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Dr. Pat
Dr. Pat, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3596
Experience:  25+ years working primarily or exclusively with birds
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My parakeet is keeping it's feathers ruffled and the side

Customer Question

Hi.. My parakeet is keeping it's feathers ruffled and the side wings a little to the side. She (I think) seems to be eating, drinking and interacting with her partner (I think a male). There is no nose discharge and the droppings look pretty normal (some very minor loose ones, but all in all, the same). Eyes look clear too. She likes to sit by the mirror and try to peck through the plastic side. I do have a cuttlebone for them and she does visit that often. The male seems to be feeding her and also gets annoyed when she doesn't move from the food until she is good and ready... so, not sure if there is anything wrong? I have photos if you like.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Tweety is the "yellow" one
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She's been like this for a couple of days now.. I thought maybe she would be laying some eggs soon?
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

​Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds exclusively for many years.​

Tweety looks very puffed, and this is a sign of a very ill bird. This is how they "go to bed and pull the covers up". The male may be very worried about her behavior rather than annoyed.

The position or posture shows that she may have pain in the abdomen or may be having trouble breathing.

Is she actually eating? Have you seen her eat on her own?

How long have you had her?

Where is she from?

Any accidents or trauma?

Interactions with other birds/pets/children/guests?

What is the usual diet? has it changed recently?

Has the bird gotten into anything?

What is your geographic location and local weather?

Any cooking, fumes, new pots and pans, candles, etc for the holidays?

These signs are of a very sick bird, and not specific to any one disease. And that means it is not fair to you or the bird to guess, there are so many possibilities.You are going to need local help on this, and a scientific and solid diagnosis to find safe and effective treatment.

The challenge is to find out exactly what is going on, since treatment will depend on careful and accurate diagnosis.

Without a diagnosis, I cannot recommend any particular course of treatment, except good nursing care at home.

IMPORTANT Check the website for the feed you give, there have been many recalls; or check this link:



If you feel comfortable with it, examine the bird thoroughly, using gentle restraint via washcloth or hand towel: do not restrict the chest or hold around the body. Check the eyes, nostrils, mouth and beak if possible, having a good look in there for mucus, redness, masses or anything else unusual. Palpate the tummy for pain, fluid, lumps or anything else (eggs, if female or unknown). Check all the joints for swelling, pain, and mobility. The feathers should be parted to view the skin, muscles and skeleton below; this can be done using a q-tip with isopropyl alcohol or KY gel. Look for bruising, lacerations, injured feathers.

Your job is to keep the bird warm, safe, quiet, and confined; and to provide adequate hydration and calories.

Move the bird to a box or carrier with soft towels in the bottom, no perch, and food and water in low bowls that can be reached easily. Put the whole thing on a heating pad on low or medium. Check it frequently, no overheating allowed! Keep the unit partially covered, warm and quiet. White paper towels or white cloth towels will show the true color of the droppings. Small animal/reptile boxes are great for this purpose.
The bird, bowls and unit must be kept very clean.

Here are some helpful links:

Do not try to force food or water. Pedialyte or electrolyte replacer can help but many birds do not like them; when in doubt, plain warm water is best. They can hydrate from oral fluids almost as quickly as IV if the GI is functioning properly. You can offer warm cooked rice, pancakes, cornbread, grapes, melon, greens in addition to normal food.

Pet/feed store medications and home remedies are harmful, ineffective, immuno-suppressive, and make them much worse and may interfere with the veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment. Do not use them. Homeopathy and natureopathic techniques do not work in avians and can actually be very dangerous.

I know it is expensive, but you may not have many home options, because the first thing you need a vet for is to find out what is going on. Treatment is only as good as the diagnosis. If you call around, you may find a vet to work within your means.

I really must stress that you need a bird-experienced person, and not just a vet who advertises that they care for birds.

You need to take your bird to see an avian-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check click on "find a vet"

for members of AAV in your area or call your regular vet and see who they recommend; ask if they really have worked with birds a lot.

