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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello forum-goers!

It's been a super long time since I've posted here, and I regret the situation which is bringing me to post again...

My 9 year old female cockatiel, Countess, has been having some serious health problems, which are very complicated, but I would like to share in case there is anyone out there with insight to what is going on... I'd also be happy just for some kind words of support during this time.

About two months ago, I went to uncover the birds in the morning to discover Countess huddled uncomfortably on one of her perches, with blood on her beak and dried blood around the shoulder of her left wing. I immediately had my husband by my side and took her out to examine what had happened - thinking perhaps she had simply broken a blood feather.

What we saw could best be described as bloody scabs and raw skin with all feathers plucked around her armpit. I immediately called me local vet, who is not an avian specialist but whom has exotic birds and has taken a special interest in their veterinary care. He was immediately concerned about pain and infection, and we put her on a long run of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory, as well as a constantly-worn cone. We even did X-Rays!

After 2-3 weeks the wound looked healed and feathers were growing back so we agreed to remove her cone and observe. Well, after nearly a week of good behavior, we awoke to discover the same issue once again, all feathers plucked and some small wounds again under the shoulder. This time we tried another antibiotic for about 3 weeks. At this point I wasn't sure what to do - I trust my vet, but I wanted an expert opinion so I booked an appointment with the only avian certified vet in our province and drove 6 hours to have her examined.

After looking her over carefully the avian vet said her wounds were healed, but that there were scabs and debris caught in her feathers that we would need to gently wash every day until clean. He then instructed that we leave the cone on until all feathers were grown back. He also said our family vet had done everything right and run the same course of medications he would have and sent us home without testing *because the recent antibiotics would alter the results*.

Well after about a month Countess had fully molted, all her feathers were back and she seemed chipper. I removed the cone for short periods a day to observe and she didn't fuss with the area at all. At this point it was agreed we could remove the cone... At this point we followed the avian veterinary's advice to add Red Palm Oil from Harrison's to her pellet diet.

About 3 weeks later, I awoke to the same scene all over. But it was MUCH worse this time. Not only had she plucked every single feather in the area, she had shredded her skin down to the muscle. It was inflamed and gory to say the least.

I immediately brought her to our family vet and he was shocked. It was infected and looked quite serious. At this point he went over all options for testing, blood exams and fecal samples, and I agreed to do every test possible, right away, so that we could begin to administer antibiotics. Her cone went back on and I was instructed to rub Soother Plus (Harrison's) ointment on her wound every 1-2 days.

You'd think we'd finally get some answers at this point, right? Wrong! Her bloodwork came back nearly flawless, the vets were impressed and at the same time, stumped. Her fecal exam also showed no parasites present. The avian vet actually told me he was stumped. Thankfully, my family vet has been actively searching for answers by contacting experienced avian vets in the United States with our situation.

Today he called me with the best advice he got, which I will try to summarize.

The avian vet pointed out that her blood work is spectacular and that the issue is not related to an imbalance or known parasite. She recommended we try at least two long term antibiotic treatments ASAP, as well as administering pain medications. Her thoughts are that she may have originally had a night fright fall, and in wounding herself damaged a nerve. The treatment for that would be long term pain medications to try for 2-3 months. She also said they cannot rule out a bacterial infection so she should be treated for that as well... But the last suggestion is the one that has me quaking... She said in many of these cases, there is scar tissue from the original wound that is stiff and fragile, and that every time they spread their wings, some birds will re-tear the flesh again and again... The best solution for this would be amputation of the wing... She said she has done this on several occasions with great results and good quality of life - it is better than wearing a cone permanently and treating it over and over.

So today I spent the day browsing photos of cockatiels with amputations, during recovery and after - and I am really scared. It's a last resort but I can't imagine having to put her through something like that. In humans alone, and amputation is life-altering, there is ghost pain, loss of balance, insecurity, and I won't be able to walk her through it or explain what is going on to her. I wish I could cut off my own arm instead because at least I would know WHY.

I am probably just panicking right now. But I am so scared for my baby. I keep finding myself in a puddle of tears and anxiety.

