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S. August Abbott, CAS
S. August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 8695
Experience:  Work w/Avian Vet; published bird care nutrition& behavior articles; consults, research
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I have an African Grey, she and I moved to Greece last year.

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Hi. I have an African Grey, she and I moved to Greece last year. She got poorly in the New year so I took her a vet on another island.He first prescribed an antibiotic that helped but after the course she deteriorated again even on her vitamins. I went back to him and he prescribed Baytril .5% which isn't doing a great deal of help either. I have read that birds should be on 10% Baytril.I really don't want to have to take her to another vet and cause her a load more stress. Is there anything you can suggest please? She is gurgling occasionally, what sounds like sneezing/coughing and her tail is bobbing. My vet said it was a respiratory issue.Thank you in advance.
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Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I'm happy to wait but not the sooner the better. My bird is really sick.
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Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Please continue searching, thank you.
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I am August Abbott, Certified Avian Specialist and owner of Northern CA Parrot Rescue/ParrotRescueCalifornia for nearly 20 years.

Together with the moderator helping you, I apologize for your wait. This is not typical. I haven't seen your question before this moment or I would have certainly responded.

What's your companion's name?

Tell me how she's doing at this point. Also, was the vet you saw a specifically avian vet or are birds just a part of a practice that sees mostly dogs and cats?

Also review for me what you're feeding her. Be as specific as you can (not just the name of the food, but what it looks like)

How have her droppings been in the last few days? What do they look like? Is there an odor? Bubbles?

One of the most recent and most successful adoptions from my rescue was a sweet AG who owns every heart she encounters. These birds are the most intelligent of all the parrots. I understand how you feel and how you would happily trade places with her if you could.

How old is she?

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
My parrot is called Billie.She has been worse than she currently is. She has just had a second course of 0.5% Baytril and is no longer gurgling/wheezing and virtually no tail bobbing. She is eating and drinking really well, good plumage and only goes to the bottom of the cage to play with her toy balls. She virtually has no voice though can manage to 'woof, woof' or 'woop, woop' at the neighbour's dog.I don't believe the vet I saw was an expert in the field and has given me numbers for other vets on other islands but I really do not want to have to make her travel again if at all possible. You know why.I got Billie 15 years ago (I was told she was 2 but I would have never known the whole truth I guess. In the time we've been together she has always had the same food which is a basic sunflower mix available from most outlets which comprises of sunflower seeds, sweetcorn, peanuts, clear white seed, a bit of dried fruit (which is more of a toy than a food source for her).After/during she got ill then I got her a much more expensive food which has a lot more vitamins and nutrients in it made up of: Cereals, seed, fruit and nuts 13%, vegetables, minerals, eggs and derivatives, vegetable protein extracts.She dropping normally as far as I know but I think there was a point in the last few weeks when there was an odour. No bubbles as far as I know but I can monitor and update if different.I appreciate any assistance you can offer me, thank you.Rob.

Hello again - this is August - I see you have request a phone call. I'm sorry, but I live in the sanctuary and am surrounded by parrots who won't let me talk on or be heard on the phone.

If you'd like to wait for someone who is equipped for this, I will opt out of this question and open it up to others

If you'd like to continue via this chat mode, I'm happy to work with you - so please just let me know

I haven't heard back from you with regard to whether or not you want me to opt out since I am not in a position to make or take phone calls in this venue.

Birds are not just a 'job' for me, they are a passion. I take in the worst of the worst broken & abused birds and commit to their care for as long as they live all out of my own pocket and contribute my expertise here in order to help fund it -- so even though I haven't heard back from you, I really want your dear Billie to be better.

I share your own suspicions about the vet not exactly being well versed in avian needs or at least not up to date. The most telling thing? Baytril. It is actually not the 'go to' antibiotic anymore and among the more informed avian vets is actually rarely used.

I avoid antibiotics at all costs, using only when absolutely necessary and here's why:

Good bacteria far outnumber the 'bad' bacteria that causes infections and other trouble in or on any animal's body. There's a remarkable balance, a harmony of things working together in all animals and when we administer antibiotics we disrupt the balance. We not only kill the bad stuff, but plenty of the good bacteria will be reduced as well. This is why you'll often see stomach upset, constipation/diarrhea or other symptoms result when antibiotics are administered.

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Antibiotics can reduce the numbers of 'bad' bacteria in a matter of hours (or a few days) to the point where symptoms are no longer viewable. It's at this point many people will think the infection is gone and stopping the antibiotic is fine.

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Instead, the bacteria (remarkably fast adapting) re-groups, but quite possibly with a resistance to the antibiotic you've been administering. Worse, they become immune.

