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Dr. Chenoa
Dr. Chenoa, Veterinarian
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 217
Experience:  Tufts University graduate, special interest in exotic medicine
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my new lovebird has labored breathing and tufted feathers.

Resolved Question:

my new lovebird has labored breathing and tufted feathers. What could this be?
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. Chenoa replied 10 years ago.
How long have you had her? What temperature is the room at now? Do you have any other birds, and where did you get her? Have you seen any other out of the ordinary behaviors? Is her tail bobbing up and down with her breathing?
Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX help narrow it down.
Dr. Chenoa
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Dr. Chenoa's Post: I've had her for about 6 weeks. I purchased her through a local pet shop. I don't have any other birds. I do notice that she won't eat anything else but sunflower seeds. I have a healthy mix of seed and even tried to feed her fresh fruits and veggies, but she won't eat anything! Her tail doesn't bob up and down and the room is set at about 70F.
Expert:  Dr. Chenoa replied 10 years ago.
Okay, the first thing you want to do is warm the room up even more, preferaby 78-80F. Sick birds need it this warm.
Fluffing feathers is a sign of illness, when it persists beyond rearranging the feathers or a quick nap. It's great that you picked up on this.
6-8 weeks is the classic time in which a bird in a new environment will become ill. There are a few infections that will show up in the first few days, but I see many more that show up with any form of illness much later.
The diet is a concern, and I am glad that you have started trying to remedy it. Ideally we would get her on a good quality pelleted diet, with around 15 % fruits and veggies and also small amounts of (not sunflower though) seeds. This we will deal with later, when she is feeling better. I always want a sick bird to keep eating, and switching foods will be counterproductive right now.
Tail bobbing is usually seen with labored breathing, but it can be quite subtle. Unfortunately, as I am about to describe why, birds with breathing issues don't always have respiratory disease.
Birds do not have diaphragms, which separates the chest from the abdomen. Their lungs and the extentions, called air sacs, extend all the way down the body. So anything enlarged anywhere in the body can press on these organs, causing breathing discomfort.
The seeds come in where that they are very high in fat, and birds are prone to hardening of the arteries (like people), and fat build up in the liver, called fatty liver disease. In fatty liver disease, the liver often enlarges, and can press on the air sacs. Heart disease can also cause breathing troubles.
Fluid build up in the belly can also put pressure on the air sacs. This is most commonly related to egg issues in lovebirds, such as egg yolk peritonitis. The simple presence of an egg, or an egg binding situation can also frequently cause the signs you are seeing in a love bird.
Respiratory infections are also often seen. These can be upper (nares, sinus, choana, etc) or lower in the lungs or air sacs. This can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections.
Unfortunately, as you can see, the list is quite long. The problem with birds is that they hold out as long as they can without showing signs of illness, so whatever the cause, there is a good chance it has been coming on for a while. She could just be showing signs now because she is running out of reserves to keep up the "show" of health. The possibility of difficulty breathing is especially concerning, as far as waiting the weekend to go to a vet goes.
As above, keep her very warm, and if you can, increase the humidity in the area a little bit. I would strongly recommend getting her to an avian veterinarian tonight, or worst case tomorrow morning. (Animals always do seem to get sick on the weekends!) Make sure that the vet is familiar and comfortable with bird handling, conditions, and treatments. If you can't find such a hospital on a Saturday night, a larger emergency facility may at least be able to keep her in an incubator with a great controlled warm, dark, quiet environment until their exotics vet can get in tomorrow. Until she gets somewhere, keep her nice and warm, and humidity if possible.
Good luck, and let me know if you need assistance, even in just trying to find a vet. Association of Avian Veterinarians website is a good place to start.
Dr. Chenoa
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