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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7608
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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my female cockatiel is breathing very hard and rapidly. I

Customer Question

my female cockatiel is breathing very hard and rapidly. I have given her a form of tetracycline in her water but to no avail. she is hanging in there now for about 2 weeks. what can i do? she has been eating but her keel is prominent.
please help.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 6 years ago.
-- I'm so sorry you're going through this and were sold a bill of goods from that pet store.

Pet Store antibiotics like Ornicycline lines are not useful and potentially dangerous. Added to a bird’s water, they can make the bird go off drinking, resulting in severe or life threatening dehydration.

Most importantly, these are antibiotics for bacteria that have likely evolved and are non-responsive to this med any longer. The pet store products simply do no good and are known to cause lots of harm. They are a complete waste of time and money. Worse, since they kill bacteria indiscriminately, the good bacteria that insures a healthy immune system are compromised, leaving the bird open to a number of other diseases.

So between dehydration and medicating for a non-specified bacteria (remember, this could be a viral infection or other disease and no antibiotic will work on those) - there’s nothing at all good about the pet store products.


Your girl is truly fighting and you've been trying to do all the right things as well. Sometimes we get to the point where we have to admit we need a professional and an actual prescription.

I'm afraid this is where you are. Still, there are steps you can take for supportive care while arranging the vet visit


For a makeshift brooder, use a small box lined with soft clothes like tee shirts.


Use a thick, clean sock and fill it ¾ with plain, raw white rice. Knot the end and microwave it for about 1 ½ minutes. Shake it afterwards to distribute the heat and be sure it's not too hot. Tuck this in just under the cloths.

A heating pad under the box is also helpful, set on low. This is one of the few times I’d ever use both heat sources if necessary to maintain incubation temp (90-105 degrees).


If ever using an electric source for heating anything in anyway, please be vigilant and constantly double checking carefully.

Gently drape a light cover over this box to further help hold heat in and keep light low.


If the bird isn’t eating or drinking on their own, have an eye dropper ready for some sugar water. To make this, 1 tablespoon of regular, white table sugar (absolutely no sugar substitutes) to ½ cup of regular water - mix until completely dissolved and put a drop at the side of the beak so it falls into the mouth rather than forcing it down their throat and chancing inhalation.

You can also dip your well washed and dried finger into natural honey, maple or corn syrup and touch this to the side of their beak as well. Yes, you can do one of these things or all of these things - the purpose is to help with hydration and also to increase blood sugar. As a result you might see an improvement in energy which may, in turn, help in the passing of the egg (if this is the problem) or interesting the bird in taking food and water on their own.

Do not mis read improvement as a cure. The bird still needs to see a doctor. All you’ve done is buy some extra time.


Find an avian vet near you



These days, with birds growing fast in popularity as in home companions, many DVM’s are quite experienced and able to see and treat many birds. If you have a pet store that sells birds or know of any bird breeders – ask them who they use for their bird care.

While Board Certified Avian Vets are the ideal choice in most cases, it’s not necessary. I’ve met BCAV’s that I personally feel shouldn’t be allowed in the same room as a bird, and I know ‘regular’ vets that specialize in avian care to the point of being published with the American Veterinary Medical Association repeatedly and highly sought after for information, input and personal research.

If you have a Pet Smart in town you may have a vet for your bird. Most Pet Smart’s now have a veterinary clinic inside and many of them will see birds (open 7 days a week too).



Since she's showing signs of going light (losing weight, her keel is apparent) she's pretty far along in whatever this is.

If her food has been predominantly seed mixes and millet, there's an increased chance of liver disease, internal tumors, hypovitaminosis A and other complications. Still, given her determination to hang on shows quite a fighter and it's probably out of loyalty and deep bonding to you. That speaks volumes as to your care and love.

Please get her seen tomorrow as soon as possible. Let's get a success story to tell.

Good luck to you both

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Relist: to pay 30 dollars and be told see a vet is ridiculous. please return my deposit and we can call it quits. I will not honor that unfair charge. thank you, XXXXX XXXXX
to pay 30 dollars and be told see a vet is ridiculous. please return my deposit and we can call it quits. I will not honor that unfair charge. thank you, XXXXX XXXXX
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 6 years ago.
-- I have nothing to do with the financial part of this site. I'm just here to answer questions honestly and try to make a difference.

I'll forward your comment to the department that handles this. Good luck.