How to Safely Medicate a Parrot

Since coming home, my poor parrotlet has just not been himself. I put it down to the stress of a new home, quarantine, and the big move, and gave him time to settle. Six weeks in, however, and things were still ‘off.’ I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But something was up. Appetite: fine. Poop: fine. No nasal discharge, fluffing up, or other typical symptoms of sickness in birds. Ptak just seemed a little more tired than usual – and that I attributed to his moult, which began upon his arrival here and is only just now slowing down.

A few days ago, I noticed he seemed to have a little trouble breathing. Tail pumping ever so slightly, he climbed to his sleeping perch and had a nap directly after his breakfast. Anyone who knows him will see that this is bad news. Post fuel-up, Ptak is usually ready to play! Even when I left the room, he stayed napping. Normally you can’t hear yourself think for his chatter. After Charlie, I will not leave a bird whom I feel is ‘off’ again.

 

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My sweet canary, Charlie.

Trust your instincts. If something seems to be amiss somehow, it isn’t a waste of money to consult a professional.

So I phoned our local avian vet and made an appointment for the same day. We packed up one fussy parrotlet and went.

Of course, my bird promptly made a liar out of me. He chattered and fidgeted the whole way, even in the office. The vet examined him and declared him to have no chest issues (heart, airsacs, and lungs are fine and clear), and no odd lumps or bumps.

Upon weighing him, however, she declared, ‘You’re a little chunk!’ My parrotlet measured in at a shocking 37 grams. He was just 30 grams at his last vet check in Scotland! Fortunately, this is most likely down to his time in isolation, where he wasn’t able to fly the way he’s used to. I know now that he needs even less on the seed, more chop and veggies still. It certainly explained why Ptak flies a little way and needs a rest. My dad commented later that perhaps we can dye him grey and stamp ‘Goodyear’ across his side. 😉 (All in good fun!)

At the end of the check up, the vet did a gram strain and trimmed his talons toes.

 

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Parrotlet trying his hardest to look grumpy.

All that was on April 3. The gram strain came back positive, and a certain little blue bird is now subjected to a course of antibiotics: .02 ml of them administered by beak, to be exact. That would be approximately two droplets.

Antibiotics went fine the first day. Towelled him and administered the meds with a little help. A few days ago, however, he inhaled some of the medicine!

My poor little bird stopped fussing in my grip. I let him go immediately. He flew away and seemed unable to draw breath. I could hear fluid in his chest (thank God it was only one droplet, max). My mum easily grabbed him as his eyes closed – signs numbers two and three that this was an emergency – and held him upside down, gently swinging him. Ptak coughed then and was fine.

I immediately put him in his carrier/hospital cage. My instinct was to keep him quiet while we phoned our vet’s office. He had some residual difficulty breathing that day (coughing and sputtering occasionally), but was quickly recovering. After a bit of trouble, we managed to reach a vet.

 

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The emergency bird hold.

He told us a number of things that may be helpful to other owners struggling with the question of how to safely medicate an un-trained parrot:

1. Aspiration is a common occurrence with birds who struggle during the process. (It emphasises the importance of continuing syringe training even if, as with a certain parrotlet, it seems not to be paying off yet!)

2. A bird who has choked or inhaled medicine should be kept quiet and calm in a covered hospital cage for a few hours to let the airways clear.

3. Our vet gave us permission to attempt dosing his favourite food (egg or strawberry) with the antibiotics. It’s not as efficient, but better than risking another incident. Only do this with your avian vet’s guidance, however.

4. Ordinarily, the best way to medicate an untrained bird via syringe is to restrain it either in your hand (no pressure on the chest!) or with a dark, solid colour towel. Holding the bird upright, put the syringe at the LEFT side of the beak, pointing towards the back right, and gently depress the stopper. If the bird won’t open its beak, you can gently use the syringe to gently coax it open. Careful not to overwhelm the bird.

5. Always follow your vet’s directions, running a full course. During administration, stop if your bird goes limp, ceases to struggle, is fighting, or appears to have difficulty breathing.

 

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Look at this photo I found of Mishka – always involved in everything.

In any case, that’s what’s been happening here! Mavi has been very sweet – still loves my sister, but let me put him on his back and scratch his head for a bit this evening. Hormones are bearable this year; learning about diet and its impact has really helped. Our Senegal has a great love of shoes, which fulfils the hard part of keeping him busy and distracted. Wood toys? Yeah, he likes them, but they’re not as entertaining! Boots, crocs, clogs, flip flops, sandals, flats, trainers. None are safe. (He only gets fresh pairs, or lightly used ones that have been sanitised.) Too bad they don’t last longer, haha.

Ptak is feeling better, and seems to be ingesting his medicine with no problems. He only has a few days left, so we’ll see how he is then. He’s been chatting, anyway, so there’s a definite improvement.

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6 thoughts on “How to Safely Medicate a Parrot

  1. Birds are so good at trying to hide illness that I agree you should not take the risk. A couple of years back I noticed some strange liquid in Clyde’s cage but wasn’t sure what it was. It was only when he was actually sick on me that I saw there was a real problem…it is not the same as regurgitation, that’s for sure! Best to always choose an avian vet cos others don’t know anything beyond cats, dogs and the like as a rule. Anyway, £300 later, he was diagnosed with ecoli, probably from a seed bell and thankfully recovered with antibiotics. Phew.

    • Wow, you mean the millet and sunflower bell-shaped things? I give those to my canary sometimes… I wonder what the risks are? Good thing you caught it! Birds can be so subtle. It leaves me so paranoid, haha!

      • Yes, the bell-shaped seed things. The vet said that it is not uncommon for the seeds used in them to be unsuitable but the birds love them as they are coated in honey. Something to be aware of. He loved millet and thankfully we never had any issues with that.

    • Thanks – I think Charlie was a Fife, actually, but not sure! He passed away in October of 2012, and I will never stop missing him. Canaries are amazing birds, and Charlie in particular was very friendly. He helped me with chores every day. Our cockatiel ADORED him.

  2. I was holding my breath as I read your post hoping that I would not read that Ptak passed. I am relieved that he’s getting better. I don’t know what I would do if I had to medicate our Amazon. Perhaps place meds in a piece of bread because she would eat that quicker than any fruit or veggie. Forget approaching with a syringe and the towel. I can’t even come out with a towel on my head without her screaming. She screams and will attack if she’s out and I’m covering or uncovering the dove. Keep us posted on the little fella.

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