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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28440
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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My new cockatiel became ill and died within 48 hours and I

Customer Question

My new cockatiel became ill and died within 48 hours and I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late. My parakeet is exhibiting similar symptoms: fluffing up, shivering, change in personality (not guarded and timid as she usually is), sleeping in bottom of cage. She is eating and drinking and seems to have improved since yesterday when we added vitamin drops to her water and put a heat lamp on her. She is still fluffed up. She appears to have diarrhea and has made a sneezing sound a few times. I am trying to get her to the vet asap. In the meantime, is there anything else I can do for her and is there an illness that fits this description of symptoms?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
It's important to note that once a pet bird acts ill they're critically ill and in need of the attention of an avian-oriented vet (please see here: This is a protective mechanism because ill birds are attacked by other birds in the wild. Your parakeet's symptoms of fluffing, diarrhea, sneezing, and sitting on the bottom of her cage are all important symptoms but they're not pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of any one disorder.
An avian-oriented vet will first treat symptomatically and supportively by providing supplemental fluids and electrolytes by needle and tube feeding a "recovery" food. Blood tests and cultures of her choana - the slit between her oral cavity and nose - and cloaca (vent) may be taken.
Until she can be attended to, please heat up her environment to 90F by means of that heat lamp or 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 - as you've done - 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 her diet consisted of, please?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She has been on 'Vitakraft menu care complex vitamin fortified parakeet food with probiotics and dha'. What do you think could be wrong with her. The cockatiel acted and appeared healthy when I got him. I don't know who had the illness first???
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She has been using her perches more today. Should I still remove them??
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
The Vitacraft is a step up from a basic seed diet but still consists mainly of seed which I suspect that she's picking out and avoiding the other nutrients in that product. I still suspect malnutrition in the form of calcium and vitamin A, B12, D3, and K deficiency. I'd like to see her eating hard boiled egg yolk, tiny pieces of fresh green tops, cheese, and meats.
Her diarrhea and sneezing are most indicative of bacterial infection which will become systemic (sepsis) in birds compromised by imbalanced diets. the cockatiel may similarly have been nutritionally compromised but I can't rule out that it might have brought an infectious agent along with it.
If she's strong enough not to fall from perches, there's no need to remove them. It's done for our weak birds' safety.
Please continue our conversation if you wish.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Are there any specific meats, cheeses or greens that I should avoid? I have string cheese, cheddar, colby jack, broccoli, kale, romaine lettuce, green onions, lunch meats, hamburger, etc. Will all work equally well????
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
If she does have a bacterial infection, will her body have a chance of fighting it if I'm able to nourish her enough or will she only recover with antibiotics?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I would avoid onion but all of the other foods are terrific. Antibiotics are indicated in these birds because they're already so ill. Please take a look at this site which should be helpful: Remember, these birds are scavengers in the wild.