If this were my patient, and money no object, I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, stained with Sedi-stain and unstained for multiple parasites, fungi, spirals; direct smear stained with Sedi-stain and unstained of the oral cavity; bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues. There are MANY DNA/RNA tests for bird diseases. Ultrasound is often more informative than radiographs and does not require anesthesia (ask your vet about this option). Generally I start them out on medications as indicated by the tests.

AAV recommended lab work

Your bird may need injectable fluids, calcium, antibiotics and many other medications. Act quickly and good luck.

Here are a few suggestions that I give everyone: important!

The following guidelines help with basic issues such as nutrition, obesity, good immune status. Surprising how the following can make a bird healthy, and how infrequently birds are ill if they are on the following regimen. No amount of medicine is going to work if the birds' basic needs are not met.

​great resource link:​

AAV Guidelines

Birds should be on a high-quality, preferably prescription, pelleted diet: I prefer High-potency Harrison's


In addition, they should be offered dark leafy greens, cooked sweet potatoes, yams, squash, pumpkin; entire (tops and bottoms) fresh carrots and so forth. No seeds (and that means a mix, or millet, or sprays, etc. etc.) and only healthy, low-fat high fiber people food. A dietary change should be closely monitored and supervised by your avian vet.

Daily Maintenance

Birds should get 12-14 hours dark, quiet, uninterrupted sleep at night. Any less and they can suffer from sleep deprivation and associated illnesses. They should be covered or their cage placed in a dark room that is not used after they go to bed.

The cage material should be cleaned everyday, and twice a day if the bird is really messy. Paper towels, newspaper, bath towels are ok. Never use corn cob, sawdust, wood chips, or walnut shell.
Food and water dishes should be cleaned and changed daily. Keep one set cleaned while the other is in use.

Fresh, perishable food should be placed in separate food bowls. Remove fresh food from the cage after a couple of hours to avoid spoilage.

Change cage papers daily, and clean the grate and tray weekly.

Clean food debris or droppings from toys and perches as needed (which can be as often as once a day).

Grit is not necessary for birds, and will cause digestive problems and death. The best sources of minerals (and vitamins) are leafy greens. Never give grit, gravel sandpaper or cement perches. A bird will eat those to excess when it is not feeling well or if there is a nutritional deficiency. They do not need it at all (an old myth from the poultry days, even poultry do not need it). It can cause an impaction and lead to serious or fatal consequences.

Useful links:

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
HI.. Oh no.. I was hoping this wasn't the case ... I have her over 3 years and got her from PetSmart. We are in PA and the house is not kept warm, but comfortable. I am very careful about cooking fumes - I know Teflon is not good for them.. again, I am very careful... They are not let out of the cage at all...I don't even light candles anymore because I know it's not good for them. I clean their cages every day and change the water and food daily too. Oh gosh, OK.. I'm going to have to find an Avian vet asap.. we are new to this area, so I will have to see if something is close by and open ! I try to keep them warm with a heavy covering and make sure they are covered at night. I will check your sites.. thank you very much...
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

You can keep this conversation going if needed. It may be difficult to find a vet these next few days. The main thing is to see if she is pooping and what it looks like, and if she seems thin.

Use the links I sent to help find a vet. If you have trouble, let me know.

If they will eat people food, sometimes the following are appetizing, when served warm, to birds who are ill:

YAM BREAD (cornbread mix+cooked yam)
1' cube per bird

​1-2 x ​daily

RICE MIX (cooked short-grain brown rice plus fresh veg)
1/4 cup per bird daily

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you very much.. I cannot believe of all the times, it's now... I have been watching the droppings and thankfully, they are not loose. She doesn't look like she lost any weight and her pal has been feeding her at times too. I will see if I can take her out of the cage - I know they hate being handled, but I will try. From what I can see, I don't see any discharge from the nose and her eyes do look clear. I will continue to see what I can do for her and get her the help she needs. Again, thank you!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Oh, and also, they don't like "people" food.. I've tried in the past and they ignore it!
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

You can try offering it warm. Do not give up, put new food in every day. They will eventually try it.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
OK, thank you again!