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Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1759
Experience:  Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
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cockatiel sudden death

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Saturday morning our cockatiel of some 16 years, without any warning signs began to deteriate at an alarming rate and passed away in about 12 hours. The bird experienced some discharge (mucus and blood) from his nostrals at the on set, Drooped right wing followed, eventually was unable to perch. Some dramatic event must have taken place and we would appreciate your opinion.

Hello. I'm so sorry for your loss. I have to tell you right up front, I will not be able to give you an exact cause of death. Short of having a necropsy done by a very good avian vet, no one can tell you for sure what happened. What I can do is give you some possibilities. For some of them, you will have to do a mental inventory of what may have been going on in the hours prior to his symptoms and death. One big obstacle to tying it down is being able to know for sure, how long she may have been in trouble. One of the problems we have with our parrots is their very strong instinct to mask all symptoms of illness or injury, from us. In the wild, they are prey and to show weakness is to get kicked out of the safety of the flock. By the time we see any symptoms, it's because they are too sick and too weak to keep up the pretense. A couple of the first things we will be able to notice is a change in behavior, (less playing, less or no talking, etc.), any change in the appearance of the droppings that lasts more than 24 hours and cannot be accounted for by diet. In this case, there may have been some very subtle symptoms or it may have been a sudden catastrophic event. The main symptom sounds as if there was something respiratory. A few of the causes for something like that to happen with little or no advance warning would be on overheated piece of non stick cookware, using the cleaning cycle of a self cleaning oven, using a hair dryer, a toaster oven or any of the several other household items we have that may contain a non stick product without us knowing it. Some of the products that can cause respiratory issues that can be cumulative for a period of time, then suddenly cause death would be the use of any aerosol products, any air fresneners, burning candles, cigarette smoke, absorption through the feet of nicotine from the unwashed hands of a smoker, repeated use of strong cleaning products in the vicinity of the bird. Many house plants are toxic, if by chance there were any he might have been able to nibble on. Another possibility is metal poisoning. If he was still in an original cage or an older cage, it may have contained metals that we have, in recent years, learned are very dangerous cages to use. The same with any older toys that had any metal parts or metal hangars. I will give you some links to information about a lot of these types of dangers as I'm sure I'm not remembering all of them, off the top of my head. He may also have had a cerebral incident, meaning a stroke. If it was a stroke, it could have been strictly age related or could have been brought on by any of these toxins. If he was on a seed only diet or even a primarily seed diet, he was at risk of things like fatty tumors and fatty liver disease, neither of which would have given a lot of advanced warning and what symptoms there would have been, again would have been subtle for quite a while. Those last two would be way down on my suspect list, considering the symptoms but I just mention them in an effort to be as thorough in possibilities as I am able. I'm sure you would like to have an exact cause of death but without the post mortem, it's just not possible. One comfort you can take is your little guy lived a long life so far as captive Tiels go so you must have been doing a pretty good job with his care. I hope this information will at least be helpful to you in arriving at some kind of closure. If you have any more questions, just let me know. Patricia

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