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Amazon with difficulty swallowing

Expert Question

I have an 18 year old rescue Mexican Red Head. He has been showing a choking motion or trying to push something down his throat. My vet did an upper gi on her. She said she either has esophical (sp) cancer or a fungus. She now wants to take a biopsy which I'm hesitant to do as the bird has to be under anestesia(sp).

If it is cancer and they use chemo to treat it, what are the odds that this would "cure" her. Do you recommend the biopsy or could we treat the fungus first and if it doesn't cure it, then we know it is cancer and then go to chemo treatments? Please let me know what you think asap. The doctor will be calling next week to make a decision. Thanks, Barbara

Expert Answer

Hi, Barbara, the answers to your questions and concerns best come specifically from your attending veterinarian. On-line, and in the absence of having examined your bird, viewed your diagnostic images and other diagnostic findings, it is functionally impossible to guide you with any succinct recommendations. 

Part of the reasoning behind a recommendation for obtaining a biopsy is specifically to confirm the nature of the disease process at the identified site. Should this be in the cervical esophagus, surgically obtained biopsies are comparatively easier as compared to lesions that are identified in the thoracic esophagus or glandular stomach. Cervical esophageal cancers are less commonly identified in the literature as compared to tumors lower in the gastrointestinal system, but if present, are more straight forward for potential for surgical removal. For the potential cancers that may be present, chemotherapeutic interventions and successful outcomes are uncommon, at best, in the literature. Oftentimes, with confirmed or strongly suspected cancer in that thoracic esophagus / glandular stomach area, treatments have been palliative with hopes only to comfortably extend quality of life. Your best prognostic hope is that the cause of the observed clinical signs is related to any other factor, excluding cancer. 

Brian Speer, DVM
About Brian Speer, DVM

Avian veterinarian Dr. Brian Speer was raised in a small town on California’s coast. He received his BS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University in 1978, and his DVM degree from the University of California at Davis in 1983.

An active member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), Dr. Speer is a much sought after guest speaker and has presented at numerous conferences in the avicultural and zoological communities both within the United States and abroad. He is well published in the AAV annual proceedings, has served as guest editor for the journal Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, the Veterinary Clinics of North America, and authored chapters in several recent veterinary medical texts on pet bird, avicultural and ratite medical topics. In 1995 he co-authored the extensive avicultural reference, The Large Macaws, and helped to co-author Birds for Dummies in 1999.

Since 1989, Dr, Speer has run a “bird’s only” practice in the San Francisco Bay area and is the President and Director of The Medical Center for Birds. He is a consultant for The Veterinary Information Network (Avian Medical Boards) and the Maui Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. In 2003 he was the recipient of the Lafeber award for excellence in private practice of avian medicine and surgery and in 2006, was named Speaker of the Year for the North American Veterinary Conference.