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Answers may be found by choosing a category from the select list below or by scrolling down through all of the questions and answers.

Q: I have a healthy cockateil with no symptoms of being sick but I have noticed a black spot on the heel of her foot. After looking closely, I saw a tiny spot starting on the other foot, too. I have seen tiny spots of blood on her perch from the foot. I need to know what this could be and a treatment before it gets any worse. Thank you.

A: This sounds like a case of what we call bumblefoot. I advise you make an appointment with an avian veterinarian as soon as possible as these came be hard to cure. - Lonnie Kasman DVM


Q: Our Noble Macaw recently had some blood work done (related to a feather picking problem). In addition to yeast and bacterial infections (which she is being treated for) her red blood cell count was only 16% (vet said the normal range is 45-55%). The test showed that her bone marrow is pumping out lots of red cells and since she is not acting at all sick the vet wants to get the infections cleaned up and then run another red blood cell test (he thought the lab could have made a mistake even tho they have very sophisticated equipment). What are the long term affects of anemia in parrots? Can it be treated? Could she be acting just fine and really have something seriously wrong? Thanks for your response.

A: Anemia can be the result of bone marrow disfunction (ie. cancer, depression secondary to systemic disease), destruction of the red blood cells (i.e. lead toxicity, autoimmune disease), and external blood loss to name a few reasons. Since your bird has concurrent bacterial & yeast infections, I would suspect this is a depression anemia caused by a chronic disease state or viral/chlamydia infection. This bird should be screened for heavy metal toxicity, Psittacosis & viral diseases such as PBFD . I don't know the age of your bird or the white blood cell status of it so it is difficult to try and guide you in the right direction. I think the bacterial/yeast problem is secondary to some other disease state and the anemia should resolve when this is determined and treated. Again, I would rule out the following..Psittacosis, Aspergillis, PBFD, and lead toxicity. An electrophoresis can help demonstrate a chronic disease state. Yes, birds can act fine when seriously ill. They are great at masking disease states but only to a point and they then crash and burn. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: I have a lovebird that is about 1 1/2 years old and for about a week he has been regurgitating his food in a pile on the bottom of his cage. Is this something I should be concerned with and if so what do you suggest I do. Thanks for your help.I live in a very small town and there is no bird dr. here.

A: Regurgitation can be either behavorial or pathologic in nature. Unfortunately, the bird should be seen by an veterinarian. This problem can be due to a variety of conditions including bacterial, fungal, viral, parasitic and toxins. There is really nothing you can do at home but be prepared to travel to see an avian veterinarian. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: I have a year old Blue and Gold Macaw that developed redness around both nares. I took her in to our vet and he also noticed her throat was red and swollen. He prescribed Baytril for 2 weeks along with Gentamycin drops for her nose. Her throat cleared up well but the nares continued to be red. We tried various anti-flammatory/antibiotic creams but nothing is working! Any idea what the problem might be. Thanks so much.

A: Your vet may want to perform a sinus culture to rule out the possibilty of a chronic sinus infection. Another consideration would be an allergic condition. These conditions can lead to recurrent infections. -Judy St. Leger


Q: "Fred" (A 5yr old Mitred Conure) came to live with us and then I bought Sylvie - a silver colored budgie. Sylvie seemed to be adjusting quite well. Initially, Fred seemed to be settling in quite comfortably. He was eating well (combination of seeds, fresh fruit and vegies, fresh water [am & pm] and petstore treats) 2 weeks ago. Now (3rd week with Fred) he seems to be scratching considerably, (I have mite catchers strategically placed in his aviary). I see NEW feathers coming into place in quill like covering. He seems to be getting nasty with the others in my home - as though he's afraid they'll steal his stage. I spend from 3-4 hours alone with Fred during which time he is curious and attentive, not screeching or biting as he starts up the moment the children arrive home - it worsens yet once my hubby gets in the door! In this last week Fred has also begun showing a rather runny stool. Although my cat's vet is a wonderful man he is not an avian expert and although he will make all the effort to help in the world...he just doesn't know enough to help. He connected me to an avian specialist (3 hrs from home) closest to us. I have an appointment for me and Fred next week to see her. But at the time of this writing it is still 10 days away. Yesterday Fred began sneezing and the scratching has worsened. I'm not sure what could (if anything) have upset him so suddenly other than an illness - and he's certainly showing signs from all that I've read! OR is this typical of a molt? Does he have a *cold* allergies* ?

A: Some of the behaviour changes you describe may be Fred's personality coming out. It does sound like you were warned that this could happen. But with the attention you are providing, you may be able to overcome things with time - 2 weeks isn't very long. MUCH more importantly, you have also described an ill bird. Coming to a new home can act as incentive for infections in birds. Allergies are not usually responsible for sneezing in birds like they are in people. I advise phoning the avian vet and asking for a sooner appointment to get your bird checked ASAP. This will help with you management questions as well as health concerns. -Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a 10 year old female Quaker Parrot that has dark spots in its droppings that I'm concerned might be blood. The bird otherwise seems healthy, no past trauma to my knowledge. Could this be internal parasites? A second quaker we have shows no symptoms. Both birds are kept indoors in separate cages except when we let them exercise one at a time. They fight. Please help.

A: If you have seen a change in the feces there are many conditions that could cause it. Parasites are a possibilty as well as bacterial and fungal infections, and possibily even a mass. Your vet can look at feces under the microscope an look for blood to better evaluate this. Good luck! -Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a 7 year old umbrella cockatoo. About 8 months ago I took him in for his regular check-up. Everything looked fine, with great plumage and good musculature. However, he had a bacterial infection and was given antibiotics. That helped clear him up, but to clean his cage I changed his perches, and I don't know what type of wood they were, but he stripped the bark clean in about 7 days. When we brought him back to the vet, his LDH level was above 2000 and his Uric acid level was 7. We started feeding him allopurinol in the water, but we returned 2 weeks later and his level was even higher, to 10 uric acid and 1900 LDH. We removed the perches and started him on allupurinol directly in to the mouth with Probenicid. His level a month later dropped to 7 uric acid and 1300LDH. We though everything was fine, started to ween him off his medicine, and his level dropped to 5 uric acid and 1600 LDH. One month later, his levels shot up to 10 uric acid and 2000 LDH. It sounds like some sort of kidney disease, but nothing about his environment has changed. He has been on the same pelleted diet for 7 years, and gets a wide variety of human food to supplement it. When looking at the bird, nothing appears to be wrong. His weight is still good and he plays well. He is back on .1cc allopurinal a day and .3cc probenicid every other day to get his levels back down. Any suggestions as to what might be wrong would be most helpful. We are starting ot change his food to the Organic Course Ground stuff, which name escapes me. Anything else we can do? His perches now are birch, but still nothing else has changed in his environment. Thank you.

A: This is a case where I don't have enough info. If a kidney problem or gout are suspect, a radiograph is a must and a kidney biopsy should be considered. You might also consider an electrophoresis which gives an indication of acute or chronic infection or inflammation. Uric acid can also be elevated in liver disease as can LDH. Bile acid determination would rule that out. - Lonnie Kasmin, D.V.M.


Q: I have cockatiels diagnosed with bordetella avium. Two chick have lockjaw and I understand that there is no cure for them. My concern is for my other birds which I hope to continue to breed (4 pairs). describes treatment for the non-symptomatic birds that will erradicate the disease. In talking to other people there is no cure for them - that they will continue to carry the disease for the rest of their life. Please help with this descrepancy. Distraught and unhappy.

A: The questions with B. avium are due to our lack of research in this area. I recommend treating asymptomatic birds, routine choanal cultures in breeders, and strict control of environmental hygiene to control this bacterial infection. While some folks do recommend putting birds to sleep to eliminate carriers, I do not feel that this action is necessary. If lockjaw reoccurs next season, stop breeding immediately and treat. Good luck with your birds, -Judy St. Leger


Q: My Grey likes to take a bath about once or twice a month. But the water dish that I have is too small and it is right up against the cage. So my bird sits on the side of his bowl, dips his feet in, steps back, dips his beak in the water, and throws his head up throwing water on himself. While doing this he flaps his wings and rubs the space between his eyes and beak in between the bars. When he is finally done the space between his beak and eyes becomes bright red and raw. Is this something to worry about or should I pay no mind? Thank you for your time.

A: As far as bathing, you might consider taking your bird in the shower weekly or provide a bowl in the cage for him to bathe. You also might consider a covered water dish that he can't get his feet in. I would be concerned about repeated irritation to his head. - Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: I recently had to give up my Quaker because I was moving and had no space. The bird is 8 years old. Since she has gone to her new home, she has been laying eggs almost continuously. She never did this the whole time I had her. Is there anything I can suggest to my friend to get the Quaker to stop laying eggs?

A: There are a number of tricks that can be useful in helping a bird stop laying. Because diet is important in the signals to start and stop, a good diet is the first defense. BUT - once continuous laying has begun, prevention is out of the question. Correction can focus on a number of fronts. First, leave the eggs with her. By removing the eggs as she lays them, your friend is removing some of the natural feedback cues that help a bird know when to say when. After the female has tended her clutch (for a Quaker 2 - 5 eggs)for 8-10 days, it is usually safe to remove the eggs. If this doesn't do the job, decreasing her light exposure may be helpful in resetting her biological clock. A simple cover will help (perhaps you covered her and your friend does not). There are some medical alternatives as well (hormone injections) but I would not suspect that you will need these if you give the above options a good try. Good luck - Judy St. Leger


Q: I have adopted a 3 year old male Blue-Crowned Conure. He wasn't treated well by his previous three owners and was nervous and missing a lot of feathers when I got him. His feathers have all grown back in, and he has been very healthy, according to our vet, but tonight when I was cuddling him, I noticed what looks like a cyst. It is about the size and shape of a pencil eraser. It is behind his right wing, on his back. It feels hard, but I have not noticed him picking at that area, and he did not squack at me when I examined it and touched it. He is getting his winter feathers in. My husband says it looks like an ingrown folicle, but since we have never had a large bird before, we aren't sure. Our vet is out of town for a while, and we need to know if this warrants a trip to a new vet. Please help advise if you can!! Thank you.

A: It sounds like it could be a ingrown feather follicle. Obviously I would recommend getting it checked out. Whether it is an emergency is really up you. - Dr. Lonnie Kasman

A: No need to rush to the new vet as long as the bird is not picking at the site. You do need to set up an appointment with your regular vets as this could be an "ingrown" follicle and likely needs some attention. Good luck - Judy St. Leger, DVM


Q: Dear Doctor, one day I suddenly noticed my cockatiel had a gumball sized cyst coming out of her bottom area between the cloaca and her groin. My vet said it was a cyst coming from her ovaries and performed surgery. Unfortunately, it grew back in 5 months. Is there anything that can be done for my sweet little girl? She is eating well and acting well except the cyst seems to sometimes irritate her. the doctor has drained it but it just fills up again. I even tried giving her flaxseed oil in the water which shrunk it considerably but it grew back again. What can I do besides just stand by and watch her have to endure this cyst?

A: From your description it is a little difficult to determine what this cyst is. I would recommend speaking frankly with your vet. Did she/he revove the ovary? Where did this cyst come from? Is it an enlarged and retained follicle? Is it in the skin or the belly? One of the limitations of internet advice is that the problem needs to be easy to define. Given that Maria has an uncommon problem, I would recommend a frank talk with your vet. Before the call write down any questions you have - i.e. 1. Where is this cyst from exactly? 2. Has the ovary been removed? 3. Is there any way to change the management to reduce the cyst size? During the call take notes. Specifically ask the vet to help you set down a plan to manage this problem. After the call organize your notes and thoughts. Write down a plan of action. It may be that there are no good options in this case. It may be that another surgery is needed. It may be that your vet would like another vet to see the bird for a second opinion. In any case weigh the plusses and minuses keeping the best interest of you and your bird in mind. - Judy St. Leger


Q: We have a greater sulphur crested cockatoo(galerita). Some time ago she developed a welt on her shoulder. We immediately took her to our avian vet, who took samples of the fluid inside the welt,and told us it was NOT cancer, thank God. He then cut the welt and the fluid squirted out. He then told us if he does not take out the sack inside the welt completely that it will come back. And it did not only on her shoulder but also under the wing. We keep draining the welts, but they keep getting bigger and spreading. PLEASE advice us what to do. We called our vet and asked if he could operate so he could get all the sacks out so it will not come back, but were told he couldn't - if this keeps up we know we are going to lose her and we Love her so Much. PLEASE help us with your advice, Since we are on the Island of Maui with one Vet.

