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Old 02-13-2015, 11:04 AM
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Advice Needed

Hello everyone,

I'm new to this forum, and am hoping someone might have some advice for me.

I'm an experienced animal owner - two horses, four dogs (including a litter of puppies I bred this past year), a flock of chickens, and tropical fish. However, I have never owned a pet bird (with the exception of budgies) and decided to buy a lovebird.

A local pet store had some home-bred/hand-raised blue Fischer's babies that they were bringing up, and I fell in love with one of them. We waited the additional month for him to be weaned and ready to go, and I gave it an extra week just to be sure he was truly ready before bringing him home on Saturday last. He was cheerful, alert, happy, cuddly, and very sweet.

Two days ago, our teenage daughter, who is "bird crazy" and already very attached to young "Horace," noticed that his head looked "puffy," but I didn't think too much of it, as he was alert and energetic. However, he did spend some hours nestled in her hoodie pocket. Some hours passed, and Emma came up to tell me that Horace didn't look well.

I went downstairs and he was sitting on the bottom of his cage. By this time, it was 10pm. I picked him up and he felt like nothing in my hand and felt very cold. I cuddled him to me and called around, finally finding an ER vet that had some experience with exotics. I live in Massachusetts and it's cold here; we made a hot water bottle, covered it in a towel and put it in a box, and put little Horace inside for the trip to the ER; by then, it was well after 11pm.

The examining vet, a bird owner himself, said what we already knew - that Horace was a "very sick bird." I was amazed at how fast he had gone downhill. Three hours before he was fine, and now, he looked near death. This was the vet's official write-up, which he gave us to present to the pet store:
--------------
During the early morning (midnight) of 2/12/15, a young blue colored lovebird (names Horace) presented to me with an acute but progressive worsening lethargy at home. Horace was normal per owners in the morning of 2/11/15. At 4 pm, he appeared puffed per the owner. As the evening progressed, he had worsening difficulty perching without assistance, spending most of the time after at the bottom of the cage. He then progressed to laying ventral and at times, lateral on bottom of cage. He was anorexic at home.


Physical exam demonstrated severely depressed mentation and dehydration with eyes closed during exam. No nasal or ocular discharge. Normal (sharp) choanal slit. Bradycardia present with no heart murmur noted. Increased respiratory effort and tail bob were present. No clicks or wheezes on auscultation of lungs or air sacs.
Feathers bright overall but surrounding vent were matted with tan to brown stool, unkempt. Horace had a 3/9 body condition score and was poorly to non-ambulatory. Moderate muscle atrophy noted surrounding keel. Ventral to laterally recumbent at times. Profound weakness. Unable to hold head up. Sitting on tail base with legs held in flexion at the hips, extension at stifle. Unable to grasp with feet properly to not at all majority of times. Unable to perch.


At the time of exam, Horace was severely weak and was given a guarded to poor prognosis at that time, and euthanasia was elected. It is unsure at this time the cause of the rapid decline. These signs could be secondary to chronic or acute disease processes. These could include infectious caues (viral/parasitic/bacterial) vs toxins, head trauma, congenital issues, inflammatory illness, or other underlying disease. Further analysis with necropsy is recommended for definitive diagnosis.
----------------------
We only had our little guy for four days. My daughter is devastated. We did everything right ... followed all recommendations ... I can't imagine what went wrong. I called the pet store yesterday to tell them what happened, and was told that I could get either a store credit or a replacement bird. They said this was the only report of sickness with this particular clutch, and did not know what could have been wrong; certainly, from all signs, this pet shop is very clean with hand sanitizer stations everywhere and a very knowledgeable staff. They refuse to pay for a necropsy.


Both the examining vet and a friend of mine, also a vet, said that for the bird to have such a prominent keel and to be in such a body condition, that "something had to be brewing" back when it was still at the pet store, and that whatever was wrong, was nothing that we did. That is of some comfort, but it doesn't bring back little Horace.



The pet store is willing to work with us. They have one clutch mate to our little Horace, left - same color (and we want another blue), but I was told this bird is more shy and not as outgoing, though "at this age they're sponges and you can make them into anything you want." This bird has been offered to me, and I'm not sure what to do. Will it get sick, too? I'm a novice when it comes to lovebirds, and I don't want to make a mistake. We're already down $200 in emergency vet care, as well as a young girl's broken heart, and I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing.


