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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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Andrea, one of our two 20-year old cockatiels, has been diagnosed

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Andrea, one of our two 20-year old cockatiels, has been diagnosed with a liver issue, and we have been giving her a liver supportive from out vet twice a day for almost two weeks. Andrea has been recovering steadily and is eating now in her normal way and amount. We had one incident several days ago when I think some of the liver med was aspirated. She went through a bout of 'sneezing', ejecting kind of bloody liquid through her mouth for several minutes. We were really worried but she stabilized on her own.
Tonight, about an hour ago, a similar incident occurred. We gave her the liver med as usual. A minute later I was taking her back to her cage when she escaped from my hands and 'crash landed' beak-first into the vinyl floor. Since the crash, she has again been ejecting a bloody liquid and seems to be working a lot to breathe, and breathing rapidly.
Now, 90 minutes after the incident, she seems to be better and is even showing an interest in food - her passion. We gave her a small amount of millet. What advice can you offer?
(She lost sight in her second eye at the same time as the liver issue was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. She is adjusting to that pretty well and goes for walkabouts with her buddy cockatiel April. But I am tall and it seems a long way to the floor!)
Thank you for being there!
-- You truly love your 'tiel and I admire you for the measures you've already taken to make her well.

Poor little girl has it rough right now doesn't she?

Is she perching right now ? Is she fluffed up at all?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

She is perching and preening.

OK, so let's focus on supportive care and monitoring right now, but I have to urge a vet visit preferably tomorrow/Sunday or at the latest by Monday.

Once we see any bloody discharge from a bird like this we have to take it as a very serious symptom. These little bodies can have very severe reactions to what seems like 'minor' blood loss to our perspective.

Given that she's elderly and fighting liver disease - there's no reason to take a chance.

She could possibly have aspiration pneumonia - or what may soon be asp. pneumonia and that is quite serious.


You'll want to ready a brooder box. This is a sort of ‘intensive care unit' at home.
If she starts to fluff up at all or seem weak, off balance, you'll have to stabilize her and warm her.

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 one half of 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 she seems stable on her own in the cage - keep her on low activity and in a warm area in your home. It might also help to install a hot mist humidifier or vaporizer (no meds) in her immediate area to keep her airways moist and soothed.

Remember, even when it seems like symptoms are resolved and a bird 'acts' healthy and fine --- they could be 'masking'. They are one of natures most adept fakers! That's why they not only preceeded us by a couple of billion years on this planet, but will likely still be here long after we're not.

You have to trust your logical mind and what you see (the bloody discharge) and not so much what she wants you to believe

August Abbott, CAS and 3 other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Thanks much for your information and compassion. We will try to set up a 'bird icu' as you recommend and watch her carefully.

I'd also like you to keep updated ok? Just use the reply or follow up option on this question - I want to know how she makes out. Cockatiels are very special to me

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. About an hour ago my wife got Andrea out of her cage and said she was looking very bad. We put a heating pad on my wife's lap, put Andrea on the pad, and draped a towel over her. Andrea was making a kind of clicking(?) sound (like when you have phlegm in your throat) with each breath. She was breathinh with her beak open. Her body was laying down without leg support. After 30-40 minutes of this, Andrea climbed up my wife's chest and to her favorite shoulder. She has been perched there (2 legs) and no longer with her beak open. She is breathing very rapidly (>100/min), though, looks like it takes effort.
We will take turns sitting with her tonight until something changes.

Oh my, this is not good. Keep her warm and yes, keep her feeling safe and secure with you. At this point just be there for her and tell her how proud you are of her determination and spirit.

You should probably be prepared to rush to an emergency vet with avian experience. Remember, even when she's acting fine chances are she's 'acting'.

Spontaneous recoveries from symptoms as you've descibed are just not likely. She's 'masking' because that's what birds do. And Andrea is being the best bird she can be.

Hang in there. I'll check back to see how the night goes in the morning. My heart is with you,

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Andrea stayed on my wife's shoulder for several hours more.She was still, awake, and not happy about any kind of movement. She did not want to go to her cage or with me to another chair. Andrea settlted down some hour by hour. When my wife had to get up and go to bed, Andrea let my wife put her in her cage. That was about 7 hours ago. I woke up a short while ago and peeked in on Andrea. She is on her perch and breathing more slowly (more like 60/min than the 120/min we saw earlier) and it looks like she is not working as hard to breathe. (Fwiw, we all have an unusual sleep cycle here, and napping or slowly waking up about this time (1:00PM Eastern) is not uncommon for these two humans and two cockatiels.)
I am trying to line up an emergency vet visit today or tomorrow; I'm concerned about the travel and vet visit trauma, though.

I appreciate your concern and will be updating you later today.

I hope this finds things going well or at least stabilized with Andrea.

Don't think twice about the trauma of a vet visit. In nearly 40 years I have never once seen a bird succumb to the trauma of visiting a vet, but I've seen too many to count not survive because they didn't get to a vet.