A: The condition you describe is uncommon. These cysts could arise from any number of tissues in the wing. They could result from a bacterial infection, or even changes like cancer. I would recommend having 1 or at least part of one removed and examined by a pathologist to find out where these come from, and what the heck they are. Lancing sounds like a short term fix - in the long run, repeated visits for lancing may cost much more than surgery to remove the cysts. Also, repeated needle sticks can lead to bacterial infection. My suggestion is if the cysts are something you vet thinks should and can be removed, consider it strongly. Surgery is not a cure - all. There could be surgical and post-op problems to deal with as well. Overall, if conservative management of an atypical problem doesn't solve the problem, more intense work is usually required. - Judy St. Leger


Q: How can you tell if a cockatiel is overweight? Someone on a cockatiel list said there would be fatty deposits around the vent, but Crackers won't let me check his. His sides feel kind of plump, but he doesn't look obese.

A: In response to the question concerning obesity, the best way to monitor this is to feel the breast bone. The breast muscles should not bulge higher than the bone itself. Fatty deposits around the vent can indicate obesity but an enlarged abdomen due to organ enlargement could give the same impression. Have the bird examined by an avian veterinarian who could discuss nutrition and weight control. - Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: We have a multi bird household and I have a few things going on that baffle myself and my vet. All the birds have had psittacosis tests - all negative. A Blue headed Pionus named Athena is SEVERELY thin. We have run every test we can think of and now the suggestion of cronic malnutrition has come up from another source. Can you give me your opinion on "chronic malnutrition"?

A: Chronic malnutrition should be evaluated in a few ways. First - DIET, DIET, DIET. If you are feeding a complete diet (pellet based supplement with veggies and fruit) and the bird is still doing poorly, you do not have malnutrition - you have what we call malabsorption (in other words, what you offer is correct, what the bird's body gets is not). Conditions which could produce this include chronic bacterial or fungal infections, chronic damage to the pancreas causing food not to be broken down correctly, chronic damage to the intestines either by infiltration (conditions like avian TB), viral damage to intestinal transport (such as occurs in macaw wasting, or PDD - a condition believed to be an avian viral disease), parasitic conditions of the entestines such as Giardia, Cryptosporidia, or nematodes (commonly ascarids) or cestodes (tapeworms), or infiltration of the intestines with conditions like cancer. You can easily see that with a history of chronic weight loss, I have a shopping list of conditions, and an associated list of tests to evaluate these possibilities.

Testing for your bird could include: - A fecal flotation, FA for Giardia and Crypto, a direct exam for protozoa, and an acid fast stain for TB organisms - A CBC and chemistry screen to evaluate for chronic infection, and an Aspirgillosis titer, as well as checking titers for Chlamydia (a test not usually performed to look for possible psittacosis), and pancreatic enzyme levels to evaluate the pancreas - Aerobic and anaerobic cloacal cultures as well as fecal and crop Gram stains - X rays to evaluate the intestines, maybe even with some barium to see how fast things move through the intestines. Lastly, intestinal biopsies can be helpful in diagnosing infiltrative conditions and PDD in birds.

Now, I know you are thinking, "My God do you have to do all of that?" A step-wise approach may make the answers come forth without needing to do everything. But if you ask "What can we do?" These are your options for solving the puzzle and finding out if it can be corrected and how. - Judy St. Leger


Q: I noticed infrequent sneezing in my cherryhead conure, Cisco. Our vet then heard a click in the breathing on examining with a stethoscope, and ran tests for psittacosis and aspergillus, CBC, Gram's stain, and cultures. Gram's stain showed Gram negative. Psittacosis test was negative. In the meantime he prescribed Baytril. Over a week later the aspergillus test came back as showing only a very small amount, which he considered negative. The CBC showed elevation of eosinophils. Another week later the culture came back showing Micrococcus bacteria. Meanwhile I brought my sun conure, Ricki, in as well for sneezing, and her psitt test also was negative, but she has clicking and gurgling in her breathing. Now Cisco has been on Baytril for almost 3 weeks and acts normally, although he takes a few minutes to recover from stress. Ricki has been on Baytril for 2 weeks. Every morning they both sneeze, he once or twice, she several times, then I hear no further sneezing for the rest of the day. Ricki is due for a recheck on Friday. We have done all we can think of to clean & disinfect the home environment, although our house becomes dusty within a day or two despite our efforts and despite HEPA filters. My main question is, I cannot find info on Micrococci on the web or anywhere else and I am suspicious about this being the diagnosed pathogen. Have you encountered this in birds in the past?

A: Micrococcus is a Gram positive organism which commonly is found on normal skin and in the mouth of both people and birds. It is generally thought of as "safe" except in immune compromised folks/pets. I suspect that your vet isn't treating for the Micrococcus - Baytril is not one of the drugs I would use if I thought that this was the problem. What it sounds like he/she is doing (and correctly so) is treating the birds! The Micrococcus suggests that the problem is not nearly as bad as it could be (a nasty Gram negative organism would have been much worse). Talk to your vet about when the right time to stop medication is. It sounds like you are doing a good job keeping things clean - I love HEPA filters. Your bird do not need to live in a bubble. They have an immune system which should work better if there are things for it to fight!! Remember, good nutrition (are these guys on a primarily pelleted diet?) also plays an important role in treating and preventing upper respiratory disease. Humidity helps as well. Don't make your house a sauna - but I suspect that you may sneeze also if it is too dry. If the sneezing continues - call your vet for a recheck. It sounds like they are doing a good job for you. -Judy St. Leger


Q: Can you let me know what you know about epidermoptid mites and Harrison and Harrison's diagnosis that it is often fatal - no way to treat it. Andrew the CAG has the symptoms described in Harrison's but his doctor did not see "any" mites upon skin scrapings. Do these look different from other mites? What should we see if it is Epidermoptids? Any suggested treatments from you? The rare avian skin cancer diagnosis from Cal Avian Lab does not seem to fit his situation. Any light you can shed on this mite would be Greatly Appreciated. Many thanks.

A: Epidermoptids mites are burrowing mites which cause crusting and feather loss especially around the head and neck. The area itches terribly. Your question suggests that a biopsy has been performed and that a possibility of cancer may have been suggested. Is this correct? Treatments for these mites should include Ivermectin and possibly topical medication to control the mites. A related kind of mite, Knemidokoptes, responds very well to this therapy. However, with the question of cancer, a failure to completely respond to therapeutic options should be cause to repeat biopsies to be sure that you are not overlooking a potentially difficult diagnosis. This sounds like a difficult and frustrating(not to mention itchy) problem. Please let us know what happens. -Judy St. Leger


Q: I just got a CAG about 12 weeks old. The baby, was acting just fine except for this continuous head shake, followed by what it seemed to be yawns and ear popping. I thought maybe he has seeds stuck down his throat or I talk too loud and high pitch. I took him to the vet and a blood test found a little deficiency in Calcium, but the culture showed a bacterial infection called Klebsiella pneumonae. The vet prescribed my CAG with Nystatin twice daily before feeding and TMS, a pink syrup, that I dilute in the formula. After 2 weeks now he still shakes his head and yawns but considerably less, almost normal but can you tell me more about this Klebsiella Pneumonae? Thank you so much!

A: This is a gram negative bacteria which can be associated with disease in birds. The head shaking is normal in greys but one must rule out any pathological process. If the CBC is normal and the bacteria numbers were low, I don't know if I would jump the gun to antibiotics and antifungals. Probably, a recheck in a month after the bird is adjusted to the new surroundings would be a better thing to do in this case. - Dr. Michael Weiss

A: I am assuming the culture was obtained from the choanal slit "roof of the mouth"? Klebsiella is just one of a number of gram negative bacteria isolated by culture. Was a CBC performed? That may show if the bird was mounting a response. Any discharge from the nares? There could be a sinus infection going on. You didn't say if the bird was showing any lower respiratory signs (tail flagging, panting after little activity). This doesn't sound like pneumonia but a radiograph would confirm that. A follow up culture should be performed to make sure the infection has been cleared. I also recommend a formulated diet (Harrisons or comparable) to keep your little guy on the highest nutritional plane- Dr. Lonnie Kasmin, D.V.M.


Q: Is kitty litter dangerous to cockatoos?

A: I would say it is only dangerous if they consume a large amount and get impacted. Why are you using it? Newspaper, paper towels, butcher paper or grocery bags are all safe for cage liners. - Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: I just recently noticed that my Nanday conure has a bald spot on her head. It's not feather plucking. The spot is completely bald. I am concerned. Is this something serious I should worry about?

A: First, if the bird is not alone in it's cage, it's cagemate is probably the cause. If alone, it may be due to some form of dermatitis, rubbing on objects or something more serious such as Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: I have a one year old Grand Eclectus Parrot. About six months ago, I noticed he had a lot of black marks/spots on his feathers. I read that this can either be fatty diet or liver problems and that it's very easy to tell the difference. My question is how can I tell which it may be and how do I get rid of them. My bird seems to be very happy. He doesn't eat fatty foods. His diet consists of Pretty Bird Eclectus pellets and occasionally I feed him some friuts and mostly mixed vegetables. He has not grown in enough new feathers to really see if it's getting better, but as far as I've seen, the new ones are free of spots. Please help.

A: I wish I was smart enough to look at dark spots on feathers and know what caused them. I am unaware of a quick distinction. I would recommend getting this guy checked to make sure the liver is working OK, and that the feathers are free from infection. -Judy St. Leger

Q: I have adopted an amazon which is 8 years old. I was told that it should be green with a yellow head, But she is an orange color, the head kind of yellow and the tips of the feathers are green, but in most part the bird is an orange color. The bird was fed those formed foods, and I suspect that the red in the food has, has turned her orange. She has been off that food for a year now. The bird has been getting nothing but regular seed, food and vitamins in the water. But the bird is still orange. What can I do?

A: The orange may be the "normal" feather coloration for this bird. We frequently see color mutations - this is how some of the weird color patterns in bred birds develop. It is unlikely to be the result of the diet. However, I do recommend the pelleted diets far above the seed diets. Because liver disease can cause alterations in feather color (although I do not suspect it in this case), I would consider a vet check for this bird. The vet may not feel that anything special is needed - a pretty good bargain: for the price of a vet visit, you may get a lot of questions answered. -Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a Grand Eclectus who is exactly 1 year old and has had black spots/marks on his feathers for several months. Through a lot of research I have found that this may be due to a fatty diet, stress or liver problems. My eclectus strictly eats fruits, veggies and Kay-Tee pellets. He learns tricks and phrases at an incredible rate and is extremely sweet but I don't know if he may be stressed nevertheless. As for his liver, I do not know how to tell if they are liver disease spots although one article I read stated that "liver spots" were very different from those caused by fat or stress. Not only am I worried but it is frustrating because my bird's feathers as not as beautiful as they should be. Thank you very much for your help, a concerned parrot owner.

