What are these birds sick with?
March 22, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Sick parakeets, low budgets, help!

A friend of mine owns two Bourke parakeets, a male/female pair. They were bought by her sister in early January in Baltimore and their age is unknown. She took them from her sister as she already had two birds of her own.

About two weeks ago the friend had to leave the Bourkes with her sister for a week, during which time they were kept in separate cages and taken out at different times from the sister's own bird, with the floor vacuumed between those times. The reason for such precaution was that one of her sister's birds had been throwing up and was constantly puffed up for a while; the vet couldn't say for sure after many visits but he had some sort of infection or ulcer in his throat, possibly chlamydia. While he seemed healthy at first, he eventually died the week before her sister had pet-sat the Bourkes, possibly of malnutrition; he could barely swallow his food and vomited what little he could up.

Since that stay, the male Bourke has begun to constantly close and rub one of his eyes for about two weeks, and both seem to be gagging now- opening their mouths and pushing their heads up, though nothing comes out. The male has also lost weight.

While they both still sing and eat fine, the friend is very worried they caught whatever her sister's bird had. We are all students without a lot of disposable income to pay for a bunch of vet visits, but if it's the same issue, if she were to receive a prescription for the same medicine (which is painful to administer to the birds as it requires forcing it into their mouths for 45 days) then that would be affordable. Also, the other of the sister's birds may have had a more mild form for as long as three years. A final factor is that the disease may be transmittable to humans. So here are our questions:

1. Any idea exactly what they are sick with?
2. Does the medicine have a reasonable chance to actually cure the disease? Would a vet prescribe a medicine without an appointment?
3. Is there a way to make this medicine easier for them to take? It's a powder that is supposed to be mixed with water and then fed directly to the birds, and if you put it in the water dish you can't be sure how much they have drank (the vet may be able to answer this)
4. If they are indeed sick with the same thing, and keeping in mind the threat to the owners, what's the ethically correct path to take as far as treatment vs. natural progression vs. (a last resort) euthanasia?
5. Currently their diet is solely of mixed seeds and millet (daily actually); would a diet change help? I personally feel this could be a big factor so this will be changed either way.
posted by MangyCarface to Pets & Animals (3 answers total)
Transmission of Chlamydia psittica from one bird to another often happens when an infected bird sneezes on clothing or other surfaces (such as toys, perches) that subsequently come in contact with a non-infected bird. Unfortunately, vacuuming the floor isn't much of a prevention and actually is likely to make things worse if the vacuum vents fecal particles into the air.

1. It's reasonable to assume the Bourkes are sick with whatever killed the sister's bird but that assumption needs to be confirmed by an avian vet.
2. Yes, the treatment is successful. No, the vet isn't going to write a script w/o seeing the patients first.
3. There's injectable forms of the antibiotic. It can also be applied to food.
4. Starting right now put the birds in quarantine, in their own room where no one sleeps or eats. Wear a face mask when in the same room as the birds. Don't touch your eyes, mouth or nose in proximity to the birds or before washing your hands after leaving the quarantine room. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling the birds or any thing in the birds' quarantine room with particular attention paid to anything the birds might have sneezed or pooped on. Do not expose other birds to the ill birds or anything the birds might have sneezed or pooped on.

Personally, my pet ethics are is one doesn't not buy or adopt a pet unless one can afford to treat them for injury or illness thus there is no ethical way to let this very treatable infection take its natural progression. If your friend can't afford the birds' medical care, she should give serious thought to finding someone who can take on that responsibility. In my area, there are parrot rescue organizations, perhaps there is one in your area as well.

If I were in your friend's position, I'd locate an avian vet ASAP and call the office to discuss the issue (sick birds, possible contagious disease, little money) and discover her options. Perhaps there's a sliding fee and/or a payment plan available.

5. That's a very limited diet for parakeets but giving them fresh greens every day isn't going to cure psittacosis and at this stage, while cause intestinal distress that will further stress birds that are already suffering poor health.
posted by jamaro at 11:57 AM on March 22, 2011

Call your local exotics vet. Offer to mop floors or mow the lawn, or do whatever random job they need done every Saturday for the next two months in exchange for an office visit. Explain what your budget is, and that you want to supplement with labor.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 12:04 PM on March 22, 2011

These birds need to see a vet stat! Can you disclose the birds' location? Perhaps someone on here has had good experience with low-cost/sliding scale avian vet services in the area.

nthing jamaro on pets and money. It sucks but it's the honest truth. Sometimes I think that the best thing I could do with my need to help rescue pets is just to give as much money and time to the organizations whose aims I agree with as I can and stop having pets myself. But I realize that's a somewhat extreme view.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 4:48 PM on March 23, 2011

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