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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 23838
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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Tweety the bird keeps pecking himself and he suffers from stress,

Customer Question

Tweety the bird keeps pecking himself and he suffers from stress, his heart keeps beating fast and we've been taking him to the vet and still keeps doing it and we have a baby bird that loves him and helps him peck his feathers out.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 6 months ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. We don't have many avian vets on this site. Can you tell me, please, if Tweety has been taken to a vet who specializes in birds? I can understand your frustration at this time. The etiology of feather picking/chewing/self-mutilation can be a challenge to determine particularly if you don't have an avian-oriented vet available where you live. Both medical and behavioral causes exist.Birds usually chew the breast feathers and areas under the wing and around the legs but any pattern can present. Feathers on the head remain unless a molt or medical disorder is present. Medical disorders include viral infections such as psittacine beak and feather disease or polyomavirus (very young birds, usually), bacterial folliculitis, yeast infection, as well as topical irritants. Rarely do birds feather pick due to external parasites. Less commonly, infection with the protozoan parasite Giardia spp. will cause picking of the feathers over the ventral (lower) abdomen and heavy metal ingestion such as zinc can cause a feather-picking toxicosis due to chewing on zinc-plated cages. Anecdotal reports suggest that a unilateral (one-sided) pattern of picking may indicate a disease process under the area of picking such as ovarian or renal disorders.There are many rule-outs for behavioral feather picking including improper socialization when raised by humans resulting in phobic birds or those with obsessive-compulsive disorders - which should be a consideration when this behavior is preceded by a molt. Boredom should be an important differential diagnosis in our pet birds. A traumatic event can cause a bird to become nervous and pick; anecdotal examples abound such as witnessing birds attacked by cats or other birds at a bird feeder, the owner leaving for vacation, a change in the color of the cage, a nervous owner, and the death of a mate or owner. Some of these birds improve in a new home with a new owner for unknown reasons.Here's where an avian-oriented vet will be necessary...All possible medical causes for a bird's feather picking are evaluated first; then if no medical cause is found, behavioral causes are explored or presumptively treated with psychotherapeutic drugs such as clomipramine which would need to be prescribed by a vet. A complete blood count and biochemical profile, blood lead and serum zinc test (Louisiana Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory can run this test on just 0.1ml of blood and serum), X-rays, psittacine beak and feather disease test, and fecal ova and parasite exam and fecal ELISA test for Giardia spp., if necessary, are performed along with a feather follicle biopsy and culture. Consider the introduction of toxins into Tweetie's environment as well – most of which can’t be tested for.General and presumptive treatment includes removing any stressors, improving Tweety's diet* and restoring what he perceives as a normal environment. Consider clomipramine which works well in true obsessive-compulsive disorders. Distracting him with toys and a "sweater" over the area may help but be sure that he can also engage in normal and necessary preening behavior. A collar isn't recommended as it doesn't allow him to engage in normal preening behavior, normal feeding behavior, and normal movement. A collar should only be used if he's in imminent danger of hurting himself (self-mutilation). Finally, many birds normalize once their molt is complete and so simply "watchful waiting" may be appropriate at that time.* Nutritional imbalances are a common cause of illness in our pet birds. What has Tweety'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 6 months ago.
Yes I have taken the bird to the specialist but they just gave him medicine and the collar around his head because he's been pecking right inside his body as well as his feathers you can see his bones and blood. We took the bird to Melbourne Bird Veterinary Clinic in Scoresby and the vet because it's cheaper. He started pecking himself a year later after we got him. He was in the bird aviary, till he started pecking himself again, then we put him in the cage so we can keep an eye on him and he's just finished his medicine and he's feathers are starting to come back. He has bitten right through his skin and got a big hole from the top of his wings and his back and it's full of dry blood and a little bit of blood that leaks and his heart is beating too fast. We usually give them bird seed and I recently just started to give them fresh broccoli and only Tweety will eat the broccoli none of the other birds will touch the broccoli.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
He has also been pecking under his wings and have made him new toys and brought a swing and his in love with a young bird not long left her nest and he's got Misty to help him peck his feathers out for him so I separated them both to I know what to do from there.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 6 months ago.
Tweety is affected badly enough to consider starting him on clomipramine for what is now likely to be a severe obsessive/compulsive disorder. Do you know what the medicine was that he just finished?

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