The grey area 'exception' were 2 macaws who had serious heart defects and a tendency to stress way beyond normal upon examinations

You and your wife have gotten Andrea to a ripe old age that most 'tiels don't see. You very likely saved her life last night by keeping her warm and loved.

I'd like to see Andrea hit 30 yrs old or even break the record for longevity for 'tiels (I believe it's slightly over 30 yrs) - just because I know how these little packages of feathers, fluff and personality tend to entwine in our hearts and become part of us.

Can you tell I used to have a 'tiel?

--- I'll be checking in on and off all day so please be patient if you have to wait a bit for my reply to anything you post

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Time for an update. Andrea did survive through that ordeal. In the two days since, she has been 'acting somehat normally', to the point of vocally protesting my taking her out of the cage for her oral liver support med. She has spent some time out on my wife's shoulder and with her buddy.

Andrea was more subdued today and didn't eat for half of the day, but she has been eating some pellets and Avicakes on her own in the last couple of hours. She is moving about in the cage sometimes, looks 'normal'. (I think I'm getting over-vigilant.)


Anyway, The vet said a few days ago that he wanted to give her an 'injection of liver supplement'. I think we will go ahead asap since she and we have survived the weeekend. What can you tell us about such an injection?


Thanks again for your continued caring for Andrea. More updates as they come...


Thank YOU for the update. 'tiels are always in my heart. One little male 'tiel changed my life - and led me out of wildlife rescue & rehab straight into my life's work now with psittacines, from 'tiels to lovies to macaws

I'm SO happy that Andrea is still fighting.

About the 'liver supplement' -- it would depend on what it is. Is this vet an avian specialist ? Are most or all of his patients birds?


I have to be responsible here and remind you that birds are master 'maskers'. It's not unusual for things to suddenly improve from looking or being quite dire. With birds we can't always trust what we see.

Stay alert and go ahead and remain overly vigilant. I'd rather an owner be like you than not

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dr. Abbott - I am happy to report that Andrea has apparently established a 'new normal' baseline for the last few days this week.


She lost about 10% of her weight since this ordeal began a couple of weeks ago. She was a bit plump at 105g for years before this. She is eating a consistent amount now (1tsp pellets, 2 Avicakes, a few grams of millet) on a daily basis and maintaining her weight at 94g.


Andrea is adapting to the loss of vision that was occurring at the same time that this episode began. She generally has a short daily walkabout with her cockatiel buddy April, and likes to 'watch TV' with her mother or me for an hour or two in the late evening. She is less active in her cage than months ago, but easily navigates to her food and water (w vitamins now) dishes.


We have been placing and changing often paper towels under her perch so that we can observe her poop patterns, which are looking pretty normal.


We did not get that injection yet, but plan to do so this week.

I will contact you if there are any major developments.


Thank you once more for your wonderful support! Best wishes.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Well, Andrea left us yesterday evening. We humans and her cockatiel buddy April are all very sad.


Right after I gave her the usual 2nd dose of liver medicine,... I started to describe the details... She is gone and we miss her. It is tempting to run through the 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' scenarios and find blame, but we know that will not change the sad fact of Andrea's departure.


Twenty years of love.


If you have any words of advice for these days of grieving they would be welcome. Thanks again for everything you have done to make her time with us a little longer.


Christopher and Ana Woodard


Christopher, Ana, I truly wish there was something I could say that would take the pain away. You loved well and too much which is why it has torn a piece of your heart out. All of those years amounted to a lifetime for Andrea; a very high end lifetime for any cockatiel anywhere. Let that give you comfort. Of all the 'tiels in all the world, with so many in bad places, this 'tiel not only got a name, but a family. Not just 'owners'. If you saw what I see in the course of my rescue efforts, trust me, you'd know how special you are

I've been in your shoes. It was a little 'tiel that changed my career from wildlife rescue at one of our state's preserves. If not that for that 'tiel, too many to count speices of parrots would not have been rescued from a life of neglect, pain and often disease. One little cockatiel moved mountains in his very short life.

Let Andrea do the same. Plant a tree in her honor or make a donation to any rescue you choose. Better yet, don't let this pain stop you from honoring Andrea by rescuing another cockatiel from a reputable rescue/rehab near you.

Staying busy helps put time behind you and only time can dull the pain. You have to ask yourselves: "Wasn't that 20 years of joy and love with her worth this agony of missing her?". Of course it was.

It's been over a decade since that little guy changed my life with his always happy attitude and devotion to me. The hole in my heart remains. But oh how happy he is - and in awe, when he sees his kindred spirits removed from bad places and taught how to be the magnificent birds they are and always were meant to be.

Tomorrow will be a better day for you; and the day after that...

Allow yourself to mourn your companion's loss, but remember how very much she taught you and one of a birds best lessons is that every new day deserves a song and a chance