Symptoms of Illness in Birds: How Mild is Mild?

Winston has a terminal illness.

She has (most likely) between a week and two more months to live, if the avian vet is right. Someone was concerned regarding my last posting about her quality of life–if she’s as ill as we say, does she actually have any true quality of life left?

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Behind all the fluff, her eyes are half-closed about half to a third of the time.

Let’s review. In this post from three weeks ago, we noticed the following symptoms:

-slightly less playful.

-fluttering to the ground/halfway up the stairs rather than making her general full clumsy flight back to her cage (on the landing).

-her tail bobbed. A little.

-she seemed slightly squinty at the vet (didn’t mention that in that post, but it was one of the avian vet’s observations.)

In this post from earlier today, we’ve noticed the progression:

-her posture is slightly different when she is resting. Consistently.

-her wing is a little ascew, consistently.

-she is squintier than normal. Consistently.

-she seems to have a little less energy. Consistently.

-her tail bob is slightly more pronounced when she is standing still. Inconsistent.

Wow, this seems pretty severe, right? She’s got maybe hours to live!

Birds hide their illnesses.

Observe: This is Winston tonight, an accurate depiction of her most of the time.

Before I took her out, she was chirping cheerfully and running back and forth along a perch because she wanted to be let out.

You can tell her posture is slightly off; note the incorrect wing placement.

She seems fine, doesn’t she? A little off, maybe, but… fine? Ish?

This video is why avian enthusiasts will always tell you that, at the first sign of something being ‘off’ with your bird, don’t wait.

Take him or her to an avian vet right away.

Now, compare that video above to pre-tumor Winston below, thirty-nine weeks ago. Different posture, different demeanor, but healthy:

It is only because we know her general pattens of behavior that we know something isn’t right with her. (Well that, and the vet visit that confirmed it.)

She is likely in much more discomfort than she is letting on. She is faking her health as much as she is able.

Why? Sick birds are targets in the wild; unlike dogs and cats, they are prey animals by nature. They’ve evolved to hide their illnesses for as long as possible to blend in with the rest of the flock to keep predators from singling them out.

They are very, very good at it.

We’re keeping a close eye on her; the moment she loses usual interest in her toys and favorite treats is probably the one when we’ll make her final trip to the vet. Until then, until we feel it in our hearts, we’ll give her the most fun she can have–and lots of pain meds.

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