Friday, August 13, 2010

What Happens When My Bird Becomes Ill?

What happens if a bird becomes ill? Surely we do not even want to entertain the notion!

In Sammy Cockatiel's 28 years with me (rest in peace), he became ill only one time requiring medication. I am blessed that 14 year old Coco has never been ill, and so far the budgie-boys are the picture of health.

When it comes to illness, there is value in planning for the worst and hoping for the best. So, just a few tips:

Advance Planning:
1. Of course, stepping-up and stepping-down will come in quite handy. Keeping these behaviors strong will be helpful on many levels.

2. Learning to drink juice and water from a syringe will make all but the nastiest tasting medications easy to dispense.

3. Learning to willingly transfer from the living environment to a travel cage for a desirable treat will make trips to the vet much less stressful.

If Illness Strikes:
1. If you need to give medication orally and your bird cannot (or refuses) to drink from a syringe, ask your vet to demonstrate the proper way to dispense the medication. Then, have her watch you medicate (or give water just for practice).

2. When giving oral medication, d
o not lay the bird on its back. Instead, keep it upright. Give medication from the bird's left side of the beak. This will reduce the possibility of aspiration.

3. Clean the syringe with soap and hot water after each treatment, and allow it to air dry.

4. Medication that is designed to be given orally will be prescribed in a different amount than if it were to be mixed in water or sprinkled on food. Give medication exactly as directed.

5. Before leaving the vet office, be sure to ask specific questions and get answers to each of your concerns.

6. Ask for a general time line in which to see improvement in the bird's condition. Find out what symptoms or conditions will warrant a return trip, and whether the bird will need a recheck once treatment is complete.

7. If there are other birds in the household, ask the vet if they will require treatment or if they should receive a check up.

8. Certain illnesses may necessitate the bird being placed in a hospital cage or similar set up to restrict flight, reduce activity, help conserve energy or assist birds that are unable to perch. However, unless specifically directed by your avian vet, this does not mean to cover the bird on 3 or 4 sides and keep them in a dark, quiet room. Birds sleep in the light, but will not eat in the dark. We want the bird to eat and drink to keep up its strength and heal. This is especially important if medication has been added to food or water. Activity level can be sufficiently reduced through cage arrangement, location, and keeping the bird separated from other birdie friends. Soft music can be played to keep the bird company and comfortable.

In certain situations, I advise giving a bird light 24/7. One example is when I was fostering a very young cockatiel. He was extremely underweight for his age. For the first few days, I kept him in a room with full light day and night. By giving him constant light, he had many more opportunities to eat and drink. As time passed, I placed the light on a timer at night, giving him several hours of darkness, followed by several hours of light. Each morning I measured and recorded his weight. He steadily gained weight, and as he became stronger, I began gradually increasing the number of hours of darkness, until he reached 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

9. During treatment, some trust may be lost. Once treatment has concluded, the relationship will return to normal footing with time and patience.

10. Recognize that you may get the cold-wing for a time. Remain low-key during illness and offer treats as appropriate. This is a time for rest and recuperation, not an opportunity for training sessions and relationship demands.

On a happier note, I've recorded a new video of the budgie-boys coming to me to receive treats. I think you will be most pleased to see that Penske, the olive-green greywing cinnamon budgie (in other words, the one that looks 'all yellow') continues to come out of his shell! He's becoming quite the little-man, and while still hesitant, he is showing welcomed signs of asserting himself to get his share of the treats!



Arlene said...

This is a wealth of information Robin. I already bookmarked it. Thanks.
Great tip on giving oral medication. I think a lot of people have a hard enough time doing it and it's very stressful on both you and the bird.

I just knew Penske would come around. He wanted that treat more than he was afraid and was determined to get his fair share. So cute. :)

louara said...

Great post Robin. It is so stressful for both the budgie and the owner when having to give medication. You can never be overly prepared. It's always good to bring a friend along to the vet visit if you can. Two sets of ears are better than one and sometimes they can give a lot of information all at once and it can be hard to remember it once you get back home.

I was worried that Penske wasn't going to get his treat! Good for him for not giving up.

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