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Hello,
My budgie Drake, has been having issues for over a year now. I've had 7 budgies over the last 10 years. Each of them were around the same age. I lost one in March from atherosclerosis and now I only have Drake. He is around 10.5 years old. He has been having these weird neck extensions for over a year now. It looks like he is yawning but he does it repeatedly. He had difficulty breathing last November 14, 2021. I moved him to a different room worried he had inhaled fumes from a hair straighter. He recovered within 30 minutes and was fine. I took him to the vet in January 2022 to make sure he was okay. They thought he might have avian gastric yeast. The female budgie he used to be housed with died from AGY. I was supposed to treat him with amphotericin b for it for 30 days but they only gave me medication that lasted for 4 days. I took him on an emergency on March 9, because he was having difficulties breathing. He recovered over the night and they sent me home with 7 day oral antibiotics. He seemed fine from then on but, he started making this squeaking sound some time in April. He seemed fine otherwise. He also started tail bobbing and panting every now and then. I took him to the vet in July and they thought he might have atherosclerosis so they gave me pentoxifylline to give him twice a day. He took that and after 12 days it seemed like it was working as he was not having any more squeaking or panting episodes. He started having longer panting episodes that went from 2 to 4 to 20 minute long episodes. I got worried that it was not atherosclerosis so I asked my vet and he suggested we could try an injectable antibiotic on August 31. He took it and he seemed to be better the next day and he only had 1 short panting episode. That seemed to work ,but he later started making squeaking sounds again that had seemed to have disappeared for a while. I thought maybe it was a lingering bacterial infection so I took him back on September 29 for a second antibiotic injection. On the 4th or 5th day he seemed to have a short panting episode for the first time in weeks. The squeaking seemed to stop with no further panting/breathing issues. He however still had the neck extensions. I took him to the vet on November 10 to see if he needed a 3rd injection. The vet thought we should just wait and see since more antibiotics could mess up his system or cause antibiotic resistance. The main squeaking and panting issues were gone so she thought we should just wait and see. He had a crop swab to test for avian gastric yeast or other fungal infection. They didn't find anything so I went home. The next day on November 11, I heard him squeaking again for the first time in 6 weeks and he was also started panting for a moment right after the squeaking. This was weird because previously the squeaking and panting were independent of each other. He has squeaked several times since then ,but he has not had any panting issues. I believe he did have a bacterial infection that he got treated with the first injection back in August 31 and second injection on September 29. I just don't know what else he has going on now. I thought the neck extensions, and squeaking were part of the bacterial infection ,but the panting has not returned other than the short episode on November 11. On November 13 when I was taking his cage cover off I noticed some clumps of seeds stuck to the cage bars. I think he threw up at night , but I have not seen him actually do it. I noticed the same thing on November 23 where there again clumps of seeds stuck to the cage bars.

Currently, when he is not squeaking he appears to be normal. He is eating, his weight is stable, and he plays with his toys. He will even start chattering when he hears running water or noises. He is also getting some exercise everyday where I have him fly back and forth for sets of 3-5 minutes from one side of the room to the other. I started having him exercise in April or May where he was eventually doing 3-4 5 minute sets of flying back and forth with 30 minutes of rest in between. By the end of the 5 minutes he was panting a little bit ,and I originally thought it was because of the exercise. After the antibiotic injections he doesn't even pant after flying back and forth for 5 minutes. He will squeak around 2-4 pm and seems to be fine throughout the rest of the day. The squeaks last 10 seconds or less than a minute. Sometimes they are very short and sometimes it seems to last for 30 seconds or more. They don't happen every day and there are periods of time where he does not seem to squeak like from September 25- November 10. The squeaks also seemed to disappear some time after July 10 - September. He started taking pentoxifylline on July 20 - October 15. On October 15 he ran out of the medication and I have not ordered any more because I am not sure if he had atherosclerosis and the vet was worried he could have aspirated some of it in August. The vet made me paranoid of him aspirating his medication ,but he was having the panting episodes before he started taking the medication so I don't know if that is why his bacterial infection got worse. He had periods of time where he was not squeaking while on pentoxifylline ,but he also had periods where he would start squeaking again while on the medication. He started squeaking again some time after the first injection which was why he had a second injection to see if that did anything. He did stop squeaking for about six weeks after that from September 25- November 10. He got his second injection on September 29. He stopped taking pentoxifylline on October 15 because he ran out. I don't know if he started squeaking again because he is off the pentoxifylline or if the squeaking is unrelated and just random. He was squeaking while on the medication before he got his second injection. I don't know if it is worth it getting him on the pentoxifylline again to see if it goes away.


