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Patricia
Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1758
Experience:  Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
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My parakeet has developed a hunched back and ...

Customer Question

My parakeet has developed a "hunched back" and constantly bends/leans to one side. Otherwise, she seems fine. Should I worry?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.

Hello. Yes, most definitely you need to worry. I can try to help you but I'll need some more information to be able to give you my best advice.

Are you postitive it is a female bird?

Is she a lone bird or does she have any cage mates?

If she is hand tame, can you have her step on to your hand or finger, raise her to eye level and look down along her underneath. Tell me if you see any indication of a lump or swelling on her lower tummy.

If she is not hand tame, don't stress her by trying to handle her. Just do your best to make the observation with her in her cage.

I need to know all about her usual diet and, does she have a cuttle bone in her cage, and does she have access to any kind of grit or gravel?

Thanks, Patricia

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Reply to Patricia's Post: No. I think (thought) she was female but I am not sure.
We have two parakeets.
(S)he is not hand tame (the other one is). When I get home, I will look at her/him.
The pair are fed "parakeet food" and nothing else. There is no cuddle bone. I do not believe they have access to grit or gravel.
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.
Okay, I'll be waiting to hear what you find out when you check. As for gender, the way to tell is by the color of their cere. That is the fleshy area just above the beak where the nostrils are located. On a female, it will be pink, cream color or similar. On a male, it will be some shade of blue. Also, in the meantime, no grit or gravel is good. I'm glad to hear that. No cuttle bone is bad and you need to pick one up "yesterday" and get it in the cage. Also, I'm assuming "parakeet" food means some kind of seed mix and nothing else? One additional question, do they have any toys with metal parts or metal hangars and is there any break in the finish on their cage? Let me know what you find out and we will go from there. Patricia
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Reply to Patricia's Post: She is a she. We will get a cuddle bone asap. They do have metal things in their cage. I don't think there is a break in the finish but I will check.
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.
Okay, let me know about gender, and if there is any visible swelling on the tummy.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Reply to Patricia's Post: She is defintely a SHE.
There is no break in the finish on their cage.
The "metal toys" are just bells on their plastic toys. None of the bells are missing any parts. They all appear to be intact.
Parakeet food does mean a seed mix and nothing else.
There is NO visible indication of a lump or swelling in her tummy.
Also, she CAN straighten up and periodically does. However, her main posture is sitting with her head bent to the right and hanging down past her perch/feet.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Reply to Patricia's Post: She is defintely a SHE.
There is no break in the finish on their cage.
The "metal toys" are just bells on their plastic toys. None of the bells are missing any parts. They all appear to be intact.
Parakeet food does mean a seed mix and nothing else.
There is NO visible indication of a lump or swelling in her tummy.
Also, she CAN straighten up and periodically does. However, her main posture is sitting with her head bent to the right and hanging down past her perch/feet.
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.
Okay, I appreciate you effort in getting me the rest of the information. It's really helpful. The reason I was asking about the metal items is not because I was worried about missing parts. Although, that is always something we have to watch out for with toys that have small parts. What I was concerned about was if she has access to any metals that may contain either lead or zinc or both. The same with any breaks in the surfaces of a metal cage. It's only been relatively recent that we have discovered how highly toxic the heavy metals can be to our birds. It is one of the toxins that is cumulative. It builds in their body, over time, then suddenly we see the symptoms when they are really ill. Seeming to lose use of a limb and/or disorientation in the way they sit, stand or even fly and climb around is one of the symptoms of that poisoning. Most older cages and toys were dangerous because we didn't know better. Currently, the really good name brand items should be okay but there are still some less than reputable mfg. and stores are still putting these dangerous items on the shelves. Unfortunately, our birds don't get the same government protections children and some other pets enjoy. It falls on us, the owners to stay on top of it. Here are several links that will be helpful to you in researching that problem plus ways to check their toys and any other metal surface they can reach.

Testing for Zinc in Parrot Toys, Play Gyms, and Cages

This article discusses the problem of zinc toxicity in parrots and ...

Parrot Safety_Bird-Wise Information Parrot Safety, Zinc Click here: Testing for Zinc in Parrot Toys