A: The question did not state if the bird hs been examined by an avian veterinarian. The "black spots" on the feathers can be due to malnutrition. Of course only a complete physical exam and bloodwork etc. can tell you. Please take advantage of all we know about birds and have your loving friend checked out! - Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: Dear Drs: Although I have already decided NOT to go through with the following procedure recommended by one of our local avian vets, I would like to understand WHY such a suggestion would have been made in the first place. I have recently adopted a 4-year old male Eclectus whose previous owners kept him in a very small cage and did not let him out. Consequently, most of his left wing and some of his right wing feathers are broken - most on the left are really short - and some of his tail feathers are also broken. I took him to the vet's office for an overall check up, and when he looked at the wings and tail he said they had to come out. He wanted to schedule an appointment as soon as possible (as if it were urgent) and said the feathers would not molt if we didn't take them out because when the hormones cause the quill to release, it is the weight of the feather's length that causes it to fall. He said if we didn't remove them, they would split to the skin, cause irritation, cause him to become a feather picker and become infected. He wanted to do it under anesthesia. I posted his suggestion on a few chats and EVERYONE said DON'T DO IT. When my regular avian vet returned to work, I told him what his colleague had recommended, and he too suggested that I wait, that the procedure was only necessary if my bird was chewing or picking or had an infection. He said by pulling them there was a danger of developing follicle cysts, or stressing my bird. As I said, I am not going to go through with the procedure now because my bird doesn't seem the least bit bothered by his condition - and we think he's pretty, regardless. But I want to understand why he made the recommendation. What do you think about feather pulling under anesthesia? - Jo

A: I've never heard of pulling such a large number of feathers at a time. I probably would not do it, but again, without seeing the bird... The logic is correct and I do see birds that chew feathers that dont seem to molt. I would recommend basic bloodwork, review of husbandry and diet. Possibly pull some of the broken feathers a few at a time depending on diagnosis, response to treatment etc. - Lonnie Kasman, DVM


Q: After my cockateil had a hysterectomy about 2 months ago, the vet informed me she may still exhibit clutching behaviors. Normal clutching behavior for her was to go to the bottom grate and huddle behind her ladder for about 2 days, and then lay her egg. She would lay a total of 4 eggs, 1 every other day. the whole process would take about one and a half weeks. Then she would be back to normal. About 1 month after surgery, she went to the bottom grate and laid behind her ladder. Now whenever she is in her cage, that is where she stays. Once she is out she is fine and content to stay out. I am concerned that she will continue this behavior FOREVER!!! Because she lays on the bottom, she is not as active as she was during the non-clutching periods, plus she does not eat while she is in her cage. She eats a good dinner (people food) everynight. What can I do to shock her out of this behavior?

A: Rather than focus on "shocking behaviour", try calling the vet that performed the surgery for suggestions. It sounds like a follow-up concern. If she is still brooding, the surgery may not have effected her gonads as we expect it to. Management options vary and include light modification, changes in diet and feeding, and hormone treatments. But go back to the vet for imput on this one. -Judy St. Leger


Q: We have two yellow naped amazons, clinically sexed to be male and female and approximately the same age (20 or so). I bought the male to be a potential mate for the female when she started getting "nippy" at 15 years of age. Unfortunately, they absolutely HATE each other and would definitely seriously injure themselves if allowed to come in contact. Is there any hope in getting them to at least tolerate each other?

A: I'm an avian vet, not an amazon parrot expert but I've run into the same problem. I have a (now) 18 year old wild caught yellow nape that was never friendly with people but a beautiful bird. I have tried pairing her with several males but it hasn't worked out. Have tried all types of situations. Good luck. - Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: Dear Doctors, I have a yellow nape amazon who is 8 years old. I have always referred to the bird as a "he" although lately I have been wondering if I have a "she." The bird has been spending time in the bottom of the cage, doing what looks like he is "making out" with his toys by hanging from them and making whimpering sounds while moving his tail up and down. To be blunt, he looks like he may be masturbating or something. The other evening, he climbed down his cage, to the floor (which he always does in order to get to me), and he began this strange behavior which he has never done on the floor before. He was whimpering and had his legs spread apart, squatting so low I could not see his legs or feet. I honestly thought he was going to lay an egg. Obviously, I have never had the bird sexed, but am considering it the next time he goes in for nail and beak trims, which will be soon. Is there any information you can offer about this behavior? Murrey is very much bonded to me and sees me as his mate. He does all the typical Amazon behavior of flaring pupils (I call it dancing pupils!), fanned out tail, and raised feathers above the nostrils. He "stalks" me from the top of his cage and sometimes is very aggressive towards me. I have been bitten repeatedly, especially during the spring through summer months...and I mean HARD bites. He bites my hand with such pressure it breaks the skin and bruises me...pretty nasty looking. I have been told all this behavior is because I am his chosen mate and I am not breeding with him. By the way, Murrey is a very healthy, happy, and well adjusted parrot who dearly loves his "Mommy." My avian vet loves him and always comments about how healthy and strong he is...of course I can testify first "hand" about that! Any information you can give will be appreciated; thank you in advance.

A: This indeed sounds like typical behavior for a female amazon. What you did mention is that your bird is on top of the cage. This should be lower than you, as this bird should never be allowed to be above you. This small step may make it easier to control this bird and curtail some of the biting. Good Luck. - Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: My baby parakeet was hatched with a malformed beak. The top mandible is short, misshapened and tucks inside the short lower mandible. The bird is 6 weeks old. Is there any procedure available that might be of benefit?

A: Prosthetic beaks can be made from dental acrylics, but are not usually made for individuals as small as a budgie. Assuming you are hand feeding this bird successfully, it might be more adviseable to teach it to eat a soft diet that it can scoop up with its mandibular beak, tilt back and swallow. In larger birds beak prostheses need to be wired into the bones of the head and occasionally need repair or replacement. That would be a lot to put a Budgie through. - Don Factor, DVM

A: This condition is common and what we do is apply a prothesis to the upper beak to allow it to grow over the lower. Beak Repair material is available from ELMAN out of NY. It is applied so that the prothesis extends over the lower beak. What is happening to your bird is the upper beak is continually being kept short by friction from the lower beak. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: I am having quite a dilemma with my blue & gold macaw. This bird was bought at a pet shop by a family member who was not really very nice to the bird. He would constantly "tease" the bird by smacking the cage or pulling on his tail. When the novelty wore off and he wanted to "get rid" of him at a consignment shop, I took possession of the bird. He had been on a seed only diet and pretty much locked in another room with no human interaction and was left for sometimes a week without food and water. I have had this bird for almost 6 years and he's gained a significant amount of weight and is finally "normal". He eats fresh fruits, veggies & pellets - which is replaced every morning. The problem? He always seems sick. He doesn't like being out in the "hub bub" of the family. He prefers to be in a room by himself and he doesn't like to leave his cage. His feathers are dull and broken in places (mostly his tail), he always has a wheeze (even when he's on an antibiotic). He doesn't sleep on one foot anymore or turn his head behind his back. He does get excited when I enter the room (I assume because he's bonded with me and he views me as his mate) He will go after anyone who gets near me when I am giving him my attention. I am concerned about his health and I would appreciate ANY information you can give me! I've searched the web high and low and talked to my vet who keeps assuring me that everything is fine. I can't place my finger on it but, something just isnt "right" about my bird. The only test that has shown up abnormal was a calcium deficiency. I was told that if he would have been a African grey, then he probably would have died. I now have him on his favorite (apple slices) dipped in crushed eggshells to help him with this deficiency as well as liquid vitamins in his water twice a day. Are there any tests that I should ask my vet to perform on my bird? He is scheduled to go in next week to get his beak trimmed down (since he won't chew on his cuttlebone anymore). I would love to hear from you before he is scheduled to go. Thank you so much for all that you can help me and others with!

A: This is a tough one to council you on. It's possible that this bird is simply in an environment which is just too dry or that he/she does not get enough omega 3 fatty acids as part of its new diet. It sounds like cage damage on its tail and it may need a larger space or even a cage free environment. It's also possible that something is "wrong" but the diagnosis can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The disorders which are known for causing syndromes of chronic poor doing are many, and include viral proventricular dilatation syndrome, aspergillosis and other fungal infections, TB infections, malnutrition, stress, etc. I think it's important to mention that broad spectrum vitamins that include vit.D3 should be used much less often, like twice weekly, not daily. A serum protein electrophoresis is a pretty sensitive test to get an idea of whether there is an internal problem and maybe an idea of what ballpark the game is in. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I have a DYH Amazon about 16 years old. About twice this last week, he has been on the floor of his cage ringing his bell when I hear a kind of whimpering noise. I go to check on him, and he is laying on his stomach, both legs outstretched to the sides, and his head kind of limp to the side, plus he seems a little dazed or out of it. I talk to him, and then it's like he snaps out of it and collects himself, and he is fine. My first thoughts were a seizure or metal poisoning. But, if either were true, would he be able to just snap out of it when I talk to him? It's like he snaps out of a daze in which for a time, he has no control. These have been very short periods of time. The rest of the time, he's fine. He eats well, sleeps, plays with us, and talks. Your input is greatly appreciated. What a great source of help.

A: From your description of the event as well as the normal periods between events, it certainly sounds like a seizure disorder may be starting. There are also many other rule outs for an episodic occurance that could cause generalized muscle weakness without suppression of heart or lung function. Cardiac disorders can also present with episodes of syncope (ie. fainting). This bird should have a complete blood count and chemistries, a serum protein electrophoresis, an ECG and perhaps radiographs and specific testing for lead and aspergillus as first round testing. The results may point you in a direction for further testing. Remember, the diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy is made by excluding all other diseases that can cause episodes like the ones you describe. This is definitely something that should be seen by an avian vet. In the meantime, be sure to keep a written log of when each event occurs, its duration, and how long to complete recovery for your vet. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: We were recently given an 18-year old female greenwing macaw that has, we were told, a "thyroid problem." The last lab work done in Aug."97 showed a T4 level of .10. The "custodians" of the bird increased her medication to 2 .1mg tablets crushed up in 4oz. of water daily. No subsequent lab work was performed. This bird is friendly and active. Her plumage is in very poor condition: her breast is virtually bald, and what feathers she has are dull, broken, and in generally unsightly condition. Since her breast bone is easily visible, it is easy to see that she is very underweight. Fortunately, Poppy is an eager eater who seems thrilled to finally be getting fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and a bit of peanut butter in addition to a seed and pellet mix. When I watch her drink, it seems that she takes water only from the uppermost layer of water in the cup. The crushed thyroid tablets seem to simply form a powdery sludge on the bottom of the cup. I am wondering whether or not she is getting the proper dosage. Would it be better to offer her the crushed tablet(s)mixed in a bit of peanut butter or applesauce 2 or 3 times a day? Might her problem be as much poor nutrition as malfunctioning thyroid?

A: Diagnosis of hypothyroidism in birds is difficult with current testing available. The testing that is used is canine based and the results are very questionable. The best way to tell is with a skin biopsy. Karen Rosenthal, DVM at Antech Diagnostics in NY can help your vet with what testing she feels may help with a diagnosis. By nature of the condition these birds should also be overweight. The poor weight on this bird may actually be a result of the thyroid medication if the bird is not a true hypothyroid case. If the diagnosis is a result of the feather problem I would probably stop the medication for a while and see what happens, then do a skin biopsy and ancillary testing for low thyroid.. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: About 3 months ago I purchased a proven pair of Hyacinths. One month after I got them they laid 2 fertile eggs which hatched. Both hatchlings died at about 2 days of age. A necropsy was done on the second hatchling. Cause of death was determined to be aspiration of formula. Cultures were also done and some ecoli was found. The parents were thoroughly checked when I first got them and they were in great health, cultures were not done on them at that time but a gram stain was and nothing of significance showed up. A fecal culture was done on the parents after the necropsy on the baby and ecoli was found. They are now on Cipro. However, they have laid two more fertile eggs, prior to the start of the Cipro. My avian vet has not stated whether I will need to place the next clutch on an antibiotic due to the parents having ecoli. If you could shed some light on this situation I would greatly appreciate it. The eggs are incubated after 2 weeks of the parents sitting on them and will be hand fed. The parents are housed indoors and are in a room of their own. They are the only breeding pair of birds I have and their cage is cleaned daily as well as their food and water bowls. They do tend to throw their nuts on the floor and occasionally go down and eat them. I have been told both that ecoli is normal to some degree in Hyacinths and that it is not normal.