I am going to do all that I can in the meantime, I am going to hand-make some more cones for her, ones that have flaps and things to nibble on, she has been wearing my second prototype for weeks and the vets are impressed, so I know I'm doing something with my time. They are much more comfortable than a plastic cone, I imagine.

I need to offer her some soft toys to preen and snuggle, at the moment all I have is rope and strips of fleece. Any suggestions on safe distractions? Something she can't rub on or crash into at night?

Thank you for sticking through and reading this all to the end,

-April

PS. I have added links to images of the wound over the last weeks, they are gory and not for the faint of heart - view at your own discretion.

http://smg.photobucket.com/user/everdusk/Countess/story


*** I am going to edit this tomorrow when I am calmer, as I have left out many important details.
Notes:
Diet: Harrison's Pellets, Red Palm Supplement
Age: 9+ Years
Poop: Within the last year she has had green runny stool, which cleared up after antibiotics.
Poop: Green runny poo appeared again after/during self mutilation
Perky, eating, drinking, clear eyed - appears happy - continuously tries to reach wing but blocked by cone
Plucking a small amount around "elbow", need to make a wider cone
Cone Details: Stiff fabric backing lined with Fleece, cotton thread, metal snaps.
Treaments so far: Baytril, other meds, Soother Plus ointment, regular bathing to clean the wound.

Full blood-work and CBC, also fecal exam. All clear.

Need to find and record dates of occurrence.

Previously shared cage with semi-aggressive male cockatiel. Laid infertile clutches of eggs around 4 times, but discouraged and successfully avoided for the last year.
She has been separate from the male after the first notice of mutilation and has had a new cage since then which is close to the male's.

I have 4 birds total: Countess, two male cockatiels, and a female green cheek conure. No issues with the health of the other birds.
 

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Hi everdusk. I am so sorry that this has happened to your baby. I'm thinking of Giardia(can test negative many times even when they have it) or an extreme feather plucking case is the cause of this. Along with the medication they are getting keep their cage spotless and try adding some organic oregano to their diet. http://www.beautyofbirds.com/giardia.html
Have they tested the nutritional levels in the blood?. Specifically calcium. Most of the time feather plucking is caused by a lack of calcium, you should try getting more calcium in her diet just in case. Also I see she is on pellets? Does she get any seed or vegetables? Cockatiels need some seed in their diet to be healthy, too many pellets can lead to problems with their kidneys and kidney failure. Vets usually aren't nutritionists and can promote an "all pellet diet" either for profit or because it is what they have been told is good by their companies. Usually you want 50%/50% seed to pellets ration feeding them or 60%/40%. Sometimes it can come from what you are feeding them that can irritate them like allergies that cause inflammation. I'd feed vegetables like kale and other dark leafy greens, along with spices like turmeric to help reduce inflammation from the irritation. Also another suggestion Avitech has a product called Avicalm for pluckers and mutilators to stop them from picking the area. There is also something called Herb Salad from Twin Beaks Aviary that is good when you don't know what the problem is, your 'tiel will pick out the herbs they need to heal them and whatever illness they have and it can work along with medication when you're just guessing. You can find herb salad and avicalm online at many different bird stores, like Things For Wings. Right now I see that they are out of the herb salad though. I'm not as familiar with the Canadian Avian stores unfortunately... I know in the U.S. My Safe Bird Store and Winged Victory's Avian store are cheap places to get those. :S

Healx Soother Plus that you're using is great I'd keep using it. It can be used in lesions if they are not too deep and on healing mutilation cases. I've stopped bumblefoot infections in my 'tiel with it twice before (she has a stiff leg that rubs a lot).

For me, I'm against amputation unless it is a last resort. There is a risk that they can die during surgery because they have such a small amount of blood and other complications. Also since that area isn't "all wing" that she is mutilating, I still think you'd see mutilation. I'd say give it the best chance at healing that you can first and save it for a last resort. The scar tissue from either surgery or from her own mutilation can lead to painful arthritis that can lead her to pick at the area more too. That was a warning I got for my 'tiel with the scar tissue in her leg.