In dogs, I would never, not in a million years, buy from a pet store - I show my dogs and all of mine have come from responsible breeders over the years, as I, myself, am. Pet stores make me nervous, but I made an exception here because they had the parents on premise, had bred and hand-raised the babies, and they were not imported from somewhere else. The place was clean and the staff helpful. But now, I have to confess that I'm a bit worried about buying another bird from them.



Thoughts welcome; many thanks,


-- Danelle
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Old 02-13-2015, 06:13 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

I'm so sorry about Horace. Such a sad story.
Perhaps now that you know a bit about body condition you could check out the other bird and see what you think before making a decision.
Do you know that Horace was eating after he came home?
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Old 02-13-2015, 06:24 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

I am very sorry to hear about Horace. One thing all bird owners must understand is that as illness is a sign of weakness (thus making them a liability to their flock), birds have evolved to hide illness until they are so sick they no longer can. They are also a very sensitive to drafts/cold, changes in diet, changes in environment, all which can lead to weakened immune systems and heightened stress (making it easier for them to become ill). Even "advanced" and "long time" bird owners can miss early illness in birds until it's too late.

I also wondered the same thing as Sonja about him eating enough and consuming enough moisture rich foods or drinking from a dish? It stood out to me that he was reported by the vet to be anorexic and dehydrated. You may have been providing him fresh food and water, but that doesn't mean he was ingesting it. Many parrots are VERY picky eaters and it is a very common problem for them to refuse new brands/types of foods or not recognize it as food (thus not eat it). Some birds also do not drink from dishes/do not drink enough and get the majority of their moisture from fresh fruits and vegetables (as is natural). Another thing is drafts. Parrots need warm temperatures and should not be near drafty windows, doors or vents. Final thought, given the symptoms and rapid decline in health is if he was exposed to the odorless fumes that do not typically affect humans or other animals that non-stick cookware puts off. Non-stick cookware is deadly to parrots and many new owners do not realize the danger. Other things that can produce air borne toxins potentially lethal to parrots are scented candles, room sprays, cleaning chemicals, insecticides, smoke from cigarettes, fresh paint and new carpeting. There are also ingestible toxins in many houseplants, any metal/alloys containing zinc, lead or other heavy metals, avocados, chocolate and alcohol. I hope some of this information helps you, and please feel free to ask more questions to help prepare for a new bird if you choose to get another one. We are here to help new owners navigate the specialized ways birds need to be cared for.
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Old 02-13-2015, 07:07 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

Mass. has a 14 day lemon law on pets, that provides for refund or replacement, but don't know if emergency veterinary costs are covered, but I think I would tell them that I would be inclined to accept their replacement bird if it came with a veterinary certification, by an avian veterinarian, as to its health and your recovery of the emergency vet costs.....

If you have any attorney friends or relatives, so much better ! ! !

Good luck.....
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Old 02-13-2015, 07:25 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

So sorry for what you went through with Horace.

It is very difficult to know what to say, but here's what I think.

I don't agree with the "all pet shops are bad/all shelters and breeders are good" generalisation. The pet shops around here are very good. I think you need to check out and assess anybody you deal with, whatever their business model is.

You obviously did that with the business you dealt with and made up your mind that they weren't just trading animals without any regard to the fact that they are animals and not merely "stuff". In effect, they were a breeder, they just happen to have a bricks and mortar shop. They weren't churning stock from some breeder churning out animals only for profit. So, you dealt with a reputable breeder after doing your "homework".

I don't think the pet shop deliberately sold you a sick bird just to make money. They've offered you a credit or another bird (here, you'd be entitled to a refund, not just a credit) so they haven't just fobbed you off with "it was healthy when we gave it to you, it's all your fault, goodbye". If you think about it, there is absolutely no incentive for a business to sell a sick animal. You make money from a business by staying in business and you stay in business by reputation and sales. You may make a few sales but you won't last long if you are churning sick stock, particularly in these days of "internet".

Then we get to the "what happened"? Maybe he wasn't eating and drinking, maybe it was an infection, maybe it was a congenital weakness, maybe it was something environmental that you couldn't detect (other fumes/sprays? perfumes? (they've got tiny, tiny little lungs) a draught?) or changes in environment, there are a LOT of maybes. Birds are very sensitive, if you read the forum you will see how many unexpected losses we go through and how many of us have been in the position of "why????" Sometimes it just boils down to "it's just one of those things".

