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Sick Cockatiel

Expert Question

I have been taking my 22 year old cockatiel to the vet as about 6 weeks ago I noticed some movement in his wings when he was breathing and he had then drooped. The Vet put the stethoscope on him and said he could hear a rasping sound and thought it was coming from under his body. I asked for some tests to be done but he was reluctant to do any and said it was difficult on a small bird like a cockatiel. He gave one injection of Baytril and gave me some in a bottle to administer orally for 7 days. After this time he wasn`t improving and had started breathing faster. I informed the Vet about this and was asked to bring him back again as his condition was deteriorating. He then gave me Synulox drops to administer orally and after a few days on this medicine made him very thirsty and not eating as well. I noticed his droppings were very yellow but still no tests were done. He was now breathing very heavily and I went back to the vet. After he examined him he said the rasping sound was coming from all over his body and there was a lot of fluid on his chest. He then gave him an injection after which the bird went into convulsions and died. He said he hadn`t seen many old birds and it was difficult to do tests on a small bird like this. He is a bird vet. I am so upset and feel if tests had been done he could have pulled through with the proper medicine. I would be glad of your opinion please. Thank you.

Expert Answer

Sorry to hear of your frustration and the loss of your bird. It is realistically impossible to render a proper opinion without having all of the specific details of a case, unfortunately.

There are, however, a few general comments that can be made. It is very feasable to collect blood samples, take radiographs, perform ultrasound examinations on ill cockatiels. In some settings, it may be felt that a specific individual may not be immediately stable enought for some of these procedures, and stabilization may be more of the immediate clinicians press. These ill birds can be hospitalized, given parenteral fluids, receive pain relief, oxygen, gavage feeding or other maneuvers that can often make a difference for them, at least short term. There are some clinical situations where an accurate diagnosis simply cannot be easily achieved - and symptomatic treatments and careful observation / monitoring rules the day. Some of the common respiratory-manifested disease problems that we fairly commonly see in older cockatiels here include mycotic infections (fungal), cardiovascular disease, some forms of end-stage liver disease, and a handful of various types of cancers. One final thought - if a bird passes, it almost always has value to consider having a post mortem examination performed. This will enable you and your veterinarian to obtain the facts, and answer some very important questions: Was this disease diagnosable - and if so, how? Could it have been treated differently? Is this a contagious problem with your other birds potentially at risk? What, if anything, could have been done to prevent this disease problem from occuring?

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.