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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 23839
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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I have a female parakeet of 5 #years old and shes suddenly

Customer Question

I have a female parakeet of 5 #years old and shes suddenly lethargic. She is eating, poops look ok, and she sleeps at night. Had a reproductive problem last year and recovered. No longer laying eggs. Feathers are plucked around vent. Is it her age?
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Veterinarian will know how to help the bird. What is the bird's name and age?
Customer: Jimmie, female 5 years
JA: Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about Jimmie?
Customer: Shes a very happy active bird ,and not active for the most part this last week. Still affectionate. Im afraid she might be hiding pain.
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 months ago.

Jimmie isn't an old bird at 5 years of age. I would expect her life expectancy to be a minimum of 10-12 years. It's important to note that once a parakeet 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. Jimmie's symptoms of lethargy and a plucked vent area are important symptoms but they're not pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of any one particular disorder. Other than the feather loss, do you see anything else unusual in the vent area - a bulge or abnormal skin, e.g?

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 Jimmie's choana - the slit between her oral cavity and nose - and cloaca (vent) may be taken. Whole body X-rays can be helpful as well.

Until she can be attended to, please heat up her environment to 85F by means of a 100W bulb shined into her partially covered cage (not at night when she needs to rest) or by taping a heating pad set on its lowest setting to the sides of her cage. Remove her perches and put her food and water on the bottom of the cage along with her. Add a water soluble avian vitamin such as Oasis brand to her water at half of the recommended dose so as not to make her water distasteful. Add a calcium supplement such as Calcivet or Calciboost to her water. These supplements are available in pet/feed stores. Avoid over the counter antibiotics designed to be placed in her 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 Jimmie's diet consisted of, please? Seeds should compose less than 20% of her 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.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.