My Cockatiel Kiwi had a bad dislocation with cut off blood supply when the leg healed and they suggested amputation to me. For the same reasons as you I wanted to avoid amputation. I said no to three different vets until I found an avian surgeon who could help me. Originally I had scheduled them for the amputation because they said they'd try and save as much of my 'tiels leg as they could because the other x-rays had shown it would probably have to be amputated. My avian surgeon said she wanted to do one more x-ray to check something before we did anything and the new x-rays showed that Kiwi's leg did not have to be amputated! The x-ray had just been very dark and looked like there were fractures in it from the bad angle. She saved Kiwi's leg by doing everything the right way and lots of house visits and follow-up care. So I would talk to many vets like you have and make sure you get the original copies of your x-rays to show them as well.

I would maybe ask Dr. Ross Perry for an opinion. Though he may ask about the nutritional levels in the blood too along with sending the pictures and x-rays so you might want to get that done first so you have all the information. He is "the" avian vet to ask. Though he may charge a fee for a consultation over skype or email. http://www.goldcoastbirdvet.com/

You can talk to me and everyone here for support. I know how awful it is... I didn't sleep for the entire week after this first happened to my baby I was so worried. I barely got any sleep until she had the cast off weeks later. I wish the best for your baby! :(
 

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Oh I forgot about this. I've also read of parrots ripping their skin to bits over tiny feather mites. Did they check for mites?

My 'tiel likes to play with shredding toys and her own feathers that she molts off. I keep a box of feathers for her to play with in my room when she gets bored of her shredding toys. Kiwi will hormonal pluck sometimes and letting her have access to molted wing and tail feathers has pretty much always worked to stop her plucking besides more baths, hormone reduction, and one time Avicalm.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Kiwi! You are SUCH a wealth of information! And so far you have far more suggestions than either vet! I am floored. Thank you!

I did not know that Giardia can test negative. I am definitely going to bring that up with my vet. He is having medications mixed to treat that as a "just in case" option. I'll ask him if he can make sure to include a medication for mites as well. We haven't tested for mites as far as I know, but I will ask about that!

She did have nutritional levels checked. :) Her calcium is on the lower side of the normal range (1.7), and I added a cuttle bone for her to nibble at last month. She has been on a pellet only diet, other than some seed block snacks, I didn't realize that seeds were so important! And though I realize that fruits and veggies are important, she will not eat them, at all. I was told mixing some baby food into the pellets (or seeds) is a good way to start them on this stuff, I will try that.

I am going to order some AviCalm ASAP, I had considered it before but until now I've only been purchasing things the vet recommends. Frustratingly, there are no avian stores within a 6 hour radius of my home. We are hoping to move in the next few months and this will give us easy access to our avian vet and an avian supply store. When I order the AviCalm from them I will see what nutritional options are available, but I will have to consult my vets first before I change her diet to drastically. :)

I am really against amputation too. I spent the entire evening crying after my vet said it may eventually be our only option. The dangers of anesthesia alone terrify me, but imagining the surgery process and recovery process seems like a nightmare to me. If it comes to that, I will be seeking advice from another avian veterinarian in another province... or maybe your "Dr. Ross Perry"! In fact, I may contact him soon because It feels like nobody has any clue what is happening.

I'm so glad Kiwi avoided surgery! That is really frightening. Even our regular vet, who is not an avian vet, would insist on multiple x-rays before hand. Kiwi is so fortunate to have such an intelligent parent fighting for him! I am am fortunate to have your help as well!

She doesn't have many shredding toys. I definitely need to address that. Mostly she nibbles on a short frayed rope and some shredded fleece strips. I am also making her a new cone with a fringe to distract her from chomping down on the feathers she can reach.

I feel like so many doors have opened. ;u; Thank you sooooo much! I'll keep in contact!
 