The initial problem not only returns, but returns even worse than it started out to be and now it's harder to manage. It's not unusual for what might have been a relatively simple infection to end up a complicated mess that I've seen take months to get control over.

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Also, while the good bacteria is destroyed (antibiotics don’t discriminate) the bird is open to yeast/fungal infections that are entirely different problems needing different medications. Antibiotics, in fact, are often given along with an antifungal or at least followed by a course of antifungal meds as necessary.

So, the bot***** *****ne - you need to first determine which kind of bacterial infection your companion may have ( a vet can probably use a fresh, less than 10 minute old dropping and/or a vent swab; I'd also recommend a mouth/throat swab too) and then prescribe the right antibiotic for a given amount of time. This will usually be 7 to 10 days, but might be longer depending on findings and circumstances.

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Bacterial infections include: Chlamydia, mycobacteria, salmonella, pasteurella, yersinia and others. Tests should include sampling (and culture) of the nares (nostrils), oral cavity, cloaca, etc., but if the vet isn’t knowledgeable about the normal flora in the bird species they are examining, the results may not mean much. Inexperienced vets will find that the culture grows something and often base their diagnosis on what they know of mammals

With this said and after reviewing Billie's diet, I might have an idea of what's wrong. At the very least I know that the diet needs adjustment. Seriously.

Here's why:

There are various types of what are called African Grey parrots and all of them are known are to be exceptionally intelligent and reportedly the best talkers of the bird world.
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Along with this comes the need for nearly constant input and challenges. An African Grey cannot ever be left in a cage day after day without interaction, a regular change in toys, plenty of healthy wood to chew, bird safe toys to shred and things to see.
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Grey’s reach sexual maturity at approximately 4 to 7 years of age and often live to be over 50 years old. Of course myths prevail that they might live to be 100, but still, 50-60 years old is a pretty long time too.
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There’s more here: http://www.africancongogrey.com
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And for some great tips for overall nutrition and ideas for both you and your bird, www.4AnimalCare.org/birds

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Grey’s have a tendency to develop what can only be described as allergic reactions.
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There are different possible causes.
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Rhinitis (inflammation of the nares/nostrils). There would likely be a nasal discharge involved that may be clear, cloudy or yellowish; thick or thin. The underlying cause may be anything from viral to bacterial or fungal. It could also be a reaction to a foreign object, which could be as common as dust or other bird’s feathers/dander.
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Our blue & gold macaw (Sadie) has this condition flare up twice a year during high pollen counts. It’s especially common in macaws, greys and amazons. The discharge may harden (rhinoliths) and if not (gently) wiped away regularly, it may plug the nares and cause several other severely complicated health issues.
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If you do see any crusting or blockage, use a soft, warm, moist cloth to gently wipe the nares clear.
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Another possibility is infection of the air sacs (air sacculitis). While symptoms for this generally include coughing, wheezing and labored breathing, it can be more subtle very early on. It’s often more noticeable after the bird does something strenuous (like a flight). Treatment would depend on the infection (fungal, bacterial or viral).
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When there is any respiratory distress in a bird, veterinary intervention to determine the source of the problem is necessary. If your bird is having normal droppings, is not fluffing, losing balance or sitting at the bottom of the cage, and is eating/drinking normally, it is probably not an emergency; however, it is something that should be seen within 24-48 hours (the sooner, the better).

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If along with respiratory problems you do notice the bird fluffing and preferring to be at the bottom of the cage – or even in one area of the cage, not moving much on their perch – this is an urgent care situation.

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In the meantime, as well as keeping the (nostrils) clear try installing a vaporizer (as opposed to a humidifier) in the room. The hot steamy air can be helpful on many levels of health and comfort.

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Vacuuming instead of just sweeping or dusting, needs to be done daily. It might sound like a lot of work, but when done on a regular basis it’s really not so bad. I do it twice a day to help one of the permanent residents, a wonderful macaw with acute allergies. She’s improved quite noticeably with these efforts.

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Calcium Deficiency Disorder is rather common in African Grey’s. It’s not that they need more calcium than any other bird (though this is a popular myth), they seem to have more severe reactions to lower calcium levels than many other birds.
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You may see imbalance, falling, what appears to be fainting and even seizures.
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It’s not suggested that you use calcium supplements since over dosing on calcium is also a possibility that will produce dangerous results.
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The first thing you should do is have a vet check your bird’s BCL (blood calcium level).
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With avians, blood calcium levels are deceptive. They will often fall within the normal range (8.0 - 13.0 mg/dl), so an ionized calcium level needs to be done.

