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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 27384
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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My parakeet looks sick. He is just sitting on s perch with s

Customer Question

My parakeet looks sick. He is just sitting on his perch with his head down and is shaking. Front of his body looks swollen. He is not eating or drinking. I don't know what to do! Advice please.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Tweetie. It's important to note that once a parakeet acts ill they're quite ill and in need of the attention of an avian-oriented vet (please see here: This is a protective mechanism because sick birds are attacked by other birds in the wild. Tweetie's symptoms of anorexia, malaise and appearing fluffed and important symptoms but they're not pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of any one disorder.

An avian-oriented vet will first treat symptomatically and supportively by providing supplemental fluids and electrolytes by needle and tube feeding a "recovery" food. Blood tests and cultures of Tweetie's choana - the slit between his oral cavity and nose - and cloaca (vent) may be taken.

Until Tweetie can be attended to, please heat up his environment to 85F by means of a 100W bulb shined into his partially covered cage (not at night when he needs to rest) or by taping a heating pad set on its lowest setting to the sides of his cage. Remove his perches and put his food and water on the bottom of the cage along with him. Add a water soluble avian vitamin such as Oasis brand to his water at half of the recommended dose so as not to make his water distasteful. Add a calcium supplement such as Calcivet or Calciboost to his water. These supplements are available in pet/feed stores. Avoid over the counter antibiotics designed to be placed in his water. They won't be effective if only because an ill bird won't drink enough to medicate itself properly.

Nutritional imbalances are a common cause of illness in our pet birds. What has Tweetie's diet consisted of, please? Seeds should compose less than 20% of his diet. Ideally, a balanced pelleted diet such as can be found here: or here: should be fed as well as hard boiled egg yolk, pancakes and cornbread, the tops of fresh greens, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, fresh fruits such as apples, pears, melon, kiwi, and berries, vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, beets, asparagus, cabbage, sweet potato, and squash, and even tiny pieces of meat.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. I have been feeding him Great Choice food got parakeets but recently switched to Sweet Harvest vitamin enriched food. With the new food he ate continuously and that worried me. I had never seen him eat like that. It just seemed like he couldn't get enough.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

You're welcome. Thank you for the additional information. While the Sweet Harvest is a step above the usual pure seed diets offered to parakeets it's still heavily seed-based and likely to result in vitamin A, B12, D3, and K deficiency as well as induce a calcium deficiency. I might conjecture that his eating in the manner you've described was his attempt to gain those missing nutrients. I can't rule out diabetes mellitus, however, which is a relatively common disease in parakeets resulting in polyphagia (increased hunger). He can be tested for diabetes. Treatment consists of a low carbohydrate diet and perhaps an oral hypoglycemic drug with varying results. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about Tweetie. How is everything going?
Dr. Michael Salkin

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