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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
I'm hoping yall will be able to share your thoughts with me. A little backgroud info: last weekend I noticed my 4 year old female cockatiel acting strangely. She constantly had her feathers puffed, was sleeping a lot and, what really got me worried was her non-responsiveness to her environment (she didn't even look up when I vacuumed close to her). We rushed her to the vet, and they told us she was on the brink of death. We were shocked, and deeply saddened. The vet also said that she was emaciated, and that came as a huge shock since she seems to be eating all the time.
Her fecal stain came back negative. She was tube fed 3 times a day for 3 days, and put on antibiotics. Thank goodness she seems to be responding to this. We have her home now and I'm still supplementing her diet with 'recovery formula' using a plastic syringe to administer to her. She seems to be eating all of the time (like usual). I'm worried because I thought she was eating enough before, but for some reason she was loosing weight. Any thoughts?
Also, how much seed (when I got both birds they were hooked on seed-I know it's not the best!) should you offer your birds (I have two) a day?
Has anyone ever had a sick bird like this? Unexpected, and no real answers? Although I am cautiously optimistic, I am still worried...
 

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Well, if she had an infection in her GI tract, which it sounds like she did, that would account for the weight loss. It takes a great amount of metabolic energy for a bird to fight off infection, plus the change in normal gut bacteria may have made it difficult for her to absorb nutrients from the food that she was eating. Did you see any changes in her droppings during her illness?

It sounds like your vet has the right treatment, if she's responding and regaining weight. Birds hide their illnesses very well, because in nature it's a big risk to appear sick or weak. So by the time they show any abnormal signs, they are often on the brink of death, as your vet told you. Good job getting her treatment in time!

There are a few additional things you could do to help her recover, depending on your preferences and hers.

The first thing you might consider is putting her into a hospital cage, with supplemental heat. A hospital cage is an enclosure with no or lowered perches, and restricted movement area. The idea behind this is that you want your bird to be conserving as much metabolic energy as possible to help her fight the infection and gain back the weight she's lost. The same idea is behind giving supplemental heat -- if she doesn't have to work to keep her body temperature up, then that's more energy that can go toward recovery. Here are our references stickies on supplemental heat: http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=32919 and http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=32920

Another thing you can do is give her probiotics. These will help to get the beneficial bacteria in her gut back on track. Benebac is a popular brand that you can find at many pet stores -- if you get this one, make sure you get the one for birds, not cats/dogs. There are other bird-specific brands like AviTech, or some people give human probiotics like plain acidophilus or a little bit of unflavored organic yogurt. It's somewhat up for debate whether human probiotics are just as beneficial to birds as bird-specific probiotics, so it depends somewhat on what's available to you and what she will eat. Probiotics can be given with the course of antibiotics, but they should be continued afterward, to help jumpstart her digestive system after the treatment.

To help her gain weight, you can offer her some organic whole grains like cooked oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta. One thing you'll want to check is to make sure that the grains you give her are not fortified with extra iron for human consumption -- sometimes that can be too much for a bird's system.

Do they eat anything besides seed right now? If you haven't heard of Nutriberries, I highly recommend getting some to add to her diet. They have the same nutritional balance and benefit as pellets, but they look like little balls of seeds and grains so birds will often accept them much more readily. I actually was introduced to them when I had a sick rescue bird who needed to gain weight.

As far as your question about seed, it varies somewhat, but I aim for about half their intake to be seed, and the rest is made up of pellets and veggies or cooked grains. Here's our sticky on diet, which has more detailed information for you: http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=32920

Finally, you'll probably want to get a gram scale so you can weigh her at home if you don't already do this. It's a good way to gauge her recovery, and to monitor for the possibility of future problems, since birds do hide their symptoms so well. Here's an additional thread about checking the keelbone to determine weight and body condition: http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=17680

I know I just threw a ton of information at you, so please feel free to ask if anything needs clarification, or if you have additional questions. :) It sounds like you're doing a very good job for your bird, and she's lucky to have you looking out for her. What's her name? I will be thinking of you and her this weekend. :)
 

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Birds instinctively hide illness since predators go after the weakest individuals, so yes, things like this do happen sometimes.

You can check her weight daily if you buy a digital kitchen scale or postal scale that weighs in grams. Walmart has a kitchen scale for about $15 at http://www.walmart.com/ip/Biggest-Loser-Digital-Kitchen-Scale/14138986

You can expect small fluctuations on a daily basis, since the exact weight will depend on things like how recently she ate and how recently she pooped. But with a recovering bird, the overall trend should be up.

We have information on the ideal diet at http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=27479
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks & a few more questions.

Well, if she had an infection in her GI tract, which it sounds like she did, that would account for the weight loss. It takes a great amount of metabolic energy for a bird to fight off infection, plus the change in normal gut bacteria may have made it difficult for her to absorb nutrients from the food that she was eating. Did you see any changes in her droppings during her illness?

It sounds like your vet has the right treatment, if she's responding and regaining weight. Birds hide their illnesses very well, because in nature it's a big risk to appear sick or weak. So by the time they show any abnormal signs, they are often on the brink of death, as your vet told you. Good job getting her treatment in time!

There are a few additional things you could do to help her recover, depending on your preferences and hers.