A: E.Coli is an organism which is ubiquitous, meaning that it is everywhere in the environment unless you live in a bubble with no other living creatures. A healthy adult bird will be exposed and should be able to tolerate some exposure to E.Coli and other gram negative bacteria without getting sick. When the bacteria colonizes the lining of the GI tract it damages the cells by secreting toxic substances thus creating a clinical disease. For neonates, the exposure can be heavy enough to overwhelm the individual. Remember, when you do cultures do gram stains too, to try to get a picture of whether there is an overwhelming number of gram negatives present. You must also remember to completely reevaluate the nesting and incubating of the eggs and chicks. Humidity, air exchange and removal of the dead air space around the eggs, etc. are all extremely important and will contribute significantly to the viability of the newborn. Another major area of concern is the dietary status of the adults. Chick mortality goes up when the parents eat seeds as a primary dietary staple. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: Andrew will be 4 years old in December. He was born locally and I hand fed him from 4 weeks of age until about 4 months. He was a perfectly healthy and happy young bird. We went for a well-baby check and established a baseline CBC for him. A little over a year later I noticed a change of color on his feet. They were beginning to look whitish and powdery. Then his cere and face, then skin. He began itching then pulling feathers out. The feathers had a clump of keratin at the base. We began testing him and treating him with ivermectin, an antifungal and a anti parasite medicine. The results of a biopsy of a feather follicle, skin from his face and feet reported that he had hyperkeratosis and perhaps needed more vitamin A. His calcium was a little low also. I have been treating him with A and calcium since then, along with Atarax for the itching. He is not better. He itched the feathers from his head and neck, plucked legs, cloacal area, chest and under his wings. Recently the keratin on his feet caused his foot to crack open. Keratin was removed from the crack, cleaned and dressed X 2. It split open every time. Recently the doctor sutured it closed. It remained inflammed and painful until this week we began putting DMSO on it. For the first time in a long time he is putting some weight on that foot. He eats fruit and veggies, seeds and Roudybush pellets softened in oatmeal every morning. I have tried palm fruit, not letting him eat pudding, taking away his chicken bones (which he Loves) and giving him more chicken bones. We are considering ivermectin for a longer period. We injected him once a week for 4 weeks. All his tests are negative: PBFD, polyomavirus, chlamydia, aspergillosis, etc. He only has a slight high white blood count. He is happy, acts normally, looks terrible and until the foot crack did not seem to be in pain. He was uncomfortable but now he is in pain. Since beginning the Roudybush mush he has been allowing a few new feathers to grow in and they do not appear to have the keratin plug on them but they are very dark. The keratin plugs on the older feathers continue to irritate and itch him. The skin there has eruptions on it and is very itchy. This week we began adding a tiny amount of Levothyroxidine to his Roudybush mush. If you have ever seen anything like this please let us know. Thank you for this valuable service you provide.

A: From your description, I can visualize many possibilities concerning African Greys, feather plucking, diet, humidity, hyperkeratosis and foot lesions. A few points should be raised.. - the African Grey parrot does not commonly get mites, but it is possible. Prolonged use of ivermectin has been known to cause problems in some individuals. It would be wise to continue to recheck skin scrapes. - Roudybush, while a well formulated product is only a part of Andrew's total diet. Dr. Harrison of Harrison's Bird Diet, an all natural pellet available from vets, says that the more you dilute a totally balanced diet with other things, the less balanced it becomes. Remember you should try to keep all the non-pelleted foods to within 10-15% of the overall daily intake. It sounds like you have a vet who does not give up easily on tough problems, and that's half the battle. As a species, Grey's can be really hard to "cure" . Be careful not to confuse a bird's obsession with his feathers and skin with "itching". It is possible that refeathering at a certain stage can "bother" the bird, but they may not be the same and may need a different approach. Good luck. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: We have 3 Sun Conures, 1 Nanday, 2 Blue Crowns from 2 different clutches and one Halfmoon. All of these birds are around 10 weeks or so old and all show the same symptoms. The have a very nervous jerking of the wings. I had the same problem last year with a Blue Crown which we kept as a pet. He outgrew it in about 4 weeks or so. I took one of the Blue Crowns to the vet. He said the bird looked very healthy, listened to his heart beat, sounded very good, and said it was most likely a calcium deficiency. He prescribed neo calglugon 1ml to 4oz of water and said if this does not help to add vionate to apples after one week. It has been one week and it is hard to tell. One of the birds seems like he is not jerking as much. It has got to be something I am feeding wrong or doing wrong. I sold the clutchmates to the Nanday right out of the nest box to another breeder and these guys are doing just fine - no jerkies. Could it be the calcium deficiency and it will just take a little longer to cure those symptoms? I had been feeding Pretty Bird 8% handrearing formula and since have switched to Kaytee,(Also had added a little barnebec to formula and quit doing this also.) I am handfeeding one Blue Crown and 4 Greencheeks. They are of course much younger, but do not see any jerking motions on them. I have added just a little calcium to their water that I use for handfeeding. Also, we had brooders in the same room that all the birds are in that were heated by light bulbs, amber colored, but I wonder could this constant lights off and on have made them that nervous. We have since bought new brooders about a week ago.

A: Aside from diet, day/night, etc, some other things to think about might be humidity and whether this is normal avian behavior for their current stage of feather development. If the behavior disappears in 4 weeks naturally, you may be making too much of what you're seeing. You must be sure that all of the extra calcium that you are using does not also contain vitamin D3, and you should probably have your vet recheck the blood calcium levels to see if they've come up into the normal range. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I understand there is a medication for older birds that are poor or slow breeders. Can you help me?

A: There is no "miracle medicine" that I know of for older breeders. Just as people slow down as they age, so do birds. It is always a good idea to evaluate birds that have started to fail in their normal "production". Just as with a younger bird, this requires a review of management, nutrition and health. If these all check out, and the breeder is indeed, a senior citizen, maybe it's time to think about retirement. Older birds make good pets. Where younger birds may be too active and boisterous, retired breeders may be much more calm and sedate. - Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a blue front amazon that I believe is in trouble again. She was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma of the beak and sinuses at the age of 4 months she is now 6yrs old. She had chemo..radiation..several surgerys..and was put on pretisone for further treatment. This she has not had for years now due to the lack of being able to get it. I am fearful that this has returned. I was told it was in recession due to a circumstance on 4/12/98. I put her to bed as normal and in waking the next morning I went to take her out and the cage bottom was cover with feathers, 17 to be exact, and all from only one wing. This wing is now favored and she is very touchy if it is bumped or even touched. I was told this cancer normally doesn't appear til a bird is 10 or so and usually in the wing. With her being close to that age it is scary to think of its return. I have NO avian vets here so there is nowhere that I can take her for evaluation. I do have a vet that will see my birds but is low in knowledge on most parts but he tries very hard to help. When first diagnosed with this, the university had a program for our birds but has since dropped it.( I retrieved all the records on her). At that time a Dr. Mike Doolen treated her. He has since moved to NJ. I guess in short I am asking you IF you think perhaps this happening could be the cancer's return, and if so, is there anything I could pass onto my vet that he may try or look to do to help her? Also, if there is a avian vet that is close to Ia. I appreciate any and all help and advice that can be given on this matter. Thank you.

A: Granted, there are not many avian vets in Iowa, but my AAV directory does have over 12 names. Most are in Ames, but there are also some in Davenport, Des Moines, Cedar Falls, etc. I strongly suggest that if the owner is interested, this bird see someone who will persue the current diagnosis and therapy. The phone number for the AAV student chapter at the Veterinary school in Ames is (515) 294-4900. This office should be able to get them to the nearest avian specialist. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I would like to know how to trim my parrots claws.

A: Carefully, not to cut the blood vessel. If you've never done this before, use a file instead. Hold each toe firmly while filing. The alternative is to take the bird to someone who can show you how it's done. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I have a 5 week old CAG that I took to my vet yesterday (he is not an avian vet, but is very willing to see and learn about avian med.) The baby went from 398 gms to 429 gms in one day. The vet withdrew 40 cc's of a clear, yellowish fluid from the baby's abdomen. The baby's breathing was a little labored before having the fluid withdrawn but there were no other symptoms. The baby is alert and eats well. When you held a light up to the baby's abdomen you could see intestines floating around much like you would view an embryo when you candled an egg. The baby is being fed three times a day with Kaytee Hand Feeding Formula. My vet is researching this and asked me to do the same. Any insight to what this problem is and how to cure it will be greatly appreciated.

A: This does not sound very good. I have seen this with cases of visceral gout in babies, hypoproteinemia, liver disease, PDD, polyomavirus and Avian Viral Serositis. I would first switch the formula type in case the present one is resulting in too much uric acid production in the diet. I would check uric acid levels, do fluid and cytologic analysis on the acitic fluid (classify as transudate vs. exudate), do a protein electrophoresis and check for Polyomavirus. An experienced avian vet should look at this bird. - Dr. Michael Weiss

A: What you have described is abdominal fluid - your vet may have described this to you as "ascites". Ascites in birds can result from problems with vessels such as vasculitis, or from liver or heart problems. These conditions can result from viral problems such as polyoma or Pachecos virus, bacterial conditions such as septicemia. Draining the fluid likely helped the bird to feel much better. Your vet will likely want to do some blood work, maybe cultures, and maybe some X-Rays. There is no specific condition which causes the findings you describe, but it looks like you have a good vet willing to investigate. - Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a 2½ year old male Hahn's macaw with a reoccuring yeast problem. He begins plucking legs & belly, and each time the gram stain show a great deal of budding yeast. He is being treated with fluconazol which worked for him last year. The odd factor to this is the time of year, this has happened only in March-April. Any suggestions as to what could be causing this? Thank you.

A: I would suspect that, depending on the area you live, moist food that may be offered is growing yeast if left in the cage too long. This is due to the increased temperature this time of year. This is not uncommon. Diflucan is great for yeast infections and is a safe drug. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: Dear Doctors, My 55 year old husband has had severe lung problems since Oct., 1997 for which no definite diagnosis has yet been found. The possibilities mentioned by the group of pulmonologists and the allergist he has seen have included asthma induced by chemical fumes and second-hand smoke in his workplace, and asthma and/or hypersensitivity pneumonitis due to our birds. The allergist told us there is no specific, reliable test for hypersensitivity pneumonitis and that, to be safe, we should 'get rid' of all our birds. We were also told that hypersensitivity pneumonitis can be fatal. We both adore our birds and do not want to part with them if it is not absolutely necessary and would very much appreciate any insight you may be able to offer.Thank ou.

A: Unfortunately, this is a question that can only be answered by a human medical doctor. This condition does exist in people and is serious. Maybe removing the birds from the environment for a short time may help the diagnosis if your husband improves. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: We have a peachfaced lovebird that picks his feathers continuously. In the past, we have taken him to the vet and got some medicine for him, which hasn't worked very well. He is isolated from the rest of the birds even though he doesn't have a serious viral infection or anything. His diet is the same as the other birds, but he is the only one with this problem. I was wondering if there is anything else we could do to help him or if there's any advice we could take.

A: Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons why a lovebird might pick his/her feathers. Some have medical problems like bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections - I assume you and your vet have ruled these out. Some have allergies. Some just have behavioural problems. Lovebirds especially can have a problem where they actually chew on their wings. I recommend considering all these as possible problems. Is the diet good? Have you switched since the picking started? Have you done what you can to keep this kid from chewing out of boredom - move the cage, get new toys, leave the radio on. In other words, first check to make sure that your vet does not think it is a medical problem. Once this is set, then look towards dietary and behavioral changes to try to improve things. Feather pickers are hard for all sorts of birds and their friends (does ANYONE really own a bird???). Sadly, the answers are not usually easy. -Judy St. Leger


Q: Our young Blue & Gold was almost fully feathered when we got her, but would constantly bite small pieces of her wing feathers off and play with them. About a year ago, she started shredding up her chest feathers (and now only has down). She's continued tearing her wings apart and has now moved on to her tail. Her mutilating starts almost as a fit, like she's really itchy or somthing and quickly reaches around and bites off a piece of feather. Our avian vet has diagnosed her with all sorts of problems, most recently fungus (asper) and other infections. We've been nebulizing her 3 times a week, she's been on itraconizol for a few months and flagil off and on as well. It seems like every time we cure up one thing, something else pops up. Can you suggest a cause or a test our vet may not have though of? Also, can you suggest anything we can do in terms of boosting her immune system? She eats Harrison's pellets mostly and fruits and walnuts as treats. Also, I know that she is sick, but I question if any of her mutilation could be habitual or due to boredom? She lived with 3 other birds before we adopted her and is now home alone during the day while we're at work, (although she mutilates even when we are home). I just wonder if any of this could be caused by boredom or habit? Thanks.

