Friday, June 3, 2011

Parrotlet Chewing Feathers

Hi Sandee,

I just wanted to give you an update on Tommaso. I took him to the avian vet here in Placerville this morning for his chewing of his wings. She checked his stool and it was okay. His weight and muscle was good as well. She took a smear and a culture. The culture won’t be ready for a couple of days. She did call me tonight about the smear and said she was real surprised that she found Spiral Bacteria in the smear she took. He shows no symptoms and she said feather chewing is not a symptom of this. She is going to wait to see what the culture shows before doing anything. She said otherwise he is a very healthy happy bird from the outside. I did tell her that I had put a coconut in his cage about 3 weeks ago. She suggested to be on the safe side to remove the coconut because there might be something in there that can cause him to chew his wing feathers that might be irritating him. You only could tell they are chewed when he spreads his wings, otherwise you can’t tell anything is wrong with his wings. The vet said, regardless with what’s causing him to chew his feathers, that the Spiral Bacteria needs to be treated with antibiotics. UGH! Tommaso has never lived with any other birds, so I’m baffled. Any thoughts with your experience on this bacteria? I don’t want something to happen to Tommaso down the road if I don’t do something now about it since he has no symptoms. Can this bacteria be inside a bird and not show symptoms or sit dormant? I know you mentioned you don’t like giving medicine to birds.

Thanks in advance,

Dear Maureen:

Glad to hear you brought the bird to a vet. However, I am concerned since there is no “bacterium’ called ‘spiral bacteria’. That is a description. Not a name. Also, you can’t see ‘bacteria’ under a microscope. It has to be grown on a culture. My belief is that you vet is seeing a fungus called Avian Gastric Yeast (formerly 'megabacteria') which is a normal fungus found in the gut. It is not a problem unless the bird is having pathogenic issues such as weight loss, dehydration, passing of seed in the stool, etc. None of which is an issue with your bird. Also, since AGY is a fungus and not a bacteria it is NOT treated with antibiotics. In fact, antibiotics can cause other yeast and fungal problems especially cyprofloxin and Baytril (same drug btw). AGY is usually treated with an antifungal called “Amphotericin B” which is no longer manufactured and must be made by a compounding pharmacy.

It is also possible the bird may have giardia. Giardia, a water-born parasite that can be seen under a microscope and that can cause feather destructive issues. It is also not treated with antibiotics but is treated with Flagyl.

So, to be honest I really have no idea what is going on with your bird since none of this makes sense. As for not giving medicine to birds, I have no problem with it when there is a definitive diagnosis and a correct course of treatment for the problem. I do NOT believe in the ‘scattershot’ approach of just throwing a bunch of medicine at a bird and hoping you get it right. If the vet said the cultures show that your bird had an e.coli infection and prescribed antibiotics that would be appropriate. However, in this case I would be very cautious and ask a lot of questions. I’m not saying not to listen to your vet – I’m just saying that if this were my bird, I would be asking a lot more questions before I just started treating. I have seen too many parrotlets develop liver disease and kidney failure after being over treated with very powerful antibiotics or being prescribed medication that is unnecessary.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

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