His diet for years was Roudybush pellets, veggies like carrots and broccoli, and Hagen parakeet seed mix. I switched him to Harrisons in 2021. He seemed to not be eating as much early January 2022 so I started feeding him more spray millet. He does not seem to eat pellets unless I spoon feed them to him and he does not eat as much as I'd like him to. He seems to have issues eating seed mixes because the seed hull gets stuck to the inside of his beak and he tries to spit it out with his tongue. It takes a while so he is a slow eater. Sometimes he seems to have no issues eating seeds. When he goes to his food tray he will eat a single seed and then go and try to regurgitate on his perch. Not sure if this is normal behavior. I thought it was normal because all his friends died and he can't regurgitate with them so he just tries to do that behavior on the branch. The issue is that I felt that he wasn't eating enough because of this behavior. He doesn't even regurgitate any seeds out he just does the behavior. When he eats millet spray he eats it normally and he does not try to regurgitate those seeds. I thought maybe there is something wrong with the Hagen parakeet seed mix. He mostly eats spray millet now and I give him as much pellets as he'll eat. He had some Hagen seed mix on Tuesday and I found thrown up clumps of seeds on the cage bars Wednesday morning so I'm not going to give him that Hagen seed mix anymore. I don't know if the seeds went bad or if the throwing up is being caused by something else. I also have been offering carrots and broccoli which he will eat but some weeks I won't give him any because he will refuse to eat it. This is when he still had the bacterial infection so I don't know if he was being picky or if he just didn't feel good. I have been offering him carrots for the past week and he will eat them just fine. I don't know if he has any nutritional deficiencies causing this or not.

His weight was 37g early in the year when he got amphotericin b. They told me this was a little underweight so I feed him more spray millet and Harrison high potency pellets mixed with a little Harrisons recovery formula. He quickly gained weight up to 41.7g within a month. This is when I took him on emergency in March and he was prescribed 7 day oral antibiotics. They also told me was a little overweight. He dropped down to 37g within 2 weeks and then stayed around 36g for most of the summer. He dropped down to 35g and then 34g in August right before he got his first antibiotic injection. His weight up to 35g within a few days after the injection. He maintained 35g for a month until he went for a second injection September 29. His weight went up to 37g 2 weeks after. He started dropping weight around October 15 when he ran out of his medication, but he was also undergoing a molt so that could explain it. He gained the weight back and he is currently still around 37g. His current issue is the squeaking, neck extensions. He has also thrown up at least twice on November 13 and November 23. I don't know if this is because of a seed mix that has gone bad or if it is something else causing it. I have not seen him throw up with my own eyes but I have seen the clumps of seed scattered around the cage and stuck to the bars in the morning and do not know how else to explain that. I don't know if his issues are caused by a treatable illness or he is just getting old. He just seems to be very healthy looking otherwise. He has no issues getting around. He flies around pretty fast.

He had several fecal gram stain tests early in the year and they found no yeast or abnormalities. He had an x-ray in March and they didn't find anything. They said they found a mass or something ,but it was in an area where they like to deposit fat. He was overweight at that time so it made sense it was just fat. He had a crop swab on November 10 and they didn't find anything. They don't recommend more serious tests at this time because of the risk and his age. The tests are many times also unrewarding and one of the vets even told me he thinks they are useless because they are made for animals much bigger and budgies are so small that the x rays are hard to read or find anything. They actually told me one of my budgies had a tumor when he was around 3.5 years old ,but he just died in March from atherosclerosis at 10 years old. They told me last year that he most likely didn't have a tumor anymore since it had been so long. I just don't know where to go from here. The vets told me " We remain unconvinced there is anything simple to find and solve with Drake, although we can perform more in depth diagnostics - that come with a degree of risk. We are finding it hard to elucidate his level of problems based on our exams and your messages, which do not indicate a major problem currently."

breathing issues that now seem to be gone

neck extensions he's had for over a year

squeaking that started in April but comes and goes. This is a longer and more severe episode.