A: Chronic infections can be due to underlying conditions which may suppress the immune system. Poor diet is one of those. However, your bird's diet is fine. Tests to rule out infection with psittacosis, PBFD, polyomavirus (usually not a problem in a bird this age) would be warrented if not done. Feather follicle biopsy and examination of the pulp could be undertaken. I think that by treating underlying disease conditions and maintaining a good diet, in time the bird will respond. Just cycle toys monthly, and give the bird plenty of alternative activities to discourage picking.. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: Dear Vet - We have 2 cockatiels and 1 african grey - all are approximately 1 1/2 yrs to 2 years old and in good health. Our problem is with our male tiel. Recently, about 2 months ago we noticed he had pulled all his feathers out underneath both wings and was always picking at that area. We started spray bathing him every day instead of twice a week, which seemed to help. We also gave him some bird mineral and vitamin dust over his food. He seemed to be growing them back again, and we have kept up the daily sprays and vitamins, but he has started again. He eats cockatiel pellets and we give him veggies and fruits every day - his water is changed daily and we clean his cage daily and take it out and wash it outside with small amt of bleach and water every one to two months. All of our birds are hand raised and very friendly - we are careful bout giving each of them attention. Please give me some suggestions on what may be causing this condition and what we can do to help Julio. I have not separated him from the other two birds as I'm afraid that would be traumatic for him. Should we take him to an avian specialist? Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins has treated them in the past and we are very happy with him, but I thought I would try this way before going to see him. Thank you for your help.

A: A check up is a great idea. There are conditions such as Giardia which can be treated and will lead to recurrent feather picking. Dr. Jenkins can diagnose this condition easily. Unfortunately, not all cases of feather picking are that easy to solve - but when the problem persists or reoccurs I strongly recommend veterinary evaluation. - Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a 2-year old African Grey Parrot who has been plucking his feathers for about a year. He is almost bald on his stomach, and his flight wings have been plucked also. He is not sick because he is very cheerful. He talks a mile a minute and throws kisses to the wind. I've tried spraying him with mite spray and have given him some vitamins for his plumage to no avail. He does not come out of his cage, though, because he is such a wild bird that he has made five holes in our venetian blinds and has ruined our vinyl kitchen chairs. I, however, do allow him to climb on top of his cage for about an hour while I supervise him. He does not like toys. He only likes to peck at a spoon that I play with him with. I play with him periodically and I really do not see any reason for him to be bored or frustrated. What can I do and what can be Sweety's problem?

A: Feather picking is a very complex issue. First, one must rule out any internal problems which may be contributing to the picking. As one example, liver infections may increase circulating chemicals which may make the bird itchy. Infections may make the bird irritable causing it to pick. Bird's may overpreen, have a broken feather which when the wings fold cause irritation. In an attempt to rectify this problem the bird damages more feathers making the problem worse. Birds may have bacterial/fungal infections of the feather follicles. They may have inhalation allergies (ie..smoke) and/or food allergies. Malnutrition is also a contributing factor. Emotional problems are also a common cause. You really need to seek a qualified avian veterinarian for help. He or she can test the bird for internal problem, do a feather follicle biopsy and counsel you on nutrition etc... - Dr. Michael Weiss

A: This bird needs to be examined by an avian vet! There are many reasons for feather picking. Applying "mite sprays" and adding vitamins to the water are two. If you care about this bird seek out a professional that can help you. Good luck!- Lonnie Kasman D.V.M.


Q: I have been considering getting an African Gray Congo. I have read a lot of horror stories about feather plucking(mainly) cuased by environment and disease. Are African grays more prone to disease than other birds? I like the C.A.G. very much and have been looking at a few, but I'm afraid of getting one because every book I read on them stress feather rot. Should I be? Also, what causes feather rot?

A: I'm not sure what causes feather rot because I'm not sure which feather disorder is referred to as "rot". Certainly, it is true that African Grey parrots seem to be prone to a number of health problems, many of which are related to an intelligent bird that is dissatisfied with its environment. Many of these stresses we actually cause because we try to make our bird into something it would rather not be. Poor diet, lack of humidity & not enough dark time at night are also common problems that can contribute to poor health, poor feathering or picking. There are also infectious diseases to which Greys are susceptible that can lead to severe problems. Owning a bird these days is a commitment, and the prospective owner should research and prepare ahead of time. Don't forget a quarantine from any other birds and a complete exam and consult by an avian vet once you are ready to get your new friend. The African Grey is a wonderful species that can bring years of joy, but like adding another child to a family, they can also bring a lifetime of everything else that goes along with having a new family member. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: Dear Doctors, I have a moluccan cockatoo that we rescued three weeks ago. She is a severe plucker and selfmutilator of her chest. When we picked her up we took her straight to the vet and she stayed there for four days. She was given HCG injection, antibiotics, a med. bath, as well as Cipro and one other antibiotic oral med. I then took her home and she is still one both oral meds twice daily. She wears a collar custom ordered from Florida Avian supplies. There is no extension on it. Her white count was extremely high, but all the cultures came back negative. Next week she is due for bloodwork again, so I wonder if there are any other diseases, problems I might have her tested for. She is being treated with doxycycline, even though Psittacosis has not been diagnosed for certain. She has had two doses of it. The third dose will be next Thursday, as will another HCG injection. This bird has COLD feet after sitting in one spot for a while, and it is not related to the footing she is on. Jaydee also seems to be uncomfortable on her feet at times during the day. She jerks her left foot repeatedly when settling in for a nap, or at times even when going to eat. Jaydee has a few sores on her feet as well as callouses. Her previous owner kept her ALONE and fed her mainly sunflower seeds for a long time. Since coming home Jaydee has enjoyed a better diet. She still gets seed in her diet, but now chooses to eat the pellets and fresh foods first! Jaydee has only the main flight feathers left and four tailfeathers. Her head plumage is fine. She has begun to grow some 'fluffy' down, unlike any other feathers I have seen on adult birds (they are VERY fine and easily TANGLED) She won't pull them out as long she has her collar on, although she can reach them.Thursday night at 3a.m. Jaydee cried out, and fell off her perch. I came to find her on the floor of her cage. She then went back to sleep and was fine. I wonder if it was a bad dream, or if her feet are at times unable to support her?? I wonder also, of the possibility of Aspergillosis testing on her? Any suggestions as to where to go from here with tests, treatment? Thank you.

A: Ah, the mutilating moluccan. I have had a run of these the past several weeks. Four to be exact. My approach is a complete work up including CBC, blood chemistries including bile acids, electrophoresis, Psittacosis / PBFD / Polyoma DNA, gram stains and feather follicle biopsy. I feel that moluccans are over-represented as mutilators and I strongly believe either they are more susceptible to dietary deficiencies, pathogenic processes or behavioral problems. I have had cases where liver pathology was the cause of the mutilation, female hormonal activity, feather follicle infections, tuberculosis, psittacosis and so on. It is a very difficult problem. One other point is that I have diagnosed osteomyelitis (bone infection) of the keel due to mutilation spreading of the secondary infection into the breast bone. In these cases the bone infection must be treated along with the skin wound. HCG has worked on many cases as has doxycycline treatment. Collaring the bird until the chest is fully feathered also has helped. Psychotrophic drugs may be of some use also. Correcting the diet to one of pellets will also help. This answer could take up pages. I think your vet is in the right thinking mode in his treatment. Good Luck. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: We had a necropsy that could not pinpoint the cause of death. Perhaps you will have had some of these symptoms? First for background, this was a 3/96 hatch Scarlet Macaw. We had a couple that were (airspace) exposed to PDD 6/96, and have been in isolation ever since, hoping for the best. Diet has been almost exclusively Kaytee Rainbow with occasional seed and nuts. Gross necropsy pointed to PDD. Proventriculas was slightly enlarged, intestines enlarged and packed with feces, the bird was very thin. Following was sent by my vet after the post: "there was a ton of dirt-like rock in his gizzard (like limestone from the bottom of a creekbed), and a small yellow bead in the ventriculus". I can guess at the bead, probably removed it from one of the chew-toys and swallowed it, but I'm at a loss for the "rock". These guys have never been on the ground, and have been living in a suspended flight (welded-wire cage, pvc perches, wood blocks on chain, occasional pine branches) for the past year. Their only toys since weaning have been wood chew-toys, they do not get calcium supplements or mineral blocks. Then I got this one: "Bob Schmidt finds NO evidence of any PDD in your macaw. NONE ...ZIP. He wonders about malnourishment...He doesn't know why the bird died." I talked to the vet today, they were "so sure" of PDD during the post that they didn't take swabs for cultures; admittedly a mistake now, but nothing to do about it. An exam of the cage-mate finds another thin bird in poor feather. We will be taking that one in Monday for testing, but really don't know what we're looking for. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

A: I have found that a major mistake in submitting tissue samples to a pathologist when one suspects PDD is not including samples of spinal cord and brain. I have had many birds with PDD being diagnosed on nervous tissue samples with other tissues being inconclusive. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: My brother's bird died recently and was sent away to have a necropsy done which came back positive for macaw wasting disease. I need to know just how contagious this is for there are many birds involved. Our vet says that since my brother visited households with birds in them that could be cause enough to worry. Is it transmitted that easily just having him in our house petting the birds? Just how is this disease transmitted? For how long is it transmitted? Is it possible for a bird to have it and not show signs or symptoms of it and yet pass it around to other birds? My brother did bring his bird to other peoples houses for them to see but the birds did not have contact with each other.There are several households here now that are worried sick for the safety of there own birds. What can we do if anything to "disinfect" our house? Should my brother even be around our birds? This Hahns macaw that recently died was bought from a woman 400 miles west of here and she seems to think that we are lying to her about this because she says all of her birds are okay. The bird that died was only nine months old and has acted like that ever since day one. Our vet said that it came from the breeder so is it possible that she has it in her aviary and not know it? How long do we worry about our own birds having this deadly disease? Please let me know ASAP so others can know too. Thank you for your time in this matter.

A: There is a great deal that we do not know about the disease called "Macaw Wasting Disease", but we do know a little. It is caused by a virus which destroys the function of the nerve-muscle interface at the level of the GI tract. It is suspected that the incubation can be up to TEN YEARS, that is that cases have been documented where exposure was long before the onset of clinical disease. I have seen cases of known exposure over 1 year before onset of disease. There is no specific test in the living bird to detect exposure, and until there is actual dilation of the stomach or intestine it is not even detectable by survey Xrays. It is possible that there is a carrier of the virus in the aviary, but it is also possible that this young individual was exposed in the new environment and got sick right away. We do not know how hearty the virus is, thus every bird that has come in contact with anyone involved is potentially exposed. In answer to the specific questions, everyone involved has to worry, and probably should not stop for a long time. - Don Factor, DVM

A: PDD is a very scary disease. A virus has been implicated, however, research is currently underway to determine how the virus is spread and how it causes disease. A crop biopsy in a clinical bird may yield positive results suggestive of PDD in 65% of the cases. The best way to prevent spread is by strict sanitation and ventilation. Birds may carry the virus for prolonged periods of time before showing clinical signs. The birds exposed to this Hahns, if healthy, probably are ok. Their immune systems can mount a challenge to the virus and probably rid it. Just clean the heck out of everything this Hahns was in contact with and try not to worry. I doubt your brother could have carried the virus on his clothing or hands to the other households. If this were the case, my own birds probably would have contracted the disease long ago. I agree that the breeder needs to open her eyes and realize she has a problem. a BIG problem. Sorry I can't give you anymore info; it just does not exist as of yet. - Dr. Weiss


Q: I have a Yellow Naped Amazon. He (?) seems fine and acts fine, but I noticed something in his nostrils yesterday. It looks like dust and is a dark grey to black in color. It is not completely blocking them and he doesn't appear to have any trouble breathing. Should I be alarmed or is this something serious? The weather has been going from hot to cold and we have been going from having the windows open to heat and than the ac on, all in a matter of days.

