There may come a day when any pet owner has to make a decision to follow through with a medical treatment of a dear loved pet, despite side effects being heart-wrenching.
This, by no means, should discourage anyone from giving proper medical treatment to their bird/any pet. However, I wish I had known in advance of possible complications related to treatments.
My budgie Mini looked overweight and not full of energy. Her droppings were fine, her feathers looked fine, everything about her looked okay. She didn't vomit her nares and eyes looked good. We took her to the vet for a routine check. The vet found that my bird was, in fact, not overweight but her liver was swollen. Being only 2 years old, that was surprising. We knew we had to get her off the seed diet (it had been difficult so far, she lost weight every time we tried to give less seed and more pellets). Her white blood cells were up (blood test), her crop was full of bacteria (crop wash), her air sacks not visible (xrays), her liver enzymes elevated (blood test). So we gave her a barium test to make sure it wasn't bornavirus (proventricular issues) and it wasn't so.
Unsure of the exact cause of illness (and if there were more than one), we began a course of antibiotics. 10 days on Amoxicillin (I think, not too sure). And then more X rays. Seeing no improvement, we extended it to 30 days.. + 2 weeks of Enrofloxacin. 1000$ later, still not sure what's wrong with her.
Mini didn't mind the first antibiotic so much, she pretty much willingly ate it. But the second one? Oh dear. She looks nauseated after (though doesn't vomit), stressed and unwell. She lost all her appetite. She struggles to get away from it and giving her the meds became very difficult. I have to miss work hours to give her the morning dose. Ever since she started taking it, her physical appearance deteriorated.
It's heartbreaking to see your bird wither away like a chemotherapy patient with every dosage. She lost a lot of weight, pulled out feathers under her beak, lost feathers around her eyes, her feathers near her face are stained/oily and un-groomed because of what falls in there as we try to force her to take meds. Thankfully no vomitting or diarrhea or discharged from nares/eyes. I called the vet again to find she was gone for a week --- another vet took the call but told me to stick with the treatment.
I wish I had been emotionally ready to see my bird go from looking overweight to being a skeleton =( I still have 4 days of Enrofloxacin to go, 7 days of the first antibiotic. I hope to be able to see the vet next week and hope there was improvement. If all this was for nothing, I don't know what I'll do. She looks so awful now. I try to remind myself that IF we hadn't taken her in, maybe she'd have suddenly died without us even knowing why. But right now it's heartbreaking to keep giving meds that seem to harm her little body.
I hope to give more news next week, if she survives this regimen. All I can do is make her eat eggs mixed with millet to keep her weight up, but it's still going down and she's down to 49 grams (she started off in the 60s, and is half-English).
I'm sorry to hear that Mini is having such problems.
The longer any animal is on antibiotics, the harder it is on their body and immune system.
It's really too bad your first vet was on vacation. I would have thought the second vet would be much more concerned about Mini's reaction to the antibiotics than she seems to be.
Sending prayers and healing energy to little Mini.
Please be sure to update us with regard to her condition.
As a note to other members:
Antibiotics are not always the answer. Antibiotics should only ever be prescribed when there is a bacterial infection
If an infection is fungal then a different type of medication is prescribed.
Generally, with viral infections, they simply have to run their course.
So sorry to read this, it is very frustrating and heart-breaking to be in this situation. Is there another avian vet at a different clinic that you could go to? It may be that the antibiotic you are giving is not the correct one for whatever the problem is and hence it is not the meds making her so ill but may actually be the illness itself. Enrofloxacin is a broad spectrum antibiotic but still may not be the best one for the problem assuming the problem is a bacterial one. As FaeryBee indicated if it is not a bacterial problem then the antibiotic will not be solving the issue. Did the vet say anything about treatment for the enlarged liver or talk to you about fatty liver disease?
As an update, we had to take her in emergency to the vet around 9pm on last Friday because she kept losing weight and had ripped all feathers around here eyes (by scratching).. one eye she couldn't really open anymore.
So they found that all the antibiotic spilling in her face when we force-fed her caused irritation to her skin, and surely irritation to her stomach.
We stopped antibiotic and her weight hasn't gone back up yet, in fact her appetite is still quite low. She's down to 46g and still only seems to eat when we offer her food, though she seems to eat more now. (wont go eat on her own). Her 'good' weight is probably 50-52g
Her eyes are better now, there is lack of feathers but not as much inflammation, no more redness, she can open both of them fine, no discharge. However, I don't see her health improving a whole lot. Yes she's not "swollen" anymore, but none of the real problems were fixed :
-She still has low energy and just sleeps all day, slouched forward.
-Her appetite is not back to normal.
