Sick Parakeets

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Animal Hospital (Vet) Patients: Parakeets "Lexi" and "Nikko" 

Because I am constantly weighing my birds I normally know their average, full and lightest weights off the top of my head. Having 4 parakeets makes that a little trickier because it's much easier to get their weights confused but because Lexi is the only female, I tend to remember hers best. It's what separates her from all the boys! However, confusion is why I use a training chart to keep track of their weight as often as possible. I try to do it daily, but sometimes it happens weekly. In this case, it was daily kept for Lexi and weekly for Nikko. 

Lexi is my lightest parakeet and usually females tend to weigh a tad lighter than males (not always, though). The absolute lowest weight she has ever been at is 25 grams. Anything under that, I consider to be a possible sign of illness. Her average weight is 28 grams, unlike her brothers who average more in the 30-gram range. Visa, her brother, is a larger parakeet and tends to almost always be exactly 36 grams while Nikko averages in the middle of the two in the early 30's.

However, I started to notice a slow, but steady, decline in Lexi's weight over the last week. She was averaging losing about a 1/2 gram every day. My parakeets are on a pellet diet mainly (with added fresh foods and the random birdie bread) and only get seeds or millet for training behaviors. But because her weight was dropping, I began offering her more seeds in an attempt to see if at a "stuffed" weight she would gain. She enjoyed the seeds and seemed to be eating well... but the scale was not mirroring her eating habits. By the way, Patty introduced me to the fact that parakeets are ground foragers and need seed but it should be organic. To read her article on this topic, click here.

That's when I knew it was time to worry. If she wasn't completely stuffing herself with seeds, something was very wrong. As most of us know, millet is like crack to budgies, and even though I offered her spray millet and store bought seed, nothing was changing on the scale.

At the vet's office, Lexi only weighed 23 grams. And that was AFTER eating. You could tell by the look of her crop, that it wasn't full and a piece of spray millet sat in her travel carrier hardly touched.

That's Lexi's story of illness, Nikko's is much shorter. Nikko is the type of bird that loves to eat pretty much all day (but not to the point of obesity) and although everything about him for the most part stayed the same, we noticed he acted less interested in flying... and ALL of our birds are fully flighted. Usually that is how we spot the first signs of illness in our birds; a lack of interest in wanting to fly. He also showed the "usual" symptoms of being a bit lethargic and off on his own. Lately I've been so wrapped up in watching Lexi's weight and dealing with some unusual behavior in one of my galah's, I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been to the rest of the flock. 

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Vet's Office Pictured Before: Parakeet "Nikko"

Nikko had developed so much discharge from his nostril on his cere that it was inflamed (as you can see in the picture). He didn't act like it hurt, but I couldn't imagine it being comfortable. I literally found it this morning and 5 minutes later I was in with the vet. The vet took his weight first thing, same as Lexi and he was around 28 grams. Not as low as Lexi, but not as high as his "stuffed" weight would be, and he'd been offered the same seed and millet. Both birds slept through the entire exam during down time... which was not a good sign.

Nikko was first, as he had the more obvious symptoms of a problem. The vet gently applied pressure to his cere around the discharge and a HUGE amount of puss came out. For the size of Nikko, it was A LOT of puss. Nikko didn't make a sound of discomfort at all, which shocked me... but then I figured it was probably a lot of pressure lifted off his cere. I was relieved to know it still didn't appear to hurt him to apply the pressure the vet did. It was very red and irritable looking afterwards. As you can see in this photo, but in my opinion, MUCH better looking: 

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Vet's Office After: Parakeet "Nikko"

However, the cere had gotten so swollen that it kind of fell inwards on itself as you can see if you look close. And knowing Nikko as I do, I can even tell from the way his eyes look in these pictures how crappy he felt.

After a full exam on both birds, the vet concluded it was what we suspected: a bacterial infection.

We were prescribed an anti-biotic for the bacteria, as well as medication for a fungal infection and a supplement oil by Harrison's for Vitamin A. Then getting them as many fruits and veggies as possible, while keeping both Lexi and Nikko separated from our other budgies (Visa and Skye) as well from each other so we could watch closely how much food they're consuming individually and what their poop is looking like. In our case, runny stool will tell us they are getting too much medication and will let us know to make the dose even less.

Before leaving the vet, she pushed for puss one last time and got more. This time though, Nikko yelled and yelled. He did not like it one bit but his nostril was clear and that's what mattered. This time the opening was evident and unblocked.

Both Nikko and Lexi are going in next Friday for their updated check up, so I will keep you all posted on their progress. Hopefully this helps those of you who may notice discharge from your bird early on - it can even be CLEAR and you will want it checked out before it gets worse. I didn't notice until it was severely OBVIOUS, and you'll want to do what you can to notice a lot sooner than I did.

We also sent out for a test done on Chlamydia which I was told would take 7-10 days to hear the results of. Chlamydia has a different medication we would need to use to treat Lexi and Nikko so we wanted to find out immediately. All medication we received has to be given to the bird via a small syringe directly into the mouth. And we will also need to apply pressure to drain any discharge seen around Nikko's face again should it come back which we're all assuming it will, at least for the next couple of days. The vet guessed we were 3-4 days late catching the discharge from Nikko. You can see how bad it got in that amount of time, every day is vital. Hopefully this helps spread the knowledge on so my mistakes can be avoided by you.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

1 comment


Thanks you so much for sharing as throughly as you have. Pictures as well.I will know what to look for. I’m always frightened of missing something that might be harmful to my little bird.How do you find a qualified vet in your area? I live in Georgia and can go to Atlanta which is an hour away.Sometimes I know every second counts so is there a resource where I can find recommendations for an avian vet in my area?


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