We often talk about the importance of monitoring your bird’s weight and how you need to get it to a vet fast if you have a significant weight drop. We often don’t think of a weight increase as being equally as significant and alarming. We tend to think of a weight increase as being diet related, or basically an indication that the bird is too fat. There is also a stigma attached to a weight increase. If you take a fat bird to the vet, you do it knowing that the vet is going to be wondering what crap you’ve been feeding your bird? Deny it all you want but you look like a bad owner that just feeds sunflower seeds. I hate to think how many people avoid a vet trip for that reason.
That has been my week. My galah Morgy has had a weight rise in the last month. I would previously have classified her as heavy but now there was no questioning it – she was too heavy. She had a 25-gram rise across a month. It wasn’t good news and I had been watching her more closely than normal as a result. I’d also been prodding her to exercise more as (naturally) I thought it might help. For the record, don’t prod a galah in the butt and say: “Run fatty RUN!” in front of a talking eclectus, unless you want that repeated to a weight sensitive aunt at your next family get together.
The thing with Morgy – she has always been a quiet bird. She is the one that has always been happy to stare off into space. Picking illness with her isn’t easy as a result. She had no other obvious changes, her poo was consistent, and she was still eating and interacting normally (for her). Despite this, I took her to the vet and requested a range of blood tests and an xray. I told the vet to check out her liver in particular as I thought that I was missing something and I had a gut feeling that’s what it was.
I am lucky enough to have four galahs in my flock who are all on the same good quality diet and they all have the same amount of exercise (except maybe for my elderly galah who can’t keep up). So when only one has a weight change – it’s a pretty strong indicator that something is up with that particular bird. It was enough to tell me that it wasn’t something I was doing and so I needed to get her to a vet.
Morgy has never been sick in her time with me. Her annual checkups have always gone well and her blood tests have been normal apart from a high cholesterol reading when she first got here. That’s why I asked for the xray. I was not prepared to believe blood tests anymore, I was looking for something I’d missed. Unfortunately I found it.
Morgy’s liver is seriously enlarged and this seems to be the cause of the weight increase. Fatty Liver is a common illness in galahs, but her blood tests do not support that diagnosis. Everything has come back pointing towards cancer.
Normally with liver issues, diet is something that forms a big part of the treatment. The thing is, Morgy is already on a diet that supports her liver. I haven’t really got anywhere to go with that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the diet is what has got her this far and why she doesn’t look or act sick.
I can’t confirm the diagnosis easily at this stage as she is unlikely to survive a biopsy or if she does the high chance of complications would just make her suffer.
I am lucky in one sense – this has been caught before she is acting sick or is symptomatic. The liver is so enlarged that I’m very away time to act is extremely short. I’m also not sitting around waiting for weeks for test results for contagious diseases that might cause this. I can rule them out as she has been screened in the past, not exposed to other unscreened birds and has had regular checkups. This gives me a very small window to try something before I have to worry if she’s uncontrollably suffering. If she hadn’t been to a vet regularly in her life and if I hadn’t been weighing her – I wouldn’t even have this small window. So if there is one thing others can take from this, monitor your bird’s weight and do annual vets checks.
In the next few weeks, I’m trying her on a medication program designed by my avian vet. If it helps, it should get her to a state where she can have the biopsy to rule out cancer and go from there with treatment. Bearing in mind that cancer is looking extremely likely, this outcome’s chance is slim. If all goes well I will take her back for more tests after 3 weeks and will have concrete answers as to what improvements (or not) have been made. I’m not going to have to guess – I’ve got solid results to compare to and a very good avian vet doing the tests. If she doesn’t improve… then I’m very aware that her liver is so enlarged that there are already other complications that I can’t ignore.
It is looking more and more likely that Morgy is here for a good time, but not a long one. While she still has the quality of life – I’ll do whatever I can to help her.
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.
Mel,I to have a wonderful bird family last year I lost my beloved Gray Lucy to cancer she was with me 21 short years I will forever miss her but i was so blessed to have her in my life. I had to make some hard choices regarding her care, I to have a great vet, who helped me thru this awful time. My thoughts our with you and Morgy.
Mel, The best herbal liver healer I know off is Milk Thistle. Please look into that one. Is milk thisle already in her “good liver diet”? I don’t know what it can do for cancer honestly, but I studied and successfully used it to help a canary I once had that had inheirant liver problems. Then my sister added the seeds (crushed) to her dog’s food and within just a few weeks, it totally reversed a terminal liver disease in my sister’s dog. I add a few organic human grade milk thistle seeds to my birds food daily hoping it helps prevent problems as well. It can be bought at a health food store or on line at vitacost.com where I get mine. I sure hope Morgy will reverse whatever is ailing her. I’m sure her life will always be quality in any event, but bless your heart you must be worried sick. God bless you both.
