My budgie is 3-4 years old. He's been healthy. Recently flopped to bottom of cage and flapped around. This happened

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Customer: My budgie is 3-4 years old. He's been healthy. Recently flopped to bottom of cage and flapped around. This happened several times over a week. Now his head moves like he has palsy. He can't perch. He moves in circles. I put a lid of water and one of his mixed finch seed on bottom of cage. He eats carrot shreds daily. He also has a sprig of millet. Appetite reduced. Doesn't chirp anymore. Has a cagemate budgie who has not gotten sick. He likes the lower wall of the cage because the slope seems to support his body. Did he have a stroke?
JA: I'll do all I can to help. Do the budgie's eyes move from side to side? Or do they stay focused straight ahead?
Customer: I think they stay focused. His head moves side to side some. Looks like a person with cerebral palsy.
JA: What environment do you keep the budgie in? Does he interact with other pets or animals?
Customer: In a cockatiel sized cage with 1 budge buddy. Next to my desk in living Room. Has glass door along 1 side of cage. Half cage gets morning sun, Shade rest of day.
JA: And what's the budgie's name and age?
Customer: Never named him. 3-4 years
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: Is there a charge for services? I feel he is so old that there is no use taking him to vet. But he has been living like this about 2 weeks. Doesn't flap around any more. Actually seems a bit better than when it first occurred. Seems a little more balanced than a first.
Answered by Dr. Michael Salkin in 25 mins 1 year ago
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Dr. Michael Salkin
48+ years of experience
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127,042 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Bird Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Avian Medicine, Poultry Veterinary Medicine

I'm sorry to hear about this with your budgie. You've described seizure activity. Here's what you need to know:

We see both simple (previously called petit mal) and complex partial (also called psychomotor) seizures as well as general seizures (previously called gran mal) in birds. Partial seizures may be represented by as little as a facial tic or abnormal motor or sensory activity or behavioral abnormalities. Wing twitching, fear, and aggression are common. Awareness is lost in general seizures and defecation, paddling, limb twitching, and chewing might be seen with this type of seizure.

Seizures can have either an intracranial (within the skull) or extracranial (outside the skull) origin. Intracranial causes include infection in the central nervous system; toxins such as lead, chocolate, and caffeine; neoplasia (brain tumor); cerebrovascular accidents (stroke), heat stress, and idiopathic (unknown cause) epilepsy reported in lovebirds, red-lored Amazons, and the greater Ind***** ***** mynah. Epilepsy is a diagnosis of exclusion after other causes of seizures are ruled out.

Extracranial causes include metabolic disorders, liver disorders, kidney failure, hypoxia (lack of oxygen usually due to respiratory compromise), heart failure, and nutritional deficiencies (in particular vitamin E and B1). What has his diet consisted of, please? Seeds should comprise 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: www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com or here: www.lafeber.com/pet-birds 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. Here are some tricks in transitioning him to pellets: https://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/using-our-foods/diet-conversion/

Initial treatment of a seizing bird requires an avian vet (www.aav.org) who can administer a benzodiazepine such as diazepam (Valium) or clonazepam (Klonopin). Dextrose and calcium might be given IV if hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hypocalcemia (low serum calcium level) are present.

If possible, causes of the seizures should be identified and eliminated. An avian vet will take a thorough history and perform a complete physical exam on him. Baseline data should include a complete blood count and biochemistries, blood lead level, and X-rays.

Long-term management requires anticonvulsant therapy such as with phenobarbital or levetiracetam. Unless the inciting cause can be identified and removed, the long term prognosis of the seizing bird must remain guarded.

Customer
His diet has been packaged seed for finches, millet sprays, mineral block wired to cage, shredded carrots. The only fruit or veggies they’ve liked has been carrots. He has been breathing hard, as if panting for at least 6 months, but behavior was normal before that.

He's likely to be malnourished particularly deficient in vitamin D3 and thus calcium, and hypocalcemia is a common cause of seizures. Until you can get him eating better such as with a formulated diet (pellets), please add a water-soluble avian vitamin such as Oasis brand Vita-Drops to his water. Add a calcium supplement such as Calcivet or Calciboost to his water. These supplements are available in pet/feed stores. His breathing in that manner can be caused by respiratory muscle weakness of hypocalcemia. If it were due to respiratory tract infection, you would have lost him far earlier than now.

Please continue in this conversation if you wish.

Customer
I just assumed he was old and dying. But he’s been living on the bottom of his cage for 2 weeks. And seems to have adjusted to that rather than dying. I have a video of his circling and palsied movements. He hasn’t had any more of the flapping around in the bottom of the cage which I assume we’re the seizures several times for about a week.
Customer
I will go buy the prescribed supplies. Thank you

A 3-4 year old isn't consider old. I would be pleased to review a video. You can text a video to our conversation or upload it to YouTube or a similar app and then give me the link to it.

Customer
Cant seem to upload, but I'm heading to a pet store now for things you prescribed. I'm shocked at malnutrition, I had a cockatiel that lived about 27 years and was so healthy. I'll get on this.Thanks

You're quite welcome.  That's a remarkable age for a cockatiel.

Customer
Thank you Dr Salkin. I bought everything you suggested. Unsure how much he is eating of it. I will work on offering more and varied diet choices. Does he have a chance of recovery?

There's always a chance but diseases of the brain always hold a very guarded to poor prognosis.  I can't ask you to do more than you're doing.

Customer
I'm good w that. Thanks. At least now I know a lot more about Budgie nutritional needs. Thank you.
Customer
I'm truly humbled that an animal of mine has suffered from malnutrition! I have had horses, dogs, cats , birds and chickens for decades. My horse vet used to tell me I had one of the healthiest flocks of chickens he had seen and people gave us amazing horses bec of our reputation for such excellent care. I accept that I can always learn more. Thank you!
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Dr. Michael Salkin
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