Click here: Testing for Zinc in Toys and Gyms

Click here: Heavy Metals are Poisonous to Birds

Click here: NCS - Heavy Metal Poisoning

Click here: Lead poisoned pets and your family

If she is definitely female, and considering the posture you are describing, I don't think we can rule out the possibility of her being egg bound either. If there is that visible swelling, that pretty well guarantees the problem but the absence of it, visually, does not rule out the possibility. The diet she has been on makes her very at risk of egg binding also. A proper diet would not be more than about 30% seeds and seed products. Seeds are very high in fat, some worse than others. They need a seed mix that has no sunflower seeds in it, (way too much fat) and they need a good brand of pellets mixed with the seeds. But also, in a separate dish, everyday, they need lots of fresh fruits, veggies, leafy greens and a lot more. If she has had only seeds and if she has not had the cuttle bone as a valuable back up source of calcium, she could be egg bound. That is a life threatening situation, all by itself. But it can get much worse if left untreated. She will be at risk of having the egg rupture inside of her, which is why I said if you handle her, do it with the utmost care. If that happens she is at risk of massive infection. If she strains too hard, trying to pass the egg, she can suffer a prolapse of her uterus. She will literally turn herself inside out. If that should happen, you have a very short time to get her in the hands of a competent vet to save her life. The posture you have described, while not the only possible explanation, is very indicative of a bird who is egg bound and straining. I'm sure you understand there is no way I can diagnose for you from long distance, and I'm going to urge you to get her to a proper vet just as soon as you can. In case you don't already have one you trust with birds, I have some links that should help with that. Pretty much all Avian vets have, at the least, someone on call, 24/7. It's just the nature of birds for it to be an emergency much more often that it's a regular office visit. Usually all we have to do is give them a call, tell them what we think is going on and they meet us there if it's after hours. On the chance that an egg is her problem, there is one thing you can try. Take her, cage and all if possible, to a small, hot, steamy bathroom. If you can do it without stressing her and without putting any pressure whatsoever on her body, you can scrub your hands, then with a clean finger tip, rub some cooking oil around her vent. The combination may help her pass the egg. However, this is a last ditch, home grown attempt and doesn't have a very high success rate. It's only better than nothing. If she is bound up and if she doesn't pass the egg after about 30 minutes or so of the steamy enviornment, then she needs to get to a vet asap. I hope this helps her out but if you have any more questions don't hesitate to let me know. I'll be here, off and on, for the rest of the evening, EST. I'll sure do everything I can to try to help the little sweety. Patricia

Click here: Parrots - Avian Vets Recommended - Judy Leach's Parrots - macaws, cockatoos, and african greys

Click here: Find your local Avian Veterinarian

Click here: Avian Veterinarians Recommended by Bird Breeders and Owners http://www.birdsnways.com/articles/abvpvets.htm

Click here: World Wide Avian Vet Listing

Click here: BirdsnWays - Avian Veterinarians - Vets - Vet Services for Pet Parrots & Exotic Birds

This one looks like an advertisement for Harrison pellets but they are only sold by vets so it's another good list to check. Click here: Harrison's Bird Foods is a family of certified organic pet bird diets that were formulated to make your bird as he

Here are a collection of other links to a lot of good Budgie information, just for future reference. They include further explanations of the diet issues and the health consequences of inadequate diet, plus some handy safty precautions we all must take.

Click here: Grit, Gravel and your Parakeet / Budgie

Click here: Hepatic Lipidosis

Click here: PetCareLibrary - Tumors in Parakeets (pvy.com)

Click here: Parakeet Medical and Safety Information

Click here: Parakeet Budgie and Keet FAQs and Info

Click here: Toxic and Safe Plants/Trees for Birds - Household Poisons

Click here: Birdsnways - Safe Plants & Trees for pet birds, pet parrots &exotic birds

Click here: - Budgie Nutrition

Click here: Diet: Safe & Toxic Foods

Obesity & Diets (budgies)

Click here: The Basics: Intro to Budgies / Parakeets

Click here: The Budgie and Parakeet Place - Care, Training, Pictures and More

Click here: BUDGIE CARE SHEET

Click here: More Birds Die as a Result of Air Fresheners: That Stinks!!

Click here: Bird Proofing Your Home: Household Hazards for Birds

Click here: Bird Proofing Your Home - Avoid These Pet Bird Hazards

Click here: The Silent Killer, by Joanie Doss

Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1758
Experience: Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
Patricia and other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
She has been like this for a long time (month or two). Could she have been straining on an egg for this long?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
She has been like this for a long time (month or two). Could she have been straining on an egg for this long?
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.
No, she would not strain that long on a fully developed egg. She would not be likely to survive a full blown egg binding for that long. But, it's not impossible that her body is partially forming eggs, for which her body cannot form true and solid shells due to her lack of proper calcium levels. Egg binding usually happens when there is just enough calcium in their reserves, or their body has robbed enough from their bones to make a shell, but the shell is soft. When that happens, they can't pass it. There is a different type of binding that can happen when the calcium from everywhere, reserves and bones, is so depleted, they can't form any kind of shell to speak of. In those cases, we sometimes get lucky and the egg can be reabsorbed by their body. For the short term, that is a good thing because it takes away the risk of the egg rupturing and/or the prolapse from the straining. However, it's not good at all for the long term. If by chance this is what has been going on, she may have been in an ongoing process of partially forming the egg, being bound for a while, reabsorbing it, and starting all over. That could also account for you not being able to detect the usual tell tale lump of swelling. If her egg had not formed enough shell, that's what happens. Remember I said, the absence of a lump would not rule out the possibility. Maybe if you will get her the cuttlebone and get started introduction her to healthier, high calcium foods, (which won't be easy) and taking steps to discourage laying, it might get better. It's just not possible for me to say for sure. All in all, I still would like for you to take her to the vet for at least what we call a well bird checkup. It could be much better for her in the long run, to catch any problems early and it will certainly be better for your budget. Just in case she is trying to form eggs, a couple steps you can take to try to discourage it will be to rearrange things inside her cage, move the cage itself, if only across the room for a few days then back again and reduce the amount of "daylight" hours she has. Upsetting their routine by moving things can be a discouragement to becoming "nesty" and lowering the daylight hours makes them sense a season change. You can use a dark cage cover and cover her earlier in the evening and/or uncover later in the morning. Try to keep her to approximately 10 hours of daylight. Let me know if you need anything else. Patricia

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