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No problem! I'm glad I could help. :D

Usually they will include a medication here if they suspect giardia or do multiple tests because it can test negative. I've read fecal tests are the best, but it is still very difficult to diagnose it even with those. They can usually see if there are feather mites by checking out the feathers on different parts of the body because they like to hide in there. http://www.holisticbirds.com/pages/giardia0504.htm

I think you will also start seeing an improvement once you add more seed and she keeps getting more calcium and vitamin A(red palm oil/veggies) in her diet. It is kind of a balance. Too many seeds can lead to fatty liver disease and too many pellets can overload the kidneys on protein and start hurting them too. Some people think veggies are more of a cleanser or scrubbing bubbles to try and clean out the damage more than provide vitamins. I think veggies are important to nutrition, but they are also scrubbing bubbles to help fix some of the damage done with foods. Most cockatiels won't eat fruit, but will accept certain veggies once you find the right ones. Fruit is mostly sugar, but it is helpful when you are feeding them things like spinach because Vitamin C will stop the spinach from blocking calcium absorption. There are lots of safe foods for them on this list below, maybe try a few and see if they find one they like? :)
http://www.cockatielcottage.net/tablefoods.html

In this link, you might want to read it to see if anything sticks out. http://www.newyorkbirds.net/featherdestructivebehavior.html
But I was also thinking yeast could be involved or maybe something to do with the feather follicles themselves. I don't know if they checked for yeast yet, by looking in her mouth and back of the throat. I think heavy metal poisoning and anything organ related can be ruled out since the blood tests came back clear.
If you scroll down towards the bottom of the link at the bottom of the page there is something called "caprylic acid" that is good at killing yeast, a bonus is that it can also kill some bacterial infections and it might make her skin less dry because it is a fatty acid. I would give just the tiniest bit of a capsule like 1/5 of one at first and then increase it after a few days. Otherwise they could feel bad having that much yeast die off at once and they'll have flulike symptoms (at least that is what they warn of in humans). There are also other useful things on there like carbo vegetabilis and probiotics. Probiotics are also helpful after an antibiotic course treatment to get all the good bacteria up and running again and keep yeast infections away. If it is a short term treatment they aren't usually necessary, but are nice to use. For long term it's good to use probiotics afterwards.
http://www.justcockatiels.net/sour-and-slow-crop-remedies.html

If you can find some shredding toys at bird stores or places like Petco or order from online avian stores it might be easier than driving out that far.
http://www.petco.com/product/116340/Planet-Pleasures-Rainbow-Shredders-Straight-Ribbon-Bird-Toy.aspx
The ones with the little sissal brushes on them are great for parrots who like to overpreen to focus on. It is sort of like the frayed rope. You could also get soft woods like untreated balsa wood because they are easy to break apart and super fun to destroy, my 'tiel gets really into shredding wood and bark.
http://www.petco.com/product/11234/Planet-Pleasures-Parrot-Piñata-Octopus-Toys.aspx?CoreCat=certona-_-ProductDetail_2-_-Planet Pleasures Parrot Piñata Octopus Toys-11234

Dr. Ross Perry would be very good at diagnosing feather conditions I would think. He's one of the avian vets who have discovered new feather related diseases in parrots. If your vet has given you all the original copies of bloodwork, x-rays in an email format you could send them to him. But you'd want to figure out if you'd want to do skype or email first I'd think. :)
I'm waiting for him to release his Cockatiel e-book. It hopefully is coming soon T^T
He has a youtube channel as well if you'd like to watch him at work with some of his cases:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf-dbGoq12_YgIuFLnS1EgQ
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you for being so lovely and helpful! :lutino:

I received the medications for Countess today. There are 3 in total that are to be taken twice daily. This will replace the Baytril. They are Clavamox, Ketoconazole, and Gabapentin. I am going to try to mix her doses with some watered down organic apple and blueberry baby food tomorrow. I have also heard that some prefer grapes so I may try that. These medications should treat a range of possibilities from Giardia to a fungal infection. She will be on these for a minimum of 2 weeks. We will see the vet in 1-2 weeks and I will ask him about doing a skin scrape. She has been examined for mites by our avian vet and he didn't notice any, but I'm sure they are able to hide in some cases.