-Her crop is still enlarged and has abnormal content (even though her poop is fine and she doesn't throw up)
I'm at a loss. It's costed us well over a grand doing tons of tests and treatments and I feel we made little to no progress =( Poor girl.
I've got an apt with the vet in a week, though not sure what else we can test for. Perhaps Chlamydia... (though she doesn't have nose discharge, doesn't wheeze or sneeze--- and her parents were tested). Maybe it's fungal (but no vomitting.. so).. or maybe it's viral and I'm not sure how we can test for that?
i don't know =(
Oh and as far as another vet clinic, there is no other one with exotic vets, but they do have 2 vets. I don't think the advice they gave was "bad", but I think her case is a difficult one because whatever it is is not obvious despite all the tests we did
I’m so sorry to hear that Mini is still not doing well despite veterinary treatment. Unfortunately, an animal’s body systems are very complex, and it’s not always evident to vets what the issue is. Just as with our own doctors, they have to make an educated “guess” at what’s wrong, and a treatment. If it doesn’t work, they can do further tests. Budgies are so small that not all tests are available to them, since they can’t give very much blood at once.
Here is a list of avian vets in Canada. You can look under the part of the country you live in. Avian Veterinarians
I agree that a different vet might have a better solution. I understand about the cost involved. Believe me I do. I’ve had birds for many years, and unfortunately at times vet bills were extremely high.
Wishing all the best for Mini. Please keep us updated.
I honestly don't think the vets made a "bad" guess. As you said, to know the true cause of the problem would have required a biposy and that's just not possible in a budgie.
But I will see them next week and then we can do more tests if necessary.
Today, Mini has finally (yay!) put on some weight and I finally saw her play and eat on her own in her food bowl. I consider this a win. Her apetite has gone up in the past 2 days, so I guess it just took a while for her tummy flora to rebuild.
Looking at her I think what I'd like to do is a test for Chlamydia but I know those are not precise.
I'll keep updating this as the diagnosis goes on.
Who knows, maybe it'll give someone else insight.
So far the take home message I have for anyone who plans on giving antibiotics to their bird is:
- Don't be surprised it can be long course treatments. In humans antibiotics are rarely given for more than 10 days but for birds it seems that 45 days is common and sometimes even more.
- It may take you 1 hour of your day or more, every day. Plan accordingly. You may have to get up more early to do this before work...
- Your bird might lose appetite, that's not surprising. Monitor their weight
- Budgies are small and it's very very hard not to spill some stuff in their face when trying to force-feed medication they don't want to take. But some antibiotics are oily and hard to wash out of feathers. So go slow because, sadly, it can really harm their face. We would just wipe it out and it wasn't enough. Baths didn't help because it was oily. My budgie lost all feathers around her eyes rubbing and scratching herself and one eyelid was all puffy. She plucked all feathers under her beak as well.
I am so sorry to read your little Mini has been so unwell.what a relief it must be for you to see her improving, and I cross my fingers tightly that she continues to improve, and quickly.
I would like to thank you for posting this thread. While I've had dogs, cats, mini horses, cockatiels and some other pets on antibiotics, I've never had budgies on them and this has been a real eye opener. I am grateful to have this info stored in my brain so that, if a time ever comes when one or both of my birds need antibiotics, I will definitely be asking a lot of questions regarding duration and possible side effects. Yes, we need to trust our vets and have faith in the treatment they prescribe, but we also have the obligation to be our pets advocate and speak up on their behalf. After all, we live with them day in and day out. Who knows them better than us?
I hope to see regular updates about little Mini, each one better than the one before it. She must be a tough little thing with a lot of spunk.
Hey everyone! Thank you all for your support and input =)
I am happy to report that I've just got a call from the vet. Mini's white blood cell count is back to normal now. Her hepatic (liver) enzymes are also back to normal. Her liver size on X-ray is also back to normal!
Her face feathers are growing back in, she's a bit itchy and grumpy because of moulting but that's okay.
Her weight is back up to 50g (healthy for her, she's half english)
=) So this tragedy turned into a very happy story. Perhaps she would have died had we not taken her to the vet.
We are still waiting on pending genetic (PCR) tests to see if Mini might be carrying avian Chlamydia or Bornavirus. Her crop is still abnormal in size and texture (though her digestion is fine, not delayed and her poop is healthy looking) so Bornavirus is definitly a possibility.
As precaution, cages were cleaned outside with pressure hose, 70% alcohol, thorough rinse, so any remnants of virus/bacteria is gone. Toys and perches were dipped in vinegar/water 50/50.
I'll post pictures of before/after/during treatment and what the skin irritation looked like soon.