My Littlest Budgie has a Liver Infection

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Beau today: beat-up, a little worse for the wear, but alive. He’s a fighter!

A little more than two weeks ago, little Beau lost 2 grams of weight; he’s really tiny (originally weighing in at 28 grams) to begin with, so any drop was concerning. It didn’t come back over the next two or three days.

On day three, he seemed a touch unsteady, was rather sleepy, and lost interest in his toys.

We weren’t sure what was going on, but ultimately decided not to take a chance and brought him into the vet.

He’s been fighting for his life ever since.

Little Beau has a liver infection combined with an avian yeast infestation—that’s likely why he was so tiny to begin with. Our English budgie (Winston) loves tiny little blue budgies, so we picked the tiniest one of all; he was full of energy, had a bright yellow beak, and seemed healthy as can be.

Turns out that bright yellow beak was a sign of jaundice. He’s had this liver infection for awhile, probably as long as we’ve had him. The vet says that the avian yeast is present in many nests, and that normally it just results in some skinnier budgies. It’s only when other infections weaken their immune systems that it can spread and lead to massive malnourishment, which is our current concern.

Jaundice Budgie Beak
Beau and Winston in November.

Every day since, we’ve pumped him full of three different medicines (baytril for the liver infection, nystatin for the yeast, milk thistle to help his liver heal) twice a day and prayed he’d survive the night.

He’s not out of the woods yet, but we think his liver infection is clearing and he’s on new, stronger meds for his yeast (and so is his girlfriend, since it’s contagious).

Moral of the story? Weigh your bird daily—if he suddenly stops maintaining his weight, take him into the vet. It may save his life.

Beau is still fighting and is far from healthy. We’re going to give him the best shot we can at life; though he is little, he is so loved by us and his lady-friend.

He originally cost $15 to bring home from a local bird shop; his current vet bill is hovering around $600 with his numerous meds, the frequent checkups, the myriad tests. Though he is little, he is worth it. 

Budiges at Hospital
Praying he pulls through; the vet says he’s stronger today, his droppings look more normal (no more green color that indicates his liver isn’t working right), and he’s able to perch more steadily.

Update: Beau held on as long as he could and seemed to be getting better, but he succumbed to his illness two months after being diagnosed. :/ Still, he had a wonderful life and his girlfriend loved him dearly.

A Blue Cere in a Female Budge = A Tumor

Well, it’s official: we’re going to lose Miss Winsty-Woo in the next few months. 😦

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Winston the “Attack” bird, or so the vet called her defending herself when he approached her with a towel. (Until I picked her up. She’s a marshmallow.)

For the past day or so, Winston has seemed a little… off.

She’s always been exceptionally calm for a budgie (stiff-upper-lipped-English-budgie-woman and all that), but lately she’s seemed a little sleepier.

A little more reserved.

A little less playful.

Winston is exceptionally weird for a bird in that, since she was barely feathered, she has consistently done things that generally signify illness:

being exceptionally fluffy/fluffed up (that’s her English budgie-ness),

sleeping on the bottom of her cage (she’s done this her entire life; she likes to stick her legs through the grate on the bottom of her cage and lie on her chest)

Not a super-clean vent (a product of her extra fluffy-ness/girth and sleeping on the bottom of her cage)

Our vet has consistently given her a clean bill of health in spite of her nonsense, fortunately. Hubby and I have always been hyper-vigilant with her because of it.

Yesterday, we noticed a change:

She didn’t feel like flying/couldn’t fly very well. When something startled her and she fluttered to the floor instead of making her usual awkward, haphazard trip back up to her cage, we knew something was up.

Tail-bobbing, just a tiny bit. When calmly sitting still, her tail moves up and down now with every breath–just a little–but it signifies respiratory distress in birds.

She’s still eating fine and hadn’t lost any significant weight, but we followed our philosophy: go to the vet at the first sign of avian illness.

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Two years ago vs. today. Her cere has become the same color as her cheek spots.

Today, I braved the snow, and I’m glad I did: Winston has a tumor. 😦

She’s four and a half years old.

The vet cannot feel it yet, which means we caught it super early, but he said there is only one thing on God’s green earth (that he knows of) that will turn a female budgie’s cere blue: a testosterone-secreting tumor in her reproductive track. And unfortunately, there’s no doubt that she’s a girl; the four eggs she laid last summer are a testament to that.