I've started to add a bit of seed back into her diet. I will increase the amount over the next week or so. :) She will also be getting a new toy similar to what you suggested (I'm going hunting today), I don't want to clutter her cage because it's hard to get around with her cone, but I will put it near her favorite perch. I am also making her new cone over the weekend.

I don't believe we've discussed a yeast issue. But if the problem persists we can explore that. It may explain why she gets better for a short period after an infection, and then it comes back after the antibiotics end.

I did contact Dr. Ross Perry but I've decided I'm not comfortable with him as a vet. If I could meet him in person I may feel differently, but I live in Canada and he was hoping to Skype for 30-60 minutes so he could access her "quantum energy", he also said he is waiting for his license to be reinstated and that is a bit worrisome. If nothing works in the next few months I may pursue a vet in Quebec or Guelph, Ontario, where there are avian colleges with lots of experienced staff.
 

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Hi everdusk! Sorry I am just getting back to this post our relatives came over last week and we went on vacation right after. I just got back from the trip this morning. It was a busy week. D:

There are some mites that are able to hide, they are super tiny. If the medications do not take care of it then you may want a skin scrap. But I think the fungals and antibiotics should take care of it since mites are more rare. Besides yeast there are also a few fungal diseases like ringworm(super rare) that I can think of that also cause picking so I'm glad she is getting a wide range of treatment. I would monitor her for yeast for sure after antibiotics, it sneaks up during periods of stress sometimes. It is naturally in cockatiel bodies and it is when it overgrows that it becomes a problem. After antibiotics both good and bad bacteria are wiped out so at that point yeast has an opportunity for take over. The good bacteria levels that normally keep yeast in check are low.

Slowly changing her diet is the best way to do it so she can adjust. :D
Also adding more Vitamin A, C, and E. They are more of the well known antioxidant groups that get rid/prevent of cancer and tumors, they're also great for dry skin. Like the red palm oil is basically natural vitamin A in a jar so any excess vitamin A will just be excreted out unlike with synthetic vitamin A. You can get also high amounts from leafy green vegetables and parrot safe seeds/nuts (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds). Once she starts eating them!... Vitamin E antioxidants are good fat antioxidants so just be careful not to let her overeat them.
http://www.africangreys.com/articles/nutrition/pellets.htm

There is an owner whose parrot started plucking out of low calcium and turned around with more sunlight/full spectrum lighting, more calcium+improved nutrition, plus a few shredding toys. It seems similar to what you're going through so I thought I'd post it. You're already doing a lot of what they did. Countess should already have Vitamin D3 through the pellets, but some real sunshine couldn't hurt if you want. :) http://www.beautyofbirds.com/featherplucking.html

I read a while ago that cockatiels get an endorphin rush when they tear things apart or pluck out feathers. It's pretty addicting to them because of that. So you can replace the chewing on feathers endorphin rush with a chewing on wood and toys endorphin rush to try and get rid of their feather chewing addiction. Easy to destroy things are some of the most gratifying ones to cockatiels I think. Makes it less expensive too! You just have to find the right kind of toy that they can really get into. I think they might like one that makes a crunchy noise similar to crunching feathers. :)
http://www.beautyofbirds.com/foragingtoys.html

In the link below there is something called a CEH tea spray that I would keep in mind. I would save this as a last resort because it takes a while to gather the ingredients and you want to rule out that anything is wrong with Countess first like a bacteria or fungus first. I would probably try this if there is a relapse of the picking after treatment.
http://www.ladygouldianfinch.com/features_itching.php

It is always better to get help in person I totally understand. I thought he was going to ask you to hold Countess up to a camera to assess her. But with that description I would not have done it either. It is also expensive. :S
He may have meant watching her body language when he said that, but I'm not sure? He does do energy work with his patients on youtube videos. He does holistic as well as prescription medicine in parrots so he explores both sides I think. A lot of parrot treatments are also holistic. xD

I hope Countess is doing better now and liking her shredding toys. I also hope she's been good taking her medicine. :D
 
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