The first thing you might consider is putting her into a hospital cage, with supplemental heat. A hospital cage is an enclosure with no or lowered perches, and restricted movement area. The idea behind this is that you want your bird to be conserving as much metabolic energy as possible to help her fight the infection and gain back the weight she's lost. The same idea is behind giving supplemental heat -- if she doesn't have to work to keep her body temperature up, then that's more energy that can go toward recovery. Here are our references stickies on supplemental heat: http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=32919 and http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=32920

Another thing you can do is give her probiotics. These will help to get the beneficial bacteria in her gut back on track. Benebac is a popular brand that you can find at many pet stores -- if you get this one, make sure you get the one for birds, not cats/dogs. There are other bird-specific brands like AviTech, or some people give human probiotics like plain acidophilus or a little bit of unflavored organic yogurt. It's somewhat up for debate whether human probiotics are just as beneficial to birds as bird-specific probiotics, so it depends somewhat on what's available to you and what she will eat. Probiotics can be given with the course of antibiotics, but they should be continued afterward, to help jumpstart her digestive system after the treatment.

To help her gain weight, you can offer her some organic whole grains like cooked oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta. One thing you'll want to check is to make sure that the grains you give her are not fortified with extra iron for human consumption -- sometimes that can be too much for a bird's system.

Do they eat anything besides seed right now? If you haven't heard of Nutriberries, I highly recommend getting some to add to her diet. They have the same nutritional balance and benefit as pellets, but they look like little balls of seeds and grains so birds will often accept them much more readily. I actually was introduced to them when I had a sick rescue bird who needed to gain weight.

As far as your question about seed, it varies somewhat, but I aim for about half their intake to be seed, and the rest is made up of pellets and veggies or cooked grains. Here's our sticky on diet, which has more detailed information for you: http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=32920

Finally, you'll probably want to get a gram scale so you can weigh her at home if you don't already do this. It's a good way to gauge her recovery, and to monitor for the possibility of future problems, since birds do hide their symptoms so well. Here's an additional thread about checking the keelbone to determine weight and body condition: http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=17680

I know I just threw a ton of information at you, so please feel free to ask if anything needs clarification, or if you have additional questions. :) It sounds like you're doing a very good job for your bird, and she's lucky to have you looking out for her. What's her name? I will be thinking of you and her this weekend. :)
Wow, thanks! That was packed with a lot of great information, and I'm grateful for the time you took to respond. Her name is Gypsy:tiel5:, and she is just the sweetest little girl:p

So you think she had a GI infection? If that was the case, would anything have shown up in her fecal stain? Her FS returned with nothing to abnormal...I HOPE it was only something simple, and I FEAR it is a chronic condition such as liver issue. I did notice what appeared to be diarrhea, or very loose BM's for a day, and the vet said it was possible it was just more pee...Now her BMs look great.

As for a hospital cage, we had her in one (we borrowed from the vet) for 3 days, but then the vet said she was allowed back into her normal cage. I am however trying to limit her movement as her 'sleepy perch' (her fav, and one with a birdie buddy) is just a hop away from her food and water. Ideally, I guess I would like to limit it more than that, but I do think she is happy to be back with her buddy, Oliver. We've put them in a small room and have the heater set to 82F. It's toasty and I can tell they like it! :)

Thanks for the list of alternative grains. She is very picky, and a seed junkie, for sure! She does love millet, corn on the cob, spinach (which I've just learned there is controversy on this), broccoli, and bokchoy. I tried to 'switch' her over a few years ago, and I think I wasn't persistant enough. I've read some helpful hints on one of those websites you linked to. The vet also said don't try to convert her now as she is sick, just make sure she is eating. I did sneak some chicken bits in her seed this morning, and when she accidentally ate a piece, she stopped eating at all! I'll look into Nutraberries. I have some other brand with the same concept and she does like them. She is just so picky!!:blink:

I'm still wondering about how much (3tbsp, 1/4 cup) of seed should be provided each day? I used to pile seed on top of seed and after a few days when the dish was full I would dump it out and start over. I hope I haven't made you cringe. So now I want to change it everyday, but I'm not sure how much is too much, and what is not enough...

I'm also supplementing her with Harrison's Recovery formula via syringe. I worry about aspiration, but just try to take it slowly when I am feeding her. The vet sent us home with a jar, with instructions to feed 3mls (which feels like 3 gallons when I am trying to feed her!) 3 times a day. She then called to check up on us and said we only needed to do this if Gypsy wasn't eating. I'm giving her at least 4 mls a day even though she is eating well, because in my opinion she was eating well all along, and still became emaciated.:(
We spent $500 on hospitalizing her (whatever it takes!) and cancelled our vacation to make sure she is getting everything she needs...and I feel like feeding her is still in her best interest...

Thank you for your kind words, they are very encouraging!

I want to thank everyone for sharing such wonderful information with me. It's lovely to have a place to come find wonderful information and advice. Sorry I wrote a novel in response!;)

Hannah-Gypsy's human
 

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As long as the seed stays clean and dry it's OK to keep the same seed in the bowl for several days. You can blow the empty hulls off the top each day to keep the whole seed easily accessible. If you blow through a drinking straw it will help keep the seed hulls out of your eyes.

Regarding quantity of seed: I don't put any limits on my birds. They all eat a variety of healthy foods so I let them have unlimited access to seed and they self-select the quantity for themselves.

Another way to offer whole grains is to soak or sprout them. There's information at http://talkcockatiels.com/showthread.php?t=9019 If she isn't used to wet foods it might take a while for her to accept sprouts. Be extra careful to avoid spoilage since she's already in a compromised state.

If she has any liver issues, they will be treated primarily through diet. There's more info on liver disease at these links:
http://www.avianweb.com/liverdisease.html
http://www.exoticpetvet.net/dvms/fattyliver.html
http://www.freewebs.com/crestedlove/liverdisease.htm
 
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