New member
Mar 18, 2017
Capital of Texas
Green-cheek conure, Quaker parakeet
My quaker rather suddenly developed several behavioral issues last week which had me concerned about a health issue. The most concerning of them was that she wasn't defecating much even though she seemed to be eating normally. Other behaviors had me worried it was a hormonal issue, so my first thought was egg block and I took her to the vet yesterday. The vet thinks it's heavy metals based on an x-ray and has sent away blood samples to test for lead and zinc. (Since the cage itself is a nice cage that I've seen other people on this forum use, I'm guessing the metal must come from either the carabiners holding the toys to the cage or the bells that the green-cheek loves.

She wasn't eating there so they gavage-fed her. She was also severely dehydrated and they her an injection for it. The second-most concerning behavior is that she started plucking, going from normal plumage patterns to legs, belly, and back completely bald within a matter of under two days. While at the vet she started picking at her skin, so they put a collar on her. The vet gave me antibiotics to prevent sepsis, which she's taking with no issue.

I'm supposed to bring her back Monday, for observation. But in the mean time, I'm supposed to take he off the pellets which she still still isn't eating much of and give her as much seed as she wants. Even doing that, I'm worried because she doesn't seem to be eating and drinking. They mentioned that she'd be much less active with the collar on, and she ate enthusiastically yesterday, but I've seen her eat only one seed today. I've also not seen her drink anything yesterday or today.

I could bring her in tonight, but the reason I'm supposed to bring her in Monday is that today I wouldn't be able to bring her in before four, which the vet said wouldn't be useful. I could bring her in tomorrow morning, but the vet who has a specialty in avian and exotic medicine (yes, I know, but the only CAV in Austin is retired, she has the same qualifications as my Massachusetts vet who was good, and like him she had birds of her own) won't be in then, meaning she'd be seen by a vet with no special training for birds. So if the only issue is that she's not eating and drinking and the vet didn't seem too concerned yesterday, I'm wondering if I can/should gavage-feed her myself until then?

ETA: Immediately after I posted this, she ate a few more seeds. She still isn't drinking though.
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At this point, I'm not seeing any reason for me to second guess your AQV (Avian Qualified Vet).

It is always important to have your Vet Clinic provide a document that clearly covers what examinations and tests were completed and their findings. What determinations where made and medications provided. In addition, what medications or support to be provided at home. Plus, what to watch for and what should trigger a call or return to the Clinic. Always push for this level of documentation as it allows you to better understand and remember what occurred during the visit. I make it a big point that it is a requirement of mine, since I am so into the moment, I am very likely not to remember everything provided or stated.

Any questions or concerns you may have; call!

Severely Dehydrated: Part of my advanced training with our Amazons is to get them to accept droplets of water from our fingers. It is a very simple 'trick' and I find that they quickly pick-up on it. Teaching it is very helpful when faced with Dehydration. What's needed: a cup of size that allows each dipping of any combination of fingers that you can get a droplet to form between. With your Parrot near you or you holding it. Dip your choice of fingers into the cup of water and touch your Parrot's Beak near the tip. The water will transfer onto beak. You can also do this with a single finger at the side of the bill where there is a slight opening. Our Amazons have commonly the second or third try opened the bill to allow the water droplet to flow into the gapping bill. Play with it a bit until you and your Parrot find an agreed upon method. This will allow to your monitor the water intake of your Parrot.

Once you have this working, you can also do this with a mush developed from crushing a pellet or two with a couple droplets of warm water. This will help you monitor the food intake of your Parrot.

Prays and warm feather hugs!
I absolutely DO NOT suggest you gavage feed a bird if you don't have experience doing so. A gavage is a metal tube inserted into the crop and if you don't know how you can severely injure your bird. Try hand feeding instead.

I'm not a vet and I won't give you vet advice. However a couple of years ago I had two conures almost die of heavy metal poisoning. Both birds were laying in their sides, eyes closed, mouths open by the time we got to the vet. We didn't have time to send out the blood tests so here is what the vet had me do.

He gave subcutaneous fluids to each.

-get them into a brooder and keep them at 95 degrees F.

-hand feed formula every 4 hours. Interesting note, even my parent raised half wild boy eagerly accepted this, which was stunning.

-provide ALL KINDS of food, pellets, seeds, tons of fresh fruit especially things like watermelon that are loaded with moisture, and even crackers or any other "junk food" that might entice the birds to eat.

-mix cranberry juice into the formula to flush the kidneys

-mix a TINY AMOUNT of Metamucil powder into their water to bind any metal left in their digestive system.

I did every single thing, and they went from laying in their sides looking dead to a full recovery. The cage new was determined to be the source of the toxin and was thrown out. I learned to wash even new cages with vinegar.

If your little buddy is slowing down, see if there is anyone on staff who can give him the subcutaneous fluid injection even if he can't see the usual vet. Keeping him hydrated in CRUCIAL to his survival.

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Thanks, guys. And the vet actually contacted me to check up. I updated her and she said to check for stool, and if she's not producing any to bring her in for feeding and injections. I'll check tomorrow morning, but this afternoon she was active again, even if it's mostly been her attempts to remove the collar. I feel bad for her because the heavy metals must make her itch like crazy, but at least she's not able to mutilate herself in an attempt to scratch the itches.
Have you tried aloe juice on her itches? Or feather-in? Not sure if you have any on hand or could find anyone locally but that might help lower her stress.

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Have you tried aloe juice on her itches? Or feather-in? Not sure if you have any on hand or could find anyone locally but that might help lower her stress.

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As so very usual, right on Good Friend!

We use an Avian blended Aloe Gel and Aloe Misting base. The Avian variant is suppost to be purer, but that could just be Marketing!

Take care not to over use, assure that you maintain a regular bathing schedule to limit the build-up of Aloe on the skin. Too much will be counter-productive as it will block oxygen from the skin surface. We commonly will use a water only 'misting' sprayer (very fine mist) on the same area to help reduce the build-up on Aloe.

Regular Bathing is Very Important!
At the very most you could consider feeding baby bird formula with a syringe, but not a gavage or tube feed unless you're experienced with that method. Even I won't attempt that, and I'm comfortable inserting an NG tube in a two pound human infant. Before you start even that, run it by your vet to make sure it's an appropriate solution.
Yeah, please do not even attempt to tube feed your bird if you've never done it before! Too much to go wrong, and forgetting aspiration and death, you're much more likely to hurt your bird while doing it. Plus, if you don't actually have the correct size crop tube then it's even more dangerous. I've seen and heard of people trying to tube feed their bird with implements other than a proper crop tube (and not the right size) and it's not gone well....At all.

I know it's difficult but try not to obsess or overreact right now, you're doing what the vet has told you to do and if your bird isn't feeling well he will definitely eat less, that's normal. Adult birds will very often eat baby bird formula from an oral syringe or pipette just like a baby, they usually love it! So you could mix up some hand-feeding formula, if you have some, make it a little on the thin side, and at least you'll get some fluids in him that way.

You may however want to ask your vet to show you how to do subq fluids for the future. Hydration during illnesses is far more crucial and critical than nutrition, and giving a bird, dog, whatever fluids like Lactated Ringers subcutaneously while they have an active infection not only keeps them hydrated, but it is basically like doing a "poor man's dialysis", helping out their kidneys to filter their blood of the infection. It's fairly easy to give fluids subq to a bird, as you don't have to keep them still for a long period of time waiting for fluid to run in from a bag under the skin, but rather just give them a large injection of fluid right under the skin. They absorb it quickly and the effects are quick and dramatic.

"Dance like nobody's watching..."

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