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5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,

I'm sharing this unfortunate news in the hopes that some knowledge can be gained. I posted this thread in the Avian Avenue forums as well a while back. I'm hoping to spread any information I can about this situation so maybe someone in the future could be helped by it.

We lost my beloved cockatiel Tilli this week in a strange and unexpected way. I'm waiting on necropsy results, which I will of course share with you all. But in the meantime I'm curious whether any of you have had similar experiences with your own birds. I'm also wondering what you all make of my experience with the emergency vet, as I'm more than a bit frustrated.

A bit of background on Tilli:
* She had some recurrent crop / GI infections a few years back. She was about 5 when she passed away this week.
* After several infections, I took her to the fantastic Dr. Dahlhausen who identified a stubborn spirilla bacteria infection in her crop, which had not been effectively treated by her previous antibiotics. The irritation from those bacteria was likely making her get secondary infections, which is why she'd sort of improve for a while.
Since then, she's been pretty healthy. Dr. Dahlhausen said she had some signs of minor allergies, but wasn't concerned.
* However, she has seemed to always have extra watery droppings.

More recent info:
* In the last couple weeks, I started thinking Tilli's droppings seemed especially watery, and thought I might be noticing her being a tiny bit sluggish. As I've mentioned here before, Tilli has always been a really low-energy bird, so it can be hard to tell if she's less energetic. She wasn't seeming weak or uncomfortable.
* I did, however, think I saw her gag as if to regurgitate once or twice, and thought I saw a bit of regurgitated food spatter in her cage.
* Because my sister's old cockatiel very recently died and I was thinking about it a lot, I was worried I was being overly vigilant about Tilli, but for our peace of mind, we took her to her regular vet anyway. They did a fecal and looked her over and found nothing wrong with her. Her weight was stable, no infections. So I started to think huh, I guess her poops are just like that? maybe I should stop fretting about them?

Now, just this week...

My partner said Tilli's grip was a little weak on Tuesday morning, and she slipped off his hand a bit to fly to her cage. He didn't think much of it since she hopped and climbed in her cage fine to get to her food.

But when he got home from work, he found her on the floor of her cage, uncomfortable, and not curling her toes whatsoever. Otherwise, she was alert and not breathing in a labored way or showing any neurological symptoms. But he rushed her an hour away to the emergency clinic at Colorado State University. Unfortunately, I was several hours away on field work and couldn't be there... :(

The doctor there found her to be stable and couldn't find anything apparent other than the obvious pain and not using her toes. She could stand and even kind of walk. They called one of their exotics experts, whose top guesses were "gout" and "atherosclerosis." They wanted to delay any further diagnostics until morning and just keep her on pain meds overnight.

I asked him to get the doctor back in the room and got on speaker phone to ask about the possibility of more acute things like toxins, and to express my concern that, given her fast decline, the situation was more dire than they were currently treating it. Given that she had not real neurological symptoms, they did not suspect something like heavy metal poisoning. She was pooping, so they did not suspect egg binding either (but I wonder if the doc on call knew how to palpate for one). Though she was stable at the moment, I really was pretty shocked that they didn't want to treat a small bird in rapid decline with more urgency.

But it seemed like that was all they were really willing to do, and they assured me their critical care unit required check-ins every hour or two.

They checked in twice. The first time she looked about the same, and the second, she was dead.

We are devastated and mystified. The shock has worn off and now I'm just missing my girl so much.

I'm really eager to hear what the necropsy turns up. I hope we can get some answers. It's frustrating to know that I sensed something was up and we didn't figure anything out in time, despite my intuitions and insistence to vets. Given the weird poops she's always had, I won't be surprised if some kind of underlying kidney problem turns up. I'm also eager to hear whether atherosclerosis turns up. Mostly, I just want to understand what happened... but, secondarily, I really hope it wasn't something I could have prevented if I'd been more diligent or something. I feel absolutely terrible and am horrified that she may have been in pain for longer than we realized... it is heartbreaking to consider.

I've heard of birds losing foot function like that, and my impression was that it was frequently neurological or related to things like eggs or tumors impeding the function. Anybody have any experience with something like this?

Anyway... I'll let you guys know what I find out.

I lost my first tiel girl in a sudden, premature way too, but that was a known cause - prolapse from her persistent egg-laying. It was an equally frustrating scenario. Even Lupron injections hardly curbed the problem.

My life is so much emptier without her here. It is strange, because I've never felt this way so soon after losing a pet before, but honestly, it feels like finding another girl to dote on would help me heal. I hope I can find another tiel with such a sweet, cuddly personality. :(

5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Results are in.

Chronic kidney failure with metastatic mineralization. The exact cause is not certain, but their best guess is that she was one of the uncommon birds who do poorly on a mostly pellet-based diet. If you look up kidney failure and pelleted diets, you'll find that this is a known, but uncommon thing.

It kills me knowing that not only was her food slowly making her sicker, but I THOUGHT I was doing well. Not only that, but I also saw signs for a long time that something wasn't quite normal with her. I always thought her poop was a bit odd. That's actually why she was at her darned regular vet two weeks prior to her death. They found no infection and I told my partner for the next two weeks "Well, I guess maybe I need to stop worrying so much about her poop being weird, if it can be like this and she's not even ill." I told myself "maybe she's just like this, I guess."

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I need to get better at trusting my gut, but I would not have known what to really pressure a vet to *do*.

It's devastating feeling like my bird was slowly dying the whole time I had her and I could have stopped it at any time, had I only known. I even had suspicions something was up, and I still wasn't quite able to stop it. I was so, so close.

I would have done anything for Tilli. She was my best pal. I saw the signs, and the answer was right under my nose for so long. I never even got the chance to fight against the disease.

Now I'm left wondering if she would have lived a longer, healthier life on a crappy seed diet like someone else might have given her. I miss her so darn much and knowing that this was going on has redoubled my grief. In the meantime, I'm making sure that fresh chop and sprouts and fresh-food treats are a more consistent part of my conure's diet.

Anyway, if anyone sees this thread or has a bird with similar odd symptoms, I hope this information can be of use.

Always trust your gut. Check droppings carefully - they might be the only sign something is up. Check for normal amounts of fluid and healthy, well-formed urates. Her poop often seemed to have less urates than they should, or the urates would be somewhat stringy or strangely formed.

And for heck's sake, go to a proper avian vet. A regular one won't know all the weird things to look for for more uncommon and chronic bird illnesses.

13 Posts
Hi, I hope u read this.. so sorry for ur loss, my baby is two and I have Had her since she was 12 days old. Her droppings have turned watery ever since I turned her on to pellets . She was on antibiotics for five days but her poo is still watery most of the day except for night and urates r stringy. She is some one I cannot think to lose. My heart wrenches to think of what ifs. The attached pic is of her dropping after antibiotics. Can u tell any similarities. Thank u


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