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Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1759
Experience:  Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
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I have owned my African Grey parrot for 25 years and ...

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I have owned my African Grey parrot for 25 years and she''s always been healthy. She suddenly is not eating, playing, seems extremely weak and regurgitating a lot. I took her to a vet who listened to her lungs and said there seemed to be some congestion. ( he didn''t take any swabs or bloodwork). He prescribed antibiotic shots for 5 days. It''s been 4 days and while she does seems to be a little better, I''m concerned that there may be more to her illness. ( She threw up purple liquid today). Do you have any suggestions? What further testing should I insist upon? I am so worried about her... Thank you!

Hello. Your question has been released to me and I'll sure do everything I can to help you and your Grey. I have one in my flock and I know just how special they are. If I can get a bit more information from you, it will help me to give you my best advice.

Are you positive the vet you are working with is either a certified Avian vet or at least one that comes highly recommended for their Avian expertise and experience? Unfortunately, many dog/cat vets do not have that expertise. More unfortunate, there are a few who will not say so up front and let you get to someone who can really help.

I am suspicious because it's never good practice to just take "pot shots" at a bird with an antibiotic when we don't have a firm diagnosis. They don't handle antibiotics that well, even when there is a definite need.

Do you happen to know, or can you find out, the exact name of the antibiotic and the dosage that was given each time?

Did the vet weigh your bird prior to figuring the dose amount?

As you may know, when talking about birds, vomiting and regurgitating are two different things. Regurgitating is what they do when bringing up food to feed a mate, a chick or even for their human. It is proceeded by a pumping action of the head and neck, then a small amount of partially digested food comes up. It usually is swallowed again.

Vomiting usually has no real forewarning, the food comes up, they almost always shake their head, scattering it all over them and whatever is near by. Using those descriptions, is she actually vomiting?

Are you positive it is a female bird? Has she ever laid any eggs? If by chance you are not sure and if this is a Red Tail, (Congo) tell me if there are any real faint silver outlines on any of her red tail feathers. (This will not work if you have a Timneh.)

Have you seen a change in her droppings; color, consistency, amount?

Is she ever taken outside, like on a porch or deck for fresh air and sunshine?

Does she have a full spectrum lighing fixture?

Tell me about her normal diet and has she had any fresh fruits or vegetables lately that were not products of the U.S., that you know of?

This and anything else you think might be important will help me do my best for you. Patricia

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Thank you so much for your quick response. In answer to your questions:

My bird is a Congo grey- has never laid any eggs, but has been DNA tested for sex.

The vet is avian trained ( not sure if certified), working at a large, well respected animal clinic. We just recently moved to the area,so we went by reccomendations. They did weigh the bird prior to prescribing antibiotic. She weighed 407 grm., (down from her normal weight of around 470 grms). The antibiotic is Claforan - 1 gm. x 2 day for 5 days. We have been administering the shots as shown by the vet.

She was regurgitating often this past week, but it seemed like the liquid today ( purple color), was more like a vomit, but she didn't throw it around. Just open her beak and it came out. Her droppings are very frequent since she's been sick. Small quantity but more often. The color seems normal.

Her normal diet is cut vegetables ( snap peas, grapes, apples and leaf lettuce), Pretty Bird and ZuPreem pellets. I'm letting her have some seeds now as this is the only thing that she'll eat a little bit of since she's been sick.

The weather here is just getting to the point where we can put her outside for fresh air. She has been by closed windows for several months, but gets lots of natural light.

We took her to Mexico with us where we lived for over a year. We know she was healthy then as she had to have a lot of health exams to get both in and out of the country. She's been back in the U.S. for over 6 months now so I don't think there is any relation to that and her illness.

We are having remodeling done to our home ( a lot of plaster dust, etc.) so we moved her several weeks ago into our bedroom away from the confusion and dust.

The only other thing I can think of is that she was making a strange little "wimpering" sound several days before getting sick. I had never heard her make that particular sound before. In fact, it was that sound that made me aware that she was not acting right. When we got her into the vet Saturday on an emergency basis she seemed like she was on her last breath. I couldn't believe how quickly she was deteriorating. She could barely stand on her perch. As I mentioned, she does seem stronger now, but far from her normal self.