A: These are probably what are called keratin plugs and are no need for alarm. It may be related to poor diet, poor sanitation etc.. I probably would have it checked out to play it safe. There is an excellent avian vet in Fairfax..Scott Stahl, DVM @ Pender Veterinary Hospital if you don't have an avian vet already. - Dr. Michael Weiss

A: Amazons, as well as many avian species, have bony structure inside the nostrils. It is easier to see into some species, and even in some individuals than in others. From the description given,one cannot tell if this owner is seeing normal anatomy, or if there is something in this bird's nares. It is not uncommon to need to reach in to a bird's nose to remove feather debris, food material, etc. for those of us that do that sort of thing often, but I cannot tell you if this is something to need removal without the assessment of a trained and experienced avian vet. It would probably not hurt your bird to take a cotton tipped swab (ie, Q-tip) moistened with water and gently moisturize and move the debris in the nostril. It may come right out and solve the problem. If it persists, I would take your bird to someone who can do more. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I own a male cockatiel who is approx. 1 year old and weighs about 100 grams. His urine is yellow, but his behavior is active and normal. My vet was concerned he may have psittacosis so we did some blood work and found that his liver levels were higher than normal and his kidney levels were on the high side of normal. I began oral treatment twice a day of vibramycin at .25cc. On the second day of treatment he regurgitated. This occurred about two more times over a half an hour to an hour. I called my emergency vet number and put my bird in his cage to rest. However he climbed his cage, preened himself acting like nothing was really wrong. I tried to feed him later but it seemed to iritate him because he immediately brough it back up to crush and swallowed it. He did not spit anything thing out since then. The next morning his droppings were dark green and thick and by late morning they returned to normal. His behavior has remained the same. My vet thinks I should try an injectible version of the medication but I fear a worse reaction. What could have caused my bird to regurgitate during treatment? Do you think an injection would cause a worse reaction? Is there another type of medication which could treat psittacosis? Should I just leave well enough alone and enjoy my time with my bird and not resume treatment? How hazardous is psittacosis to me?

A: It doesn't sound like psittacosis was actually diagnosed in your bird. Was a probe or titer performed on blood? However, the disease can be far worse than the treatment. So... My first recommendation - CONTINUE MEDICATION. Your bird may be sensitive to the taste of the medication and not the drug itself. Injections are a logical next step. Next... if you own a bird, you should take on the responsibility to learn about psittacosis. This can be a very serious disease in people. If your bird is sick and suspected of having this disease, consider going to your doctor for titer testing. As in birds, the treatment can be simple and curative when performed appropriately. - Judy St. Leger

A: Some web sites with information about psittacosis in birds and, more importantly, people:

A: It is very common for birds to vomit on doxycycline, either oral or injectable. The injection may cause vomiting the day of administration, thus an advantage over vomiting every day. Was a CBC ever run on this bird and/or electrophoresis? If not, I would recommend it to help with the diagnosis. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: Why is the treatment for psittacosis 45 days? I have asked several different sources and have received vague and varied answers. No other antibiotic treatment is this long except TB.

A: The Chlamydial organism reproduces by infecting the cells of the host. Generally this occurs at the site of infection. During this localized initial phase, the organism enters the cell, undergoes transition to a larger form which is seen by pathologists as an inclusion within the cell, and through growth and division produces hundreds of chlamydia. Once the cell ruptures, these organisms are released to infect more cells. When the cell does not rupture, the organisms are kept "hidden" and the individual is a carrier who could shed the organism at any time. Chlamydia infections can persist in a clinically inapparent state with intermittent shedding of the organism over long periods of time. Many birds, especially Budgies, Cockatiels, and Lovebirds can remain assymptomatic carrier birds for their entire lifetime. The problems that we have encountered are both in the diagnosis as well as the treatment of the infection. When the organisms are hiding, they are not detectable and medication does not reach them. Thus, many carrier birds test negative and many birds treated for Chlamydia relapse at later times because the infection was not totally eradicated. A 45 day protocol has been the standard for over 15 years because during this time, it was felt, most birds would expose their "hidden" organisms and be cured. Of course, we know now that it is not that easy, and even with a 45 day protocol, some carriers go on being carriers, while others go on undetected and never get treated. By the way, therapy for TB can go on for a LOT longer than 45 days. - Don Factor, DVM

A: Treatment of Chlamydia (the organism that causes psittacosis) is based on attacking the organism when the drugs can get at it. The Chlamydia organisms have a complex life cycle. While in the body, they spend a good deal of time within cells as a structure known as a reticulate body. This is essentially a "sleeping" phase for the organism. This phase is not affected by the common antibiotics currently used to kill the organism. Once the organism "wakes up" - and spreads, the antibiotics can work (this phase is the infectious lementary body). Much of the research that has gone into our current drug programs for the treatment of Chlamydia is very old. Folks in North Carolina, Louisiana, and other prominent universities are doing work to determine newer and better ways of treating Chlamydia. It may be in the future that treatment for shorter periods is as effective as the 45 day course that we currently use. - Judy St.Leger

A: The reason for this is that Chlamydia is an intracellular organism, thus it is more difficult for the antibiotic to reach the organism. As a result, one must treat for a prolonged period of time. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q:I have a Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo that has been treated for an E. Coli infection. Today we go back to the vet for retesting after having him off the medication for 7 days. My vet has been pushing me to treat him for psittacosis even though he has tested negative twice for it. I am really torn about treating him for this since he is testing negative. I have three other birds and am concerned about them also, especially the psittacosis. Yet my vet doesn't see the need to treat them unless they start displaying signs of illness. I am not particularly keen about treating my LSC with more drugs for something he doesn't have. Won't more drugs be even harder on his system if he doesn't have psittacosis? Thank you.

A: If the Psittacosis DNA test has been negative twice, the white blood cell count and protein electrophoresis are normal, I would not treat for Psittacosis. E.coli is very common in cockatoos and may actually be normal bacterial flora in this species. If the bird is not demonstrating clinical signs of illness and if laboratory tests don't support an infection, I don't think I would treat for anything. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q:Has there ever been any research done on the incidence of hermaphrodism in parrots? If so, where could I locate the results? I have a 6 year old DNA sexed female TAG. She was over 1 year of age when tested in Jan 94. After discussing her sexual behavior with a couple of breeders the subject of hermaphrodism came up. I have had experience with breeding cockatiels and know the difference between male and female sexual behavior (at least in tiels) and am assuming that the behavior is similiar in other species of parrots. My TAG's behavior is reminiscent of a male tiel. I have considered having the bird resexed by a different company to see if the results are the same. This is not a pressing issue. I am just extremely curious now and would really like to find some information on the subject if it exists. Thanks so much for you time.

A:Some birds do have both ovarian and testicular tissue. The incidence is very rare. Developmental conditions that may create this state are complex and could be researched in a library. Discussion of these is both complex and time consuming and not a function of this forum. References to help you get started: "A race of hermaphrodite-producing pigeons" Anatomical Record 1945;91:401-423\ Intersexuality in Birds. In: Armstrong CN, MArshall AJ. Intersexuality in Vertebrates Including Man. New York: Acedemic Press; 1964. DNA sexing is very, very accurate. Endoscopic examination may be more rewarding in this case, however, may not yield any answers. Good luck. - Dr. Michael Weiss

A: You have stumbled upon a big problem in avian care. There aren't good reference data bases lots of avian material. I have read extensively in the fields of avian medicine and have been involved in avian diagnostics, medicine and surgery for over eight years. In that time, I have never had any experience with the subject of avian hermaphodism. Thoughts I have regarding your bird's behaviour:
1) It may be that your bird really doesn't know the appropriate behaviour for a female. Hand fed birds can be confused because of issues associated with human bonding. If you believe that you are witnessing your bird masturbating, remember that female birds may also exhibit this behaviour.
2) Repeating DNA sexing with the same company or a different one is a great idea! No one is perfect. perhaps a mixup occured with the original sample. DNA sexing is based on chromosomal evaluations. In birds, the female has two "heterozygous (different)" chromosomes - ZW, and the male two "homozygous(similar)" chromosomes - ZZ. By looking at the chromosomes these companies determine the sex of your bird.
3) If everything seems right, but the bird is still acting "wrong" get to your vet! There are tumors that can secrete hormones that could cause a bird to act funny. While this would not change the actual sex of the bird, it can cause behaviors inappropriate for a given sex.
Let us know what he/she turns out to be! - Judy St. Leger

A: I am not sure if anyone has published a study specifically looking at hermaphrodism in birds. This is an uncommon congenital problem in any species, and at best, information is usually brief. Nonetheless, I have performed necropsy exams on a number of individuals who did not turn out to be the sex one would have expected (eg. a female budgerigar with a blue cere) from their external appearance. We do know that while the hen posesses a large activity of estrogen and progesterone-like hormones, they do also have estosterone/androgenous substances present in their systems. Varying levels of these hormones could certainly account for a behavioral overlap between the sexes. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: Please tell me about megabacteria, mode of transmission, treatment, prognosis.

A:This is a very detailed and complicated question. I have copied several posts from vet-to-vet conversations which should help. Megabacteria probably is transmitted by a fecal oral route, however, aerosol route is possible. Hope the following bits help.

1) E.M. (electron microscopy) demonstrated characteristics consistent with bacterial cell wall, not fungal. Also, the lack of spore formation, she stated, adds to the determination that this is a bacteria, not a fungus (you didn't ask about this, but the subject was broached a few weeks ago).

2) Her lab has subcultured megabacteria through 7 passages, then infected healthy budgies, who subsequently developed Megabacteriosis.

3) Though in the above laboratory setting, Megabacteria was likely the primary pathogen, due to high innoculum numbers, her belief is that it is often secondary to other, immune suppressive disease. ( This fits what we see in practice - lovebirds that are PBFD positive with concurrent megabact.)

4) The use of Amphotericin was empirical and antecdotal, and from one report. I was told the source, but can't remember the names. We discussed whether some other property of the Amphotericin (ph?) could account for the apparent improvement in this instance. No conclusions were reached.

5) In her study - NO antibiotic tested had any efficacy against the Megabacgeria (that's really scarey...) In general, you'll see reports (many from Europe), that cite Megabacteria as either a high morbidity, low mortality disease, or visa versa. So it may depend on strain, or concurrent infection(s). IME, clinically ill birds die eventually, though acidification of the gi will often decrease the number of megabacteria considerably, and relieve some of the gi clinical signs. Hope this helps.

Megabacteria are large, gram positive, rod shaped organisms that are being increasingly found to be associated with proventricular disease in a wide variety of bird species worldwide. MB has been seen in wild caught European goldfinches and SC cockatoos in Australia. Incidence of MB on fecal direct smear is up to 64% in some Australian flocks - so it is difficult to ascertain if this organism is truly pathogenic in all cases or a normal commensal or opportunistic infecting organism.

MB from crop content may be seen if birds are 'vomiting' proventricular content up to the crop.

Treatment for this organism is recommended to be Amphoteracin B - although the rationale why is not clear other than documented clinical resolution in a number of cases. Amphoteracin acts by binding ergosterols of fungal cell membranes - and bacteria are not known to contain sterols - so the mechanism of this polyene macrolide against megabacterium is not known. Irregardless, dosage is recommended to be given by crop gavage - 100mg/kg BID.

Oral Amphoteracin B is made by Bristol Meyers - Squibb, sold as Fungizone. Comes in 100 mg/ml concentration, 24 ML bottles. They have an 800 number too: 1-800-332-2056.MUCH more cost effective than the injectable stuff for IV use. Patients DRAMATICALLY improve in a 24 - 48 hour period. Screening is most easily done at the fecal wet mount exam - gram stains may miss more than you would like. I may have posted our oral dosage trials incorrectly before - so to clarify what I know and don't know, here goes:

Australians recommend oral gavage BID with 100 mg/kg. That dose simply scares me - but they seem to be happy with it. Most meds are being done in a water soluble form there, though, in the drinking water. Probably 'controls', but does not 'cure'.

Playing in a controlled situation here with Pacific Parrotlets, we had good resolution at 10 mg/kg BID x 10 days. At 4 months post treatment, all birds were clinically asymptomatic still, but we found two birds with a VERY small number of Mega being passed in their fresh feces by wet mount exam. As best we can tell, the possibility of re-introduction to these birds was effectively controlled, to I think we clinically improved the group to a subclinical status, but have not yet 'cured' them.