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If it’s low, the vet may offer options. Your own options are to feed a pellet diet for the most part of the bird’s nutritional needs. Supplement fresh foods with higher calcium foods like almonds, natural cheese, natural yogurt and even offering a (cooked) chicken leg with a bit of the meat left on it (no skin, no spices). There’s something a bit curious about watching a parrot snap a chicken bone and expertly dig out the marrow with their tongue.

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You can also give an original formulation Tums, although I’ve never had to do this. ½ tab a day or every other day. Some birds eat these like it’s a treat. The fruit flavored types are fine as well, but be sure it’s nothing more than an antacid (calcium) product. You don’t want aspirin or other drugs added.

In order to properly process calcium in their system, birds need adequate D vitamins too. Ideally this is from natural sunlight, but these days with more energy efficient windows, much of the UVA and UVB rays are blocked.

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A full spectrum light bulb in the area of your bird for at least two hours a day is a good idea. Not all full spectrum light-bulbs are necessarily the same. It’s best to buy one made specifically for birds and keep in mind that though the light might come on, after many months the efficiency may be down.

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I replace them once a year. If you consider it a lightbulb, it’s expensive; but, if you remind yourself it’s a piece of the sun and a health product for your bird - it’s a bargain.

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You can see more about Calcium, D, and more here http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww22eii.htm

And just when you thought I had to be finished, I'm going to post even more for you and Billie so keep reading please

It’s generally recommended that most of today’s companion birds have a predominantly pelleted diet. Pellets have been continually updated since being introduced to the market years ago and today’s formulas are better than ever.
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Supplementing this diet with fresh foods every day is ideal and many owners find they can re-introduce seeds - in limited amounts (perhaps once or twice a week) without the bird refusing the pellets overall.
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Whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, fruits and legumes. Include the colors orange, yellow , green, plus reds too! Think sweet potatoes/yams, squash, melons, oranges, peas, chard, beets and others.
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Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous and natural, whole grain pastas are great choices.
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Limit fats, especially the kind from animals. Good fats are most plant fats like soy, olive and canola oils. No fried anything
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Another thing you can try is all natural, human baby food. Stick to the orange colors.
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They can be mixed with tiny pasta or rice, whole grain bread or toast - remember, be more creative than the bird is stubborn.
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As odd as it sounds, birds don’t need much, if any vitamin C. It is a water soluble vitamin which means it passes out of the body after the body takes what it needs and C is available in a wide variety of both fresh and processed foods given to birds.
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Vitamin A/Beta Carotene, on the other hand, is frequently found to be deficient in birds. This is a fat soluble vitamin which means it gets stored in the fat cells of the body, so it’s possible to overdose on it. With our companion birds though, too little is the situation most often encountered.
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The symptoms a bird will show when deficient are increased allergic reactions, respiratory/sinus infections, reproductive problems, skin and feather disorders, even cysts and tumors, as well as various intestinal complications.
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Vitamin A is most ideally received from natural foods like sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, squash and other dark colored vegetables. If your bird doesn’t care for fresh vegetables, a ½ teaspoon of natural baby food (human baby food) of any of these vegetables. Again, it must be all natural and nothing but the vegetable with water sufficient for processing.

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http://www.parrotsociety.org.au/articles/art_021.htm Nutritional Overview

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Even though this is put out by a cockatiel site, it’s applicable to all hook bills from budgies/parakeets to conures, greys and macaws.
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http://www.cockatiels.org/articles/nutrition/diet.html

cites feeding both seed and pellets, but only after weaning the bird from a mostly seed diet.

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http://www.letstalkbirds.com/cockatiels.htm

Are you still with me? Probably still going through all of this info right? I'm here if you need any clarification

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I thank you for your much detailed information. It's going take a while to understand it all and apply it.

And I'm here for you if you want to talk about any of it. If anything isn't clear or you need more info, just let me know. I'd also like to know how things are going overall. I can't help but feel personally involved with the bird - Grey's are so intelligent it's like having a gifted toddler! A huge responsibility to keep them entertained and challenged throughout their lives

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I really appreciate that, thank you. She's been amazing for the last fifteen years, so happy (and obnoxious at times) but that's her, she's great. It's so saddening.

Actually, got to love it when she's obnoxious because that means she's feeling good!

How have her symptoms been the last couple of days? Are you still giving her the antibiotic?

Any signs of congestion at all? We want to resolve this completely and then start on the feeding regimen that should prevent it from happening again.

Keep me up to date. Better to address something early on rather than later

Also, please rate this so I can take it off the 'open' board. We can continue as long as you need even after rating so have no worries about that

S. August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 8695
Experience: Work w/Avian Vet; published bird care nutrition& behavior articles; consults, research
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