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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 23824
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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We have had our canary weeks. s symptoms include the

Customer Question

We have had our young canary for 3 weeks. His symptoms include the following:fluffed out feathers, not eating treats, drinks little water, red in urine (no red foods given him), sneeze or coughs often, clicking sound with cough, excessive sleeping. Just lethargic. We had a canary recently who died - had a few of the above symptoms. We CAREFULLY cleaned his cage before letting this canary in. Also, the vet we used to go to is out of town til later in July. The closest bird vet is over an hour away. Please help. What CAN WE DO?
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 months ago.

Unfortunately, not as much as you'd like to do. You've described a critically ill canary.

It's important to note that once a canary acts ill it's already 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. Franki's symptoms of fluffing, hematuria (blood in the urine), exudate (mucusl/pus) in his airways, somnolence, and lethargy are important symptoms but they're not pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of any one particular disorder. I would expect such a canary to be septic (widespread infection), however.

An avian-oriented vet might first treat symptomatically and supportively by providing supplemental fluids and electrolytes by needle and tube feeding a "recovery" food. Blood tests and cultures of Franki's choana - the slit between his oral cavity and nose - and cloaca (vent) may be taken. Whole body X-rays can be quite helpful as well.

Until he 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. If he appears weakened 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 Franki's diet consisted of, please? Seeds should compose less than 20% of his diet. A diet of mainly seed and nuts has excessive fat, carbohydrates, and phosphorus; marginal protein; adequate vitamin E, and are deficient in amino acids, calcium, available phosphorus, sodium, manganese, zinc, iron, vitamins A, D3 (necessary for efficient absorption of calcium), K, and B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, choline, and available niacin. 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.

If at all possible, make the hour's drive. It's really Franki's only chance of recovery. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.

Thank you very much for your response. It sounds as though you really understand the seriousness and told us what to do. I will call and make an appointment for Franki today. Can you tell me what the cause of his "condition" might have been. Is it something we could have done? We will keep him warm and do the other things you suggest.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 months ago.

I'm afraid that I'd be putting the cart before the horse when conjecturing what might underlie his current condition. The most common problems I see in the small pet birds are related to malnutrition and gram negative bacterial infections which we can transmit to our birds through their food and by simply handling them. Franki's respiratory compromise may indicate respiratory mites in canaries as well.

You're quite welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.

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