby food, right from a spoon. Yams/sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, try to stick to the veggies more than fruits and be sure it's all natural foods, no additives. Just water and the vegetable should be the only ingredients.

Eventually, dunking a pellet in there might get him to try the pellet. Not that it matters, this baby food is a good option for daily supplementing (about 1/2 teaspoon up to 1 teaspoon a day).

This will get you started. And it's pretty easy really. Let me know how it goes




 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Sue, thank you so much for all the info. I am going to get a gram scale this week and have been looking into lights, too. I just want to make sure I get the right lights for him.

You said the "save" level...did you mean "safe" level? I don't know anything about UV lights. So I'm looking for a fluorescent light fixture with a bulb that's no more than .05 UV? Does .05 UV pertain to the fixture itself or the bulb? And you're saying I should get a fluorescent TUBE instead of a fluorescent BULB? Is that correct? I'm kinda lost here. :confused:

Mateo is in the livingroom, where he sleeps. We go to bed about 11pm and put him to bed around 10pm, but it's really hard for him to get quiet time as we live in a really tiny house (720SF). So while he's in a different room, he's only 20 feet away from where we're watching TV.
 

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Yes! Sorry! I had a nightmare with full spectrum bulbs that were 10.0. I was really worried I had blinded a pair of my birds. The bulbs also come in 5.0 (I mis-spoke before calling them .05). They come with a warning not to look directly into them. I wasn't sure how to get that across to my birds. They also sell a 2.0. But the fluorescent tubes spread the light out over a wider area and it's less intense. Vita-lite is a good brand as is feather glow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yes! Sorry! I had a nightmare with full spectrum bulbs that were 10.0. I was really worried I had blinded a pair of my birds. The bulbs also come in 5.0 (I mis-spoke before calling them .05). They come with a warning not to look directly into them. I wasn't sure how to get that across to my birds. They also sell a 2.0. But the fluorescent tubes spread the light out over a wider area and it's less intense. Vita-lite is a good brand as is feather glow.
Thank you. I'll look this weekend. I'll get a scale, too.

Is there a good place online to buy this stuff in case I can't find it in stores?
 

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Most regular stores don't have full spectrum tubes. You'll have to look at a pet store for that. But the fixture is much cheaper at Wal-Mart then the pet store. The scale also I found in the kitchen gadget isle at Wal-Mart for I think around $25. They have them on-line designed for weighing birds but then you pay at least $70. I made a little stand so I could get my birds to stand on it. IMG_0859.jpg the thing at the bottom it the top off of a stack of CD's. I just modified a perch and put it on the base.
Some people suggest putting them in a paper bag (you would have to zero the scale with the bag on it then bag your bird) . I just couldn't see that as a fun activity for my birds. They have two types. One with a weird uncommon battery and one that runs on a 9 volt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Why would you put your bird in a bag to weigh it?!?!? LOL Weird.

I went home and checked on him at lunch today. He looked awful after his shower this morning. Poor little dude.
 

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I have birds that won't stay on it or will go way over to one side so that you can't get a true weight. Sounded weird to me too.
 

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Birds see at different wavelengths than humans and there may be 'flickering' perceived from a fluorescent bulb that drives them to frustration - which leads them to plucking.
A word on this: fluorescent fixtures come in two types, those with magnetic ballasts and those with electronic ballasts. (Do NOT ask me to explain what that means because I don't know!) Some people say that you need the electronic ballast for birds, because the magnetic type has a flicker that is imperceptible to us but IS perceptible to birds. At http://users.mis.net/~pthrush/lighting/hotspots.html they talk about fluorescent flicker and say that the magnetic ballast is probably OK, but they suggest going with electronic to be on the safe side.

Note that these ballasts are in the light fixture, not the bulb/tube. I don't know how well the manufacturers label their fixtures for this sort of thing, but the magnetic type is supposed to be cheaper than the electronic so price MIGHT be an indication.

The idea of a bird in a bag makes me giggle. LOL
My vet has a metal basket with air holes and a lid for birds who don't want to step on the scale! It reminds me of an oversized tea ball, like the one my great-grandmother had. Tea ball example:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I got a gram scale and weighed him tonight. 89 grams. He's up 3 grams from last week's visit to the vet.

Now off to find some lighting and possibly a heat panel.
 

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That's great! He's on the right track! Also I thought I should add. The cheap fixture from Wal-Mart IS the electronic type. Most of the new fixtures are that way now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
That's great! He's on the right track! Also I thought I should add. The cheap fixture from Wal-Mart IS the electronic type. Most of the new fixtures are that way now.
Unfortunately, I don't shop at Wal-Mart. Is there an example online that someone could point me to? I'm still not getting the whole light/UV/full spectrum/fluorescent light thing.

Can I get a light and just put a certain bulb in there for him? Or do I have to get a specific lamp?
 

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The fixture only can be found at Wal-Mart. I'm sure you can find something like it at most Super store type places. It's just an under counter 18" fluorescent fixture. You have to buy the bulb from a pet-store. Something like Vita-lite, Feather Glow. The fixture comes with a tube that I take out and replace it with the right kind of tube. You can get the whole works at a pet store but you usually pay twice as much. I had to laugh when I saw wheat grass at the pet store for $4.99. I've been paying $1.99 in the health food isle at my grocery store!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The fixture only can be found at Wal-Mart. I'm sure you can find something like it at most Super store type places. It's just an under counter 18" fluorescent fixture. You have to buy the bulb from a pet-store. Something like Vita-lite, Feather Glow. The fixture comes with a tube that I take out and replace it with the right kind of tube. You can get the whole works at a pet store but you usually pay twice as much. I had to laugh when I saw wheat grass at the pet store for $4.99. I've been paying $1.99 in the health food isle at my grocery store!
Thanks! I'll start looking for it. :)
 
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