My best wishes! I had a Hemmingway Cat from Key West, and on a regular trip to the vet, I was told She needed Ringer’s Lactate to be dripped under Her skin, everyday, for about $200. A month. That was 1985. I did it for several bags, and finally decided to feed her her favorite food, chicken livers, and spoil her! She lived another eight years, and was happy till the end! When she left me, she was 18 years old! She had liver disease for ten years! You didn’t make your bird sick! You have cared for All of your loved ones, the best you can, and have educated us to take better care of ours! We all will say prayers for You, and hope for the best!
Have you tried Milk Thistle Extract? I know that it works very good on people and I am not sure about birds. I feel your pain as I am a pet lover of many years and to see one pass away is very hard. The main reason the I got my African Grey is because of the long life span. I have had her for almost 13 years and got her at 6 weeks old. She was hand fed and her original Vet was Dr Harrison of Lake Worth Florida. He has cared for birds for over 40 years. I hope that this turns out better than it sounds!
Keep your chin up. I pray she will get better.
Hi Mel, I’m so sorry for you and your Morgy. I lost my best friend of 29 years to cancer. She was a beautiful macaw named Feather La Feet. Over the years we traveled the US and sailed the Caribbean. I know your pain.
Our yellow-naped Amazon, Waldo, didn’t show any weight gain last summer. However, his appetite began dropping off slightly, and he was breathing with an open beak all the time. I noticed that he was resting and sleeping on both feet. The volume of his poop dropped off, but the color and consistency was still good. I sensed a respiratory infection, but I never heard him wheezing or noticed a nasal discharge. I made an appointment for the vet at the earliest opportunity. Unfortunately, Waldo’s heart couldn’t take the stress of having an x-ray taken and he died. That’s when the vet felt around and noticed a tumor on his liver about the size of a large marble. It was pushing up into his stomach and lungs causing the loss of appetite and breathing difficulties. We monitored his weight nearly every day, and he was consistent throughout. We had him in to see the vet two months prior to losing him, and everything was good. My wife and I were devastated. Losing our best friend of 17 years is hard. We still miss him. See the vet whenever you notice a change in your bird. They are masters of disguising symptoms. Would a week between my initial call to the vet and the appointment have made a difference? No one can answer that with any certainty, but given the size of the tumor, I doubt it.
Wondering if most parrot owners have a weight scale? I have a 27 yr old amazon but only weigh her at her annual checkups. Maybe I should get my own scale. I’ll pray for your sweet Morgy. My Coco is my baby now that my kids all grew up and left home. It must be very hard :(
Hi Mel, I’m so sorry for you and your Morgy with her Diagnosis. All the best with the treament, it is worth a shot! I’m holding thumbs for you guys and praying that she will pull through! Tarryn
I am so sorry. I know how hard this is for you – I went thru the same thing with a four legged friend. I can’t thank you enough for sharing so the rest of us can be more aware. God bless.
Hi Mel, thank you for sharing this with us. Keeping my fingers crossed for you, Morgy and your flock that it is something that can be treated, if not, it looks like she’s with the right person to give her as much quality of life as possible.
Yea it seems your bird are always sick & I am truely sorry for that. Do you use the birdtricks cook book & feed your flock… I feed my birds a healthy diet of fresh things, bake healthy bird breads & grain bakes & use 2 diff organic bird pellets. Do use feed your flock? I take my birds to the vet often & I never have so many problems as you…. I might try a diff pellet or not use the cookbook which I am sure you know quite a lot about nutrition and care sence you are one of the few on hear going to school or some type of animal education. Good luck & just make sure the diets aren’t all about fun…. of course you can always have fun with your fids & use foraging to make their eating more fun but I would becare full & make sure your using diets backed up with long term study to know it’s safe. Like teflon, everyone thought it was safe for a ever until cancer & bird problems became a big issue. Good luck & use your research and knowledge & don’t trust things guaranteed without researching long term effects! Good luck!
Thanks for sharing your information and I hope things work out well for you with Morgy!! Sending Reiki to Morgy as I know this helps.
Good luck to you and Morgy in overcoming this difficult time. I lost my 37 year old Moluccan a year ago to cancer and did not know she had it until it was too late. When the vet told me it could be cancer, I did not believe it, but it was true. She slept on my chest the last 2 days of her life, so I gave her the best care possible. Morgy knows you are trying to make her comfortable. My blessings to you, Mel.
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