We have 'doubled' our dose - to 20 mg/kg gavage BID x 10 days, and will see again how we can do. - Dr. Michael Weiss

A: Megabacteria are large gram positive rod-shaped organisms that have some characteristics similar to fungi and yeasts, and have been found in the proventriculus and in the droppings of an increasing number of avian species. They may be associated with proventricular or ventricular disease, but the infectiveness or pathogenicity of the organism is unclear. The signs of disease are progressive and in the later stages of infection include emaciation and total debility. The diagnosis is based on demonstration of the organism in tissue section or on wet mounts. Culturing is possible, but because the organism is anaerobic, it is difficult and often negative because the routine culture is aerobic. Treatment includes acidification of the drinking water with either HCl or citric acid, changing to a more easily digestible diet, and the use of antimicrobials. Some in vitro studies have shown the organism to be sensitive to many antibiotics, while other studies have shown it to be completely antibiotic resistant. Antifungal drugs Amphotericin B and Nystatin have also been reported to be effective in Budgies and European finches. The prognosis is guarded in any confirmed case because there is still so much we do not know. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: We recently boarded our healthy 6-yr. old yellow nape Amazon for a week while on vacation. On our return, the bird was no longer talkative, spends most of the day in a sleeping position, eats constantly, has none of the "normal" responses he had before boarding. He also spends quite a bit of time doing what appears to be working his throat (almost gagging). Our vet ran normal cultures and routine blood work, and the results were "normal". Is it possible that some kind of parasites (worms) were picked up along the way? Thank you in advance for your response.

A: It sounds like your bird is sick. The increased appetite is probably the bird's response to the increased energy demand the infection is having on the body. Some birds respond to infection by elevating their protein levels (beta globulins) before their white blood cells, thus, you may have a normal CBC. I'd recommend a serum EPH (electrophoresis) and testing the bird for psittacosis. The neck activity sounds like an attempt to regurgitate. A gram stain of the crop is also indicated. Amazons are highly susceptible to psittacosis and in a group housing environment like a boarding area, if the boarder dosen't require lab work for infectious diseases prior to boarding, the chance of a bird shedding the organism may be high. This would be my major concern. I wouldn't worry about worms. - Dr. Michael Weiss

A:Birds often become stressed when boarded (new surroundings, unfamiliar caregivers, etc). This can bring out chronic conditions that are otherwise masked. Was a psittacosis test performed on this bird? What about testing for Aspergillus? This guy could have picked up a parasite, but I don't suspect it. Rather, I would encourage the owners to consult further with their vet. Sleeping alot and being fluffed are signs of a sick bird - even if it is eating the house down. It's possible that the bird didn't sleep well when boarded, but I really suspect that the stress may have made him sick (or at least brought out an illness that he was coping with for some time.). - Judy St. Leger


Q: We experienced the death of our umbrella cockatoo Thursday evening. She was alive and happy, cocky as ever and then about 7:15 PM, she started getting a little sleepy, nothing real unusual. She was 6 years old to the week. We adopted her at 18 months of age. Her previous owner had her on a strictly seed diet. I fixed that - she learned to love pellets. Vegetables were a daily favorite. About 3 months after we had her she became polyuric. We took her immediately to the Avian vet near us and he determined that she had developed a strain of e-coli that was making her very sick. This happened again over a one year period. Each time we treated with 2 weeks of twice a day injections of amicacin and baytril. She also started sneezing one day, another trip to the vet, a slight cold, some antibiotics added to the water for 5 days did the trick. The only other problem she had was occasional day dreaming. And on occasion her gram stains would come back slightly negative. When they came back positive, her positives were low. We tried vitamins and more vitamin A veggies. About 3 months ago, she layed her first egg. She did this twice more within a month. The vet said this was normal, not to worry, just keep an eye on her. She was fine. She ate normally and then that night she came out of her cage at about 7:30 and went to sit with my husband, and then, as normal she crawled up under her towel next to him, to watch TV. She started to twitch her foot, we though it was nesting again, or perhaps her foot was caught up in the towel. Anyway, we removed the towel, and at the same time, one of the cats moved near her and it seemed to scare her. She ran up onto my husband's lap and made a noise that, I can only describe as all the air coming out of her lungs. She then went limp. It was over for her in less than 10 seconds. Our vet was called immediately, he said he had never seen a seizure, but that could have been it, it could have been a heart attack or an embolism. We couldn't bare the thought of a necropsy, so we buried her ourselves. It did not sound like a disease of any kind as it happened so quickly.. Her stool was normal, her appetite was normal. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.

A: My heartfelt sympathies go out to you. It sounds like you loved her very much and that you did all that you could to make sure your bird was healthy. It is sometimes very difficult to determine why a bird has died. Without a necropsy, it is impossible to know what happened. But don't feel awful about not having a necropsy done. There are times when it is better not to know than to have to focus on examination of the body. Guesses I might have are the possibility of another E coli infection setting up and causing a sudden, systemic illness. Another possibility is that your bird may have had problems with calcium (how was the egg shell?). Calcium is needed for the stress response. If it was too low, it could have contributed to problems. As I have said, this is only speculation. The best an owner can do for their bird is to take good care of it (including a proper diet, vet checks, caging, toys, etc), and to love it and spend time with it. I personally try to look at birds that have died to rule out the possibility of something contagious to the other birds, but it sounds like you tried to do all that you could . It takes time to get over the loss of a pet. - Judy St. Leger


Q: How do I know that the chain on a bird toy I buy is safe, and does not contain zinc? Some of my birds like to chew on them, and I hear that they can be poisoned if they contain zinc. Are some birds just more sensitive to zinc than others? There has been a lot of activity on the Tooville Chat today about Jungle Talk Toys in which one person feels her bird became ill from the chain on one of their toys (Cotton Candy string toy). Please help clear up our concerns. Thanks!

A: There is a lot of interest in zinc toxicity lately. We are just starting to realize that some birds will ingest enough zinc from their environment to make them sick. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to test metals in question for their zinc content. This can only be done at toxicology labs. One way to be safe from zinc is to look for toys without metal chains (kind of tough, huh?). Another is to look for or replace metal with known stainless steel metal bits or plastic. Watch out for galvanized metals. The process of galvanization is how the zinc sometimes gets into the picture in the first place. One thing to remember about zinc. If you think a bird may be sick from it, a blood test can be done by a veterinarian to determine the levels of zinc in the bird's blood. This is a treatable condition if detected early. For the man that thinks his bird was poisoned, he can have the toy evaluated to check zinc levels. Remember, while toys are meant to be chewed on, they aren't really meant to be eaten. Always take a critical view of the things your bird is chewing on! - Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a 6 month old Cockatiel. She is a very active bird. When we first got her, I clipped her wings close to the primary wings. Her wings have not grown 2cm. Now her tail feathers have fallen out. I know Cockateils supposed to molt. Is Jane behind on molting? Is there anything I can give to her to help her wings and feathers grow? Now with her trust I would like to flight train her.

A: As you probably know, when birds fledge they grow their first set of feathers which allows them to fly and therefore leave the nest. They do, however, moult again at about 4-6 months of age and grow in their first set of what are considered "adult feathers", and from that point on, moult either once or twice a year. It is important to remember that moulting can take 10-12 weeks from start to finish. Proper diet is essential and should not be ignored. Supplements do not make up an appropriate diet, rather a balanced "base food" is what the bird should be eating supplemented up to 10-15% of the total intake with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. Supplemental vitamins are not indicated if the rest of the diet is what it should be. So far it sounds like your cockatiel is right on schedule. Good luck - Don Factor, DVM

A: Once feathers are cut, they don't "grow". The cut feathers are replaced once the bird moults. It sounds like your bird is just fine - and starting to moult. You should be able to see new feathers coming in where the old ones have come out. If your bird is on a good nutritious diet (pellets are preferred, lots of veggies and fruit plus seed is ok, but a distant second) there is little else that you need to do . If the diet isn't so good yet, start the change by mixing pellets 50/50 with the seed diet for about one week. Then gradually increase the percent of pellets, and decrease the percent of seed. Cockatiels can be tough, so watch carefully to make sure your bird is eating. A healthy bird on a good diet should be ready to be trained once the moult is over. Having a flighted bird in the house requires special care. Never let the bird outside. Watch out for dangers like windows, ceiling fans, ovens, and sinks or tubs with water in them. If you don't see new feathers coming in where the old ones have come out, consider having a vet take a look at your bird. There can be other reasons besides moulting that can cause feather loss. Good luck! - Judy St. Leger, DVM


Q: I have a fresh manzanita bush I want to put in my little pals area , does it need to be cured in any way before I let him play on it?

A: Great question! We all need to be careful about the environment that we provide for our birds. Manzanita branches are safe (non-toxic) so you've already overcome the first hurdle. Next, make sure they are free from pests, insects, fungus, and other plant material. I recommend scrubbing with a dish soap followed by carefully rinsing with water. Dry well. I prefer to dry things like this out in the sunshine, but rely on the weather to make this difficult! Look for small niches that could catch toes - you know your birds will want to make you insane by doing this. Don't use these sections so you can sleep better. Otherwise, sleep well knowing that you are providing your birds with good foot exercise by providing some variable sized perches as well as adding something new and fun to their life. - Judy St.Leger


Q: I had read that fruit trees are ok for birds. Recently we had a hurricane and I got some wood from some flowering cherry trees (yoshino?) and spent alot of time making a perch/play area for an African Grey I am getting in Nov. I was now told cherry tree wood is toxic. I know these are not the berry producing type of cherry. Can you confirm this bad news before I throw out several hours of work.

A: To be on the safe side, cherry would is less than 100% safe. Just as cherry pits contain cyanide and other substances which can effect the heart, cherry wood can also. Dry wood will have less of the toxic substances than fresh wood, but the possibility of problems still exists. As with so many plants, I am sure that birds in captivity can (and do) do well on cherry jungle gyms. I would not however, like to own the one bird that decided to chew his way into a toxic condition. I bet your bird will get hours more enjoyment watching you create the next play gym! Sorry. - Judy St. Leger


Q: I have a B/G Macaw and would like to know if I can use grape vines to make my own bird toys?

A: I looked through everything I have on potentially poisonous plants and found nothing on grape vines. I would just make sure they have not been sprayed with insecticides. - Lonnie Kasmin, D.V.M.

Q: I want to know if the fragrance from jasmine plants are harmful to birds.

A: Jasmine fragrance has not been reported as harmful to the best of my knowledge. A bird could be sensitive to the chemicals from the plant, though, just like some people cannot tolerate the harmless rose oils. A test exposure should prove the plant safe. If it is in question, remove the bird from the jasmine area for a few days and see if things improve. - Judy St.Leger

A: I found nothing in any of my sources that would indicate that fragrance from a Jasmine plant are toxic. They may be irritating though. - Dr. Lonnie Kasmin, D.V.M.


Q: Do you have a list of toxic and nontoxic trees/plants for parrots? I have several parrots and would like to know exactly which trees I can and cannot provide for their perches. I would greatly appreciate any help you could provide.

A: Click here for a list, courtesy of Don Factor, D.V.M.


Q: I have heard about Polyoma virus vaccination. What are your thoughts on this? I have heard of bad side effects, and that the bird could still get Polyoma?

A: I have had excellent results using the polyoma vaccine. I work for a very large bird farm that was having huge problems with polyoma. We vaccinated over 2,000 birds so far with two complications. In two African Greys, a small lump formed at the injection site, which took about 1 month to go away. There were no other bad side effects. When polyoma was first a problem on this farm, some babies died, even though they had been vaccinated. These babies likely were infected with the virus before we could boost their immune systems with the vaccine. Vaccinated babies have since been to places that have had polyoma outbreaks. Birds from this farm have been protected as long as they have been properly vaccinated. Shipping vaccinated babies has solved the problem of worrying about possible polyoma exposure for this farm. - Judy St. Leger

A: I only administer the vaccine to very young birds in breeding situations. I don't see any sense in vaccination of birds after 8 months of age since they are not very susceptible to clinical infection. They can't get the disease from the vaccination. I also will not vaccinate a new baby pet if there are no other birds in the home or if the other birds are polyoma negative. - Dr. Michael Weiss


Q: Does polyoma cause dead in shell chicks?