This is Drake eating a single seed and then regurgitating it. He will eat them normally some times. Sometimes it seems like he has trouble with it getting stuck in his beak and he has to try and spit it out before he can eat another seed. Not sure if this is just a behavioral issue.
 

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Is it an avian vet that you have been taking him to? Have thyroid issues been addressed, goiter can cause squeaking and if the thyroid is enlarged for any reason you may see issues. Upon examination has the vet commented on any abnormal feeling of the crop? It is possible that there is something going on internally that is not readily apparent, if there is any internal swelling it could displace the space needed by the air sacs, when that happens you can see labored breathing.
There is a free webinar this Friday on respiratory issues in birds, if you are able to watch it live you can register here
Webinar: Avian Vet Insider – Respiratory Disease in Pet Birds (Special Time 11AM PST) – Pet Birds by Lafeber Co. if not it will be posted on YouTube for later viewing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Is it an avian vet that you have been taking him to? Have thyroid issues been addressed, goiter can cause squeaking and if the thyroid is enlarged for any reason you may see issues. Upon examination has the vet commented on any abnormal feeling of the crop? It is possible that there is something going on internally that is not readily apparent, if there is any internal swelling it could displace the space needed by the air sacs, when that happens you can see labored breathing.
There is a free webinar this Friday on respiratory issues in birds, if you are able to watch it live you can register here
Webinar: Avian Vet Insider – Respiratory Disease in Pet Birds (Special Time 11AM PST) – Pet Birds by Lafeber Co. if not it will be posted on YouTube for later viewing.
Yes, they are avian vets. I don't always get the same one ,but they go back and they talk to each other and read over his history. They haven't mentioned anything about a thyroid issue. Can goiter be treated? I did come across that googling a while back. I thought maybe since he is sometimes picky about eating pellets he might be deficient in something. Sometimes he is better at eating them so that could explain why he seems to have improvement and then symptoms like squeaking and neck extensions seem to return. As for internal swelling I do not know. He had the x-ray in march where they did not seem to find anything. He started squeaking in April. If he had internal swelling caused by another reason I wonder if that's why the pentoxifylline that is an anti-inflammatory seems to help but isn't consistent because he still squeaks sometimes while on it and it is hard to say if it is helping or not. I will try and leave them a message about it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Goiter is an iodine deficiency and easily treated, take a look at this https://nilesanimalhospital.com/files/2012/05/Iodine-Deficiency-Goiter-in-Birds.pdf
I ordered powder kelp from Morning Birds. It arrived 2 days ago and I have been mixing some if it into his pellets. The directions say to "Sprinkle ½ teaspoon over one cup of fruits, vegetables, soaked seed or softfood OR offer as a free choice in a treat cup." Any idea on how long it takes before I see improvement assuming his symptoms are caused by an iodine deficiency? Could too much iodine cause any problems? Is there a more effective way or better product to treat iodine deficiency?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Lugol’s iodine can be put in their water, ask your vet about it and see if they can dispense it to you, but you should not be supplementing unless you know there is a deficiency.
I took him to the vet Monday. They said he looked great on his physical and that he was the best looking older budgie they've seen. They suggested a CT scan, but after some talking it seems that they would most likely only find two things. They would find he has goiter which would be good news, or they would find a mass. He could also pass away during the 45 minute sedation process needed for a CT scan and they would not be able to safely remove a mass. They said we could try to treat him with iodine and see if he improves. They said Lugol's iodine 2% solution. I could not find it in store so I have to order it. On some Amazon reviews they talk about adding 2-3 drops to 8oz of water and it burning their mouth afterwards. Do I need to worry about this burning my budgies throat? The brands I'm looking at are Carlyle Lugols Iodine 2% 2fl oz and the other is J.Crows Lugols iodine. I'm not sure if I'm buying the right thing. I'm supposed to add 3 drops into 100ml drinking water. I left them a message ,but they get busy sometimes.
 

