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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 32754
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My partner and I are very worried about our hen lovebird. We

Customer Question

My partner and I are very worried about our hen lovebird. We live about an hour away from the nearest avian vet and our birds are not used to being handled - I know taking her to the vets would cause her a great deal of distress so we would like some advice on whether a vet could do anything for her. This morning she suddenly because very ill and we were convinced there would not be time to get her to a vet - in this instance we would prefer she remain at home in familiar surroundings, as long as she is not suffering.
Yesterday morning she had a strange episode where, in the middle of turning around on a perch, it appeared that she was suddenly unable to move properly and had difficulty grasping the perch. Once she'd managed to do this, she seemed to be breathing a lot quicker than usual, and sat quietly for some time with her eyes closed. I knew immediately this was not usual behaviour (a couple of years ago she flew into a window and it reminded me strongly of how she was after this - she recovered from this incident with no obvious problems). We watched her carefully for some time afterwards, but she seemed to recover quite quickly. She is a very dominant bird who is not shy about letting us (or her mate) know what she wants, and in the afternoon she was displaying all of her usual character by bossing him around. She was also eating well.
This morning my partner uncovered them to find her acting oddly - she was breathing hard and making odd wheezing noises. She seemed very unsteady on her feet and could not keep her eyes open. She sat on a perch for a while, and ignored her mate when he came to see what she doing - she wasn't interested in eating when some millet was offered to her (very unusual for her) and also wasn't interacting with her mate at all. After this she climbed back up to her usual perch and sat for two hours or more, having not eaten or drunk, holding her wings slightly away from her, feathers close to the body, and with her eyes shut. She was breathing very quickly and we were both convinced it was too late to take her to a vet, so we have sat with her all morning. Every so often she would flap her wings a bit, as if to rouse herself. She was also preening a little intermittently but not like she usually would.
About an hour ago she seemed to come to, and look much more like her usual self both in her behaviour and in the way she is holding herself. She has been down to feed three times, though she has not eaten as much as she usually would. She has been sleeping a lot also, but again in the manner she usually would with her head back and feathers looking normal (not puffed up or held in close) - she can be quite lazy so this in itself wouldn't bother me. She also has been beak grinding this afternoon and communicating a lot more, as well as interacting with her mate (mutual preening, chatting to each other) and with us. I would say she is quieter than usual. She also also been scratching at her beak more than usual with her foot.
Her mate is acting exactly as usual, and she has no accidents/incidents that I can think of. There haven't been any changes to her diet or environment recently. She is a very healthy-looking bird, very robust, with good feather condition and bright eyes.
One other thing I should mention is that over the past few weeks her beak has become overgrown, which I have put to a combination of her not using it much in climbing (as we have moved house three months ago and they have not been allowed out of the cage for nearly as long while we made it bird-safe and created places for them to play) and also due to a bruise on her beak she sustained several months ago. This has been growing out well and we've kept a close eye on it - she has been looking after her beak well, rubbing it lots and although it is longer than usual she has kept it to a point. We have not been overly worried about this, we have provided some extra toys for her to chew/rub on, and she has always had plenty of these available in her cage anyway.
She is a hybrid lovebird - Black Cheeked / Peach Faced with far more Black Cheeked characteristics. Both her and her mate are birds we rescued from an unsuitable owner almost four years ago, and they were young birds when we took them on, so she is about four - four and half years old. She has had no other health problems.
We would really appreciate some advice - this morning we were convinced she wouldn't make it through the day and now she seems much brighter. Is it likely that she is still ill and hiding it or could it just have been a couple of strange days?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. Thank you for the thorough history you provided. Unfortunately, the symptoms you've mentioned - tachypnea (increased respiratory rate), inappetence, somnolence, and lethargy can indicate any number of illnesses or health issues. In avian medicine, there's rarely one cause of a condition, so we usually begin with a list of differential diagnoses and use lab tests, X-rays, and physical exams to differentiate one from another. With this in mind, your best course of action is to reach out to your avian-oriented veterinarian (please see here: for help in differentiating the various causes of what you're seeing. Veterinarians can perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests, including X-rays, to distinguish between the various etiologies. Most important, however, is to note that once a lovebird acts ill, it's already quite ill and should be attended to at your earliest convenience. Many ill presentations are dietary related. Please let me know what her diet has consisted of.