Our avian vet could only guess, but due to the fact that it feels like she’s lost a little bit of weight across her breastbone and these new symptoms (however mild), he suspects she has only one to three months left.

He gave us some pain medication to help her deal with any pain; she will now get all the seed, millet, and otherwise unhealthy food that she wants.

Gram scales are worth their weight in gold.

It’s no secret that birds hide their illnesses; by the time the standard bird owner notices that her bird is acting mildly sick, her feathered friend is often knocking on death’s door.

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Winston is a little on the skinny side for an English budgie; 45-55 is pretty typical for these stout fellows.

Typical avian illness symptoms include fluffed feathers, a loss of appetite (this can be mild at first and hardly noticed), being quieter than usual, tail bobbing, and if things are really bad, you’ll find your friend on the floor of his or her cage one morning.

Sometimes, they’ll seem perky and alert as they look up at you from the floor of their cage.

Sometimes, they are quite clearly dying.

How do you protect your feathered friends when they are masters of disguise?

It’s possible to predict the future and possibly prevent a tragedy with one simple trick:

Buy a gram scale. Weigh your bird in the morning.

There is one simple sign many parrot owners overlook that can be the canary in the cave of your bird’s health, and that sign is your parrot’s weight.

Weighing your parrot regularly could save your feathered friend’s life, especially if he or she is a newer member to your flock.

Take Louie: He came home with us at the beginning of last summer, otherwise known as during the “comp time” for all the sixty-seventy hour weeks we put in during the school year as teachers (smack anyone who tells you teachers “get summers off”–we earn them, darn it.)

We had three months of round-the-clock, home-always happiness with our little man.

But, the summer of our much-content had to come to an end at some point, and we weren’t sure how our jolly green man would adjust to waking up four hours earlier–would he be grumpy? Sleepy since he was now only getting eight hours plus naps rather than an unbroken twelve hours? We had nothing to compare it to and weren’t sure what to expect.

One week into the school year, he seemed a little tired. Just a touch. Quieter in the evenings–he was still eating generally the same amount. Maybe a bit less, based on observations.

It was because we were weighing him regularly that we caught his illness, and caught it early.

Louie was, ah, a touch on the bovine-side weight-wise when first we brought him home (apparently a diet of cheese, meat, pellets, and peanuts doesn’t bode well for ekkies).

The week before school began, we were weighing him every other morning or so.

His initial morning weigh-in was a whopping 394, on the heavy side for a Solomon Island Ekkie (other types of ekkies usually weigh more than this). One week into the school year, and he’d dropped to 370 during his morning weigh-in, a loss of nearly 24 grams.

This worried us, and with our experience losing our baby before, we didn’t wait. We called and set up an appointment for the earliest opportunity, which was the next day.

The night before we brought him in, he was lethargic. Tired. Sitting, mute, on his tiny perch, and leaning off to one side, barely able to keep his eyes open.

The next morning, he weighed in at 355.

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Louie’s healthy morning weight these days: between 365-375 when he wakes up. He’s usually around 385/390 at the end of the day and can eat 20-30 grams in one sitting!

Dr. LB put him on an antibiotic immediately, suspecting a bacterial infection. Louie hated the syringe, so I ended up dousing small pieces of bread with the medicine and feeding it to him, crumb by crumb, to make sure he took every last drop.

Within twenty-four hours, he was UP. Peppy. Perky, talking, kissing our cheeks, and back to romancing our feet with a vengeance. Because we’d only known him a few months, we weren’t able to spot his initially mild change in behavior.

We’d assumed he was just tired/acting differently because we weren’t home the way we had been. If we hadn’t been weighing him, it might have been too late.

But because we weighed him every few days or so, we were able to spot the subtlest of signs of illness, make the appointment, and take care of our little man.

Today, he weighs a healthy 373, which is just about perfect for a Solomon Island Ekkie. =) It fluctuates here and there, but nothing shouts “sick!” like a twenty gram + drop in weight!

Moral of the story:

1. Weigh your bird often.

2. Know what he/she typically weighs (link), both species-wise and your-individual-bird-wise.

3. Take him/her in to see an avian vet immediately at any sign of sudden weight loss.