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When I used Lugol's it was dispensed from the vet so I do not know the brand or the strength, however the instructions were 2-3 drops per ounce of water, I never heard anything about it burning the throat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Please update with regard to Drake's condition.
Did the veterinarian clinic ever get back to you regarding the dosage?
Update: Yes, they called me back from the vet and they said the 3 drops per 100ml is fine. They said the burning of the throat or mouth some people experience is different for birds so I should not worry about it. They said its kind of how people can taste spicy peppers but birds don't really taste it. I hadn't updated because the Lugol's iodine has not arrived yet. It's supposed to arrive today and I will add it to his drinking water as soon as I get it. I'll update if he gets better or not in a few days. The vet said to give it about a week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Update: Today is day 6 of the iodine treatment. I do not know if it is helping him or not. His neck extensions seem to be more exaggerated now. They were this bad around this time a year ago ,but they seemed to get less frequent and less exaggerated in February. Now when he does a neck extension you hear his jaw or mouth making a click sound. He doesn't do them constantly all day ,but he will do them throughout the day. Maybe 4-5 times (maybe more). He did seem to get a little more vocal like he wanted to chatter ,but it could have nothing to do with the iodine. He is still eating, and playing with his toys as usual. He has been resting a lot. I am not sure if this is due to his age or not. He has been losing feathers the past 3 days so he is also molting right now. When he has gone through molts this year I have also felt as if his neck extensions have gotten worse. It made me think maybe the pin feathers bother him because sometimes when he does his neck extensions he will scratch is head with his foot and then rub his head on a perch. He still does neck extensions without scratching himself though so I am not sure. He has not thrown up again as far as I know. He did not squeak for a couple of days during the iodine treatment. He did squeak yesterday ,but it was less severe and brief. About a week ago, he started squeaking a couple of minutes after he was finished with his daily exercise. I just have him fly around the room back and forth for a couple of minutes. I give him time to rest in between flights so he doesn't lose his breath and get tired. He has squeaked before even exercising before ,but I am stopping his exercise for a while, just to see if the exercise is making his squeaking more likely. When he eats his Harrison pellets he sometimes looks like he is having trouble passing the pellets down his throat. I crush his pellets ,but they are already pretty small. Maybe it's just the pellets being very dry like peanut butter. This has been a thing that I noticed early in the year, and maybe it's normal that they get choked up eating food sometimes. It does make me wonder if he has a mass in his thyroid. Not sure where to go from here if the iodine treatment does not work. I will continue it past 7 days just to rule out goiter completely.

Here is a video of his neck extensions from Saturday. I also have a video I filmed right after I heard him make a distress call/scream. The type of call they make if they see a hawk fly over them. I have heard him make it before ,but they have only happened a couple of times compared to the squeaking. He has started squeaking a couple of minutes after making a distress call before. I'm guessing he suddenly feels some type of discomfort and lets out a scream. I started filming him because I noticed a slight increased tail bob right after I heard him scream.

Neck extensions

Slight tail bob after making a scream sound
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Have you tried mashing the pellets completely into a powder and then combining the powder with water to make a "mash" that will be easier for him to swallow?
No, I have not. I have added water to intact pellets before, when my budgies first tried them 10 years ago. I can try and see if he will eat them with a little bit of water mixed in. He may or may not like them like that. I might have made it sound like he was really struggling to pass the pellets down. He only seems to be getting choked up after he eats a bit of them. I don't know if he eats them too fast and doesn't chew them well enough. I could be looking too much into it though. He seems to be eating them fine the past 2 days. I could try to get a video of it ,but its hard because he gets nervous about the phone. He also seems to be eating his grey millet seeds a bit faster than before. The past two days his neck extensions seemed to be a lot less exaggerated and less frequent. He hasn't squeaked either, but he did make that distress call/scream again on Wednesday. Not sure if this is a good sign or just random improvement like it has been in the past year. I will continue the iodine and let him rest through his molt.
 
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