A: Typically, polyoma kills fledgling age chicks, not chicks in the egg. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: Wanted to know if liquid bandaid can be used on birds or if there is a veterinary type of liquid for safely stopping bleeding.

A: While most tissue glue products do not stop bleeding, there is a hemostatic Nexaband - but I find it better to stop bleeding with something non-toxic (flour and direct pressure). - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I've been extremely worried about my Cockateil lately. Has had an eye infection for about 3 months and had been under an avian Vet's care. He's been on Mycostatin, and Chlor Palmitate for a couple months and is now on Mycostatin and Cefadroxil along with Gentocin drops for the eye. All this sounds impressive enough to work but the infection inside his eye persists. A human doctor today suggested a substance called "Liquid Silver" and said it was safe, effective and non toxic. He said that prior to antibiotics, Liquid Silver was widely used in humans and animals to treat infections and now with all the antibiotic resistant strains of bacterial infections that this Liquid Silver is an excellent treatment. The substance I bought from him says it is... "Non-toxic pure .001 micro fine silver at 500 ppm in deionized water" The dosage for people is 1 tsp per day up to 1oz 3 times per day. He suggested 4-5 drops per quart of the bird's water. I know how sensitive birds can be to some substances and sometimes what is perfectly fine for humans is toxic to them. My vet has never heard of Liquid Silver. Have you ever heard of it and do you know of any usage of this substance with Cockatiels or do you have any suggestions or questions I can bring to my Vet?

A: I have had no personal experience with the product you describe. However, I suspect from your description that it is a colloidal suspension. Many breeders use silver colloid to control persistant infections. A holistic vet would likely be better able to comment on this practice. As to the chronic eye infection, I would consider bacterial (including Chlamydia), viral and nutritional causes as possibilities. A long standing Mycoplasma or Chlamydia infection could be underlying things and causing secondary bacterial infections. You may wish to ask your vet if she/he thinks that doing a conjuctival scrape (it's really not as bad as it sounds) might be helpful. I assume you've got this guy on a pelleted diet to remove the possibility of a vitamin A problem.Please let us know what you find out about the silver. - Judy St. Leger

A: Guaranteed, it's not an "infection". Rather than use something unknown in a bird's eye, I suggest conjunctival scrapes for cytology and an exam by a specialist in veterinary opthalmology. There must be more going on than your vet expects (parasites, mycoplasma, chlamydia, uveitis, glaucoma, tumor, etc., etc.). My suggestion to you is to ask for a referral to an opthalmologist (veterinary). - Don Factor, DVM


Q: I have a Goffin baby that was jumped on at the age of 3 weeks by one of the parent birds. It's thigh bone was fractured and casted by a vet with the entire leg pulled to the rear of the baby. After 1½ weeks the cast was removed and the leg was totally messed up.The leg is held back and out (at the hip) and will not stay under her and the foot is turned out at the ankle from being in that position taped up. I have been trying therapy (the vet's suggestion) but cannot get the leg to move foward all the way. He made some kind of saddle thing for her to sit on with her legs taped to the side but she darn near killed herself in that contraption and the tape pulled all the feathers off her legs. Was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to keep this leg as straight as possible so maybe it will grow better as she is still only 6 weeks old. She will not be able to walk at all as it is! Thanks so much.

A: Physical therapy is essential to break down inappropriate adhesions. The leg may need to be refractured and repaired well. A straight-leg cast is an old technique which does not work well on femoral fractures and is not the method of choice because of this type of complication. Suggest you go to someone else. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: Our three year old pocket parrot has been sick off and on since Christmas. The problem was first noticed when it sounded like he had a click when he breathed. We took him to the vet and they weren't sure what to do but since he was eating and moving around ok they thought it was just a cold. He got a shot and we give him doses of medicine for about two weeks. He seemed to be feeling better but his breathing never totally cleared up. Now it is really bad again. He is listless and almost seems paralyzed on one side. We went back to the vet again. He was given another shot and more medicine. This was 48 hours ago. He doesn't seem much better. Do you think survival is possible or should be consider putting him to sleep? We are also concerned about him having something that could be transferred to humans. Is that possible? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

A: Once again, its hard to diagnose with that info. Pocket parrot? Parrotlet?, Budgie?; Injection?of what?Could be a lot of things. Clicking could indicate respiratory prob, Chlamydia? Any testing performed? They may want to check for hypothyroidism. Causes an enlargement of the thyroid gland which can produce a clicking sound... Lonnie Kasmin, DVM

A: The history you give on your little guy concerns me - but it's tough to evaluate birds over the monitor! Birds on poor diets (those seed eaters we all know) commonly get chronic or recurrent upper respiratory infections. These can be managed with antibiotics and improving the diet over time. The weakness you describe however, suggests that this is likely more than a simple upper respiratory infection. Your bird may have developed pneumonia or other systemic conditions which are very serious. As to whether or not he can make it..... too hard to answer over the internet. There are conditions that anyone can get from their birds which should always be considered. Chlamydia is an organism that can infect birds causing all sorts of signs. In people this infection is sometimes called psittacosis, or parrot fever. In people, the symptoms are a flu-like problem. Another condition which I associated particularly with Greycheeks is avian TB. This condition is usually not a problem for people but can be a human and avian infection. If money and time were no object, I would drive to the vets and ask for a CBC, chemistry screen, bacterial culture, and Chlamydia test, and maybe even x-rays. I would have this bird in the hospital until he responded to the medication. But I realize that is alot of tests and tests may not be able to save your bird. They would let you know where you stand. If you are OK with treating this without knowing all of the answers, doing every test is not required. He should be showing improvement soon after starting the medication. Keep him warm, and quiet. Make sure he's eating - if not consider hand feeding him. Having a sick bird is never easy. I hope my thoughts have helped to make it a little easier. -Judy St. Leger

EDITOR'S NOTE: This bird was "humanely"(?) put to sleep by the owner's vet. Upon gross histology, the vet noted that the bird had severe pneumonia and *probably* wouldn't have survived. No tests could have been performed in this short a period of time to determine the cause of the pneumonia, which may have been psittacosis or chlamydia, also known as parrot fever. If it was in fact psittacosis, the family still remains at risk for an unknown period of time with this organism possibly lurking throughout the house. Psittacosis can be fatal to humans and may manifest in several different ways with respiratory ailments being the most common. This is why it is so important to have tests run on a sick bird and to know how to deal with the death of a bird not only emotionally, but how it must be prepared for the vet to have it tested. The sad part of this story is that if tests had been run immediately and proper medication administered, the bird more than likely would have lived.


Q: I have heard via the Internet that CeDe has been the cause of deaths due to foreign material (metal chips??) in the powder, but not to the formulization itself. Is this a valid reason to switch to a domestic formula where better quality control is used? We are feeding our Dusky Lory twice a day with this formula and augment with fresh fruit in the morning, mixed vegetables in the evening, and fresh water at all times. He seems to be thriving. Regards, Jim

A: I haven't heard these reports. My recommendation would be to call the company and ask for THEIR best recommendation. Home quality control may be the same. A thriving bird is a sign of a healthy bird - even though sick birds can fool you, it sounds like you are doing a good job with nutrition. - Judy St. Leger

A: I have not heard anything bad about CeDe, though I have never used the product. - Lonnie Kasmin, DVM

A: I have not heard this, but it's certainly possible. Perhaps it's advisable to try another manufacturer's product. - Don Factor, DVM


Q: What do you think of artifical preservatives in pelleted parrot food, is it OK for them?

A: Artificial preservatives are a controversial issue not only in bird food but also in pet food and regular food as well. Many preservatives are antioxidants which can actually be helpful when ingested. However, some preservatives can have harmful effects. Because this is a difficult and involved topic, I recommend contacting some of the food manufacturers for more info on preservatives. If you are trying to stay away from them, there is an organically grown feed with minimal preservatives currently available for psittacines. Remember, minimal preservatives means that food can deteriorate quickly. These products should be purchased in small quantities, kept frozen, and used quickly to preserve freshness and quality. -Judy St.Leger


Q: I have an African Grey who is a very good bird but has a problem. I have trouble getting him to eat fruits and vegtables. I have tried holding the various foods in front of him but he throws them to the side. Would it be better to use pellets? I am worried about my bird because I heard that they need the fruits. If you could advise me on what to do I'd appreciate it.

A: You didn't tell us what your bird is actually eating. Opinions vary on appropriate diets for birds. Most avian veterinarians will recommend a formulated pellet as the basis for a sound diet. This can be supplemented with a small amount (10%) veggies, fruit, beans, pasta and seed. Fruits themselves do not provide a lot of nutrition. They are a good source of several vitamins, provide water and a lot of sugar. Personally, I recommend a good quality pellet with some greens, veggies and very small amonts of fruit. This should provide a good diet for your grey including calcium which they have a high need for.


Q: Dear Drs. Could you tell me what the average weight of an adult female Umbrella cockatoo is? I have a friend that bought the bird as a mercy buy, this bird has gone from 480 grams last March to 410 grams in Oct. It is a very picky eater. Despite all of their efforts to entice it with all kinds of goodies, it basically will only eat a little seed, sweet corn, papaya, and kiwi. It appears to be a very normal active bird otherwise. Do you think that Giardia could be a possibility here and what other kinds of tests would you recommend? Thank you!

A: It sounds like this bird has a problem, and it's certainly possible that it's Giardia. It could also be anything else..any other parasite, kidney or liver disease, chronic intestinal maldigestive/malabsorptive disorders, anemia... ...and the list goes on and on. I recommend that this owner seek the help of an avian vet to do the appropriate fecal and blood testing to get some idea of what the extent of this bird's problems are. An adult umbrella should weigh about 550-600gm.


Q: Dear Doctor, First off, thank you for providing your time and knowledge to help those in is much appreciated! I am e-mailing you because I have an interesting situation. A week ago, some children brought to my attention an injured mourning dove (wild). They said it had been hit by a car and by its had appeared so. At times I rehabilitate wild birds or raise orphaned birds to adulthood and set them free...up until now my research and help from local vets has brought me through some tough situations successfully. Well the dove has had injury done mainly to its left eye. When it came to me, the area around the eye was greatly swollen and the eye appeared recessed into the ocular cavity. Other than that, the bird seemed reletively healthy taking both food and water and maintaining healthy bowel movements. I administered a broad-spectrum antibiotic intramuscularly that a vet friend had provided me with and have been treating its damaged eye with Puralube for fear that it would dry out as the swelling prevented the lids from closing. The swelling is now gone but the eye, as can now be seen, is small and flat in appearance and the lids practically dwarf it and do not seem to be doing it much good. I am not sure if the dove can see out of it but he/she seems to turn it towards me as if it can still see. What can be done for this otherwise healthy bird? The only difference is that it does not take flight once out of its holding you think that the bird may be injured beyond repair? Thankyou for your consideration, future vet-in-training--Josepha Henderson

A: Without seeing the bird, I cannot make a diagnosis. If the only problem is that the bird has lost sight in one eye then it can probably survive. Usually time will tell if it will fly again. I would just be patient. -Lonnie Kasman, DVM

A: It sounds like this bird did have an injury to its eye, but of course someone with some medical training would need to see it to see if there is any evidence of active infection or inflammation. That notwithstanding, if the globe is collapsed and nonvisual, the bird is a keeper. Release should not be attempted because this bird would almost certainly succumb to predators due to a blind spot and a lack of depth perception. It can survive captivity well and in a protected environment can live a long life barring any other unassessed problems. I don't think you need a special license for a dove or pigeon. - Donald Factor, DVM


Q: Why don't birds fall off of the branches they're sleeping on?

A: People can't even fall asleep on the subway without slumping over onto the person next to them, but birds stay steady even in high winds. The secret of the birds' tightrope talent is in the toe tendons.

As a bird sits on a perch, its own body weight stretches the tendons in front of the knee and behind the ankle joint. This causes the toes to move forward and clasp around the perch. Other tendons under the toe bones have interlocking layers that stay secured to one another as long as the birds' weight is pressing against them, keeping the bird from tipping over.