Again thank you for your time and any information that you think I should follow up with the vet.
Okay Jo, thanks for the extra information. I apologize for the delay but I wanted to do some more research on this. I will tell you right up front, the purple vomit has me totally stumped. I have never heard of this. My gut reaction however is, she is having some kind of reaction to the medications. Since you do seem to be working with an avian vet, about all I am going to be able to do is tell you what I would do if this were my Grey. Avian vet or not, I'm still not comfortable with jumping on this with antibiotics without a good firm diagnosis. That's just not the way it's normally done. I'm also very perplexed about going with an injectable medication rather than one of the more common ones used for birds that is administered by mouth. Something like Baytril, Cipro, Flagyl or Ronidizole. Before I go on about how I would handle this from today on, I did want to mention a couple diet issues. It sounds like you have her on a pretty good diet with just a couple things I want to make sure you are aware of. The apples really have no nutritional value to them but if she wants some from time to time, you must always make sure they are well cored. Apple seeds contain cyanide. Her over all health would be better served if you can convince her to eat the orange and yellow fruits. Mangoes, papayas, bananas, etc. Lettuce is okay if it's Romaine. The grapes you have to be very careful about and make sure they, and other fresh produce are always products o the U.S. Other countries are allowed to use treatments we cannot use in this country and it has killed birds, more than once. Someone had 7 of their Macaws suddenly drop dead and it was tracked back to some grapes they had just eaten that had come from Chili. So, just a heads up on that. As for taking her out for fresh air, you really have to be careful about that as well. So many airborne nasties out there carried by wild birds, not to mention the danger of a mosquito bite from one infected with West Nile. We humans can survive West Nile. Our parrots will not. Also, sitting her by a sunny window is good for her interest level but it doesn't help her health. She needs a full spectrum light fixture so that she can properly absorb her nutrients and especially that all important calcium. All modern windows filter out the exact portion of the spectrum that our parrots need because it's the same thing that fades our carpets, drapes and furniture. Okay, all that said, back to the problem. My antenna really went up when you mentioned the remodeling that was done. Under the best of circumstances and no matter how careful we think we are being, it can be so dangerous to have them in the house when anything is going on. She is very sensitive to even a small amount of dust in the air. In addition to the dust, they should not be in a home when there are any fresh fumes from paint, varnish, glues from new carpet or floor coverings and even new carpet itself. Many new carpets and a lot of new furniture has high concentrations of toxins in them. Only after many days of airing out, is it safe to return a bird to the home. Whether her problem has come from any one of those things or even a combination, of course I can't say. But if you vet did not know about all these possibilities, she/he should have thoroughly quizzed you on all of it and they most certainly should have done some tests before jumping to an injectable antibiotic. They also should have discussed with you, the use of a pro biotic at the same time so you can be sure she doesn't develop a yeast infection to add to her problems. Again, only being able to tell you what I would do, since it's not really my place to question your vet, I would not have accepted antibiotic treatment without a firm diagnosis. I would now, either insist on one or I would be seeking a second opinion. I would insist on a test of her stool sample, a swab from her mouth/throat and if possible, a test of the vomitus. I don't know how fast she dropped that much weight but that is a significant and very worrisome amount of loss. Rule of thumb is any weight loss of more than 10% is cause for alarm. A 10% loss for her would be around 47 grams. She has apparently, in whatever amount of time it is, lost almost 3 times that. I don't like to come off like a drama queen or to over react in any situation but if this were my bird, I'd be very concerned about her. I think you need to give your vet a call, if you haven't already, tell them about the vomit, quiz them about these other issues, ask why no testing was done prior to the medication decision, make sure they know of the possible exposure to toxic fumes from the remodeling and see what they have to say. If you are not comfortable with what you hear, or if they seem the least bit reluctant to take you seriously and fully answer all you questions, my best advice is find another vet. I wish there was more I could offer in this situation but I hope this will be at least a little bit helpful for you. If you have more questions or if something new has come up, let me know. I will do the best I possibly can for you from long distance, even if I have to dig into some more research. Having a Grey of my own makes me know just how very special they are and I am very worried about your girl. I'll be keeping her in my thoughts and I'll be here for you both if I can help. Patricia
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