I got a budgie from a pet shop and found it dead one morning in the bottom of the cage. It wasn't long after I got him, and he seemed perfectly fine the night before. I was "lucky" in having another budgie who had been, and still was, fine (so I knew there was nothing wrong with the food and didn't seem to be any kind of poisoning and she never showed any signs of infection or of being unwell). I went on to get another bird as companion and it worked out fine. I don't know what happened to Butterbean but I felt secure enough to think that I hadn't "killed him" and I really don't think he was sold sick by the shop.

I think it boils down to how you feel. Do you feel comfortable that you haven't done anything wrong, that there's nothing in your home that needs to be addressed and that the pet shop are not telling fibs when they say that all the other birds are fine? If so, then you need to accept that it just happened, there are unexplained and unexpected deaths in sensitive creatures and "these things happen" and try again. Whether you want to try with a sibling or someone else is up to you, but if you get any replacement bird looked over by a vet, I'd probably do that - why would a business want to give you another bird which is sick or likely to die and harm their livelihood? It doesn't make any sense that there's a problem with the whole clutch.

Sorry to waffle, hope there's a bit of sense in there somewhere.

EDIT: birds are such a joy that I think it would be a shame not to give it another go before deciding that they aren't going to join your menagerie.

Last edited by strudel; 02-13-2015 at 07:32 PM.
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Old 02-13-2015, 11:08 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

I'm so very glad I found this forum - thank you so much for the wonderful thoughts and advice that have been shared here in response to little Horace's loss. We went over and over everything that he could possibly have been exposed to while we had him - we didn't use any non-stick cookware, didn't light any scented candles, and while I did use a squirt of air freshener spray in the bathroom, I shut the door after that and it was a good 20 feet away from where the birds were, in the living room. I hope that wouldn't have done it. If it did, I'll feel just awful. The budgie was just fine, and he was next to the lovebird. We're trying so, so hard to do everything right.

We did go back to the pet store tonight to meet the clutch-mate of our little Horace. Though he, too, is a blue, he's not as vibrantly colored as Horace was, and doesn't have the beautiful purple in his tail like Horace did, or the sky blue on his shanks, though he, too, has the Caribbean blue/green on his topside and wings. His personality is a little more skittish, initially, than his more outgoing sibling, but he doesn't bite as much or as hard and is very much a little cuddler. He (or she?) won us over, and came home with us tonight.

My daughter and I completely bleached Horace's cage and furnishings, and put the new bird in there. My daughter is alarmed because he jumped down off the perch and seems to want to hang out under one of the feed/water dishes in the corner. She's so afraid he's going to get sick like his brother did. He seems to love to cuddle, and went to sleep on my chest as I was gently rubbing the side of his face. I hope that doesn't mean he's sick. I'm so paranoid, now. I'm not noticing his keel being prominent, but I'm no expert when it comes to little birds.

Some of the comments here have caused me to wonder, though, if Horace did eat much in the four days we had him. I saw him near the fruit/seed/nut mix that was sent home with us, poking around in the feeder, so I assumed he was eating. He had also completely eaten all the millet off a millet strip that I'd put in there. I saw him drinking on more than one occasion, but now I'm paranoid about this, too, with the new bird. Is there anything I can do to make *sure* the new bird is eating and drinking? Is there a way of force feeding him if I don't notice him eating? Anything I can put in there that will be especially tasty?

Again, I am so grateful to have found this forum, and so thankful that there are such kind and knowledgeable people here who are so willing to help. Thank you so very much!

-- Danelle
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Old 02-14-2015, 03:56 AM
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Re: Advice Needed

Try not to worry. I know it's hard when something like this has happened. I'd be hovering and peering at my fish if one of them died, out of fear that they were all poisoned or would come down with some disease. It doesn't help prevent anything happening, it's just pointless. Preventing anything happening (to the extent it can be prevented) comes from doing what you've learnt you need to do. Clean cage, good food, ventilation with adequate warmth, etc. Just focus on the basics and try not to worry or hover.

Birds are sensitive physically, but they are also susceptible to stress, so if we worry they can pick up on that and feel worried too (you'd know that from horses, sit an inexperienced, nervous rider on a horse, and the horse knows).

As for feeding, are you feeding exactly the same meals that the bird had at the shop? What's he having? You can weigh it before and after, and if he hasn't flung it on the floor, that'll give you an indication of how much he's had (not for seed, if the husks are returned to the bowl, but if you use a silo feeder you can see if the level's gone down (again, as long as it hasn't been flung about).

Personally, I wouldn't use any sprays anywhere. I doubt it did anything to Horace, because he became progressively ill (EDIT and because the budgie is ok), but as you say, you'd feel horrible if anything did come from it. If you look up online just how tiny a bird's lungs are you can see that the tiniest bit of something can affect them where it does nothing to use bigger animals.

I do hope things go well. Keep an eye on his bottom to make sure there's no poo stuck to his bum (noted that in the vet's report). If there are ANY signs of diarrhoea, take him to the vet. Because they are so little, they can quickly become dehydrated if they get the runs.

Try not to worry, just relax and enjoy your new bird. In the event that something does go awry, just remember that even experienced owners have had unexpected deaths and illnesses.

What's his name?
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Old 02-14-2015, 01:16 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

I, too, am very sorry for your loss. We all share your grief, and the majority of us have been there, so we DO know what it's like.

But, know that it's nothing you did, so put that out of your mind. In my experience, Lovebirds, while they may be outgoing & apparently robust, can be incredibly fragile creatures. They can appear hale & hearty one minute, and be at death's door the next. As they're so small, even the best avian veterinarians can be challenged when it comes to diagnosing & treating problems and, as others have said, it is natural for birds to hide any illness until it is too late, and it overwhelms them.

We have lost 6 of our Lovies over the last 12 months. In most cases the results of their necropsies were "indeterminate". One of our young (just fledged) Lovies had a malformed spine, and just hopping around happily was enough to sever his spinal cord one day. Two others, completely healthy one evening, were found dead, huddled together in their cage as though asleep, in the morning. Despite the fact that their cage was between two others (each occupied by other pairs of Lovies) the necropsy report indicated they'd died of fright...in an enclosed, quiet, peaceful room, with no other animals, no visible windows, etc.???

My point is that, with Lovies, sometimes this just happens. There's nothing you can do to prevent it, other than providing a good home, good balanced nutrition, veterinary care if required, and (of course) love & attention. You did all of those things, and it happened anyway. Clearly, Horace was seriously ill before you got him...he was just hiding it. You couldn't have known.

Clear your conscience, know you did all you could, grieve a little, and move on to provide a wonderful home for the next loving feathered friend you can't live without. It's part of living with birds...and the joys outweigh the heartaches.
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Old 02-14-2015, 01:37 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

Thank you so much for the reassurances - they mean so much.

The new little lovebird, who is a clutchmate to Horace, so far appears to be healthy - I don't have anything to weigh his (or her? Still waiting for DNA results to come back) seed/dried fruit mix, but I did examine the contents of his food container this morning and there were some husks in there, so he has definitely eaten at least something. At the moment, he's cuddling with my daughter, and we tried offering a bit of apple, but he tasted and refused it. I have some bananas in the house, as well as cranberries, but am afraid to feed anything that might make him sick. I just want to make sure he's eating.

As I learn about these birds, it's interesting to me the personality differences between individuals - Horace was very outgoing and loved to crawl all over you, and he knew how to give a good bite (we were working on that <g>). This one is much more shy and skittish - he doesn't know and wasn't taught "step up" at the pet store, and when we gently try it, he gets scared and tries to fly off. So right now, we're just concentrating on letting him sit with us and enjoy a cuddle, as he seems to prefer being enclosed/hiding under your hand or fold of your clothes than being exposed/out in the open on a finger. I'm hoping that once we build some trust with him, he'll come around. He hasn't shown the willingness to bite that his sibling had - his "biting" has been nothing more than a slight protesting nibble of fear, but not the good hard bite that Horace was capable of delivering. He's very sweet. (Personally, my gut instinct is that "he" is a "she." I guess we'll see.)

Again, I'm so grateful for the wealth of knowledge, compassion and generosity here - thank you all so much for being so willing to share what you all know. I'll see if I can figure out how to post a picture of both Horace and our new unnamed one (that will come when we're told the gender) and will introduce myself in the new members area, something, I think, I probably should have done first <g>.

-- Danelle, in snowy Massachusetts
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Old 02-14-2015, 05:09 PM
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Re: Advice Needed

I'm so sorry for your loss of Horace. It truly sounds to me like you did everything that you possibly could have, and that he was already terribly sick when you brought him home.

You've already received some wonderful advice, so I'll just address the concern you have regarding feeding stuff to your bird that you know is safe. I'm including a link here to a particular page of a site that caters specifically to eclectus parrots. But don't let that deter you. The foods listed are good for all parrots. It's just that eclectus dietary needs make fruits and veggies even more important than for most other parrots. But the list provided, and the nutritional info provided on the subsequent page, should be very helpful in determining safe foods for your new lovebird.

fruitandveg
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