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Ask S. August Abbott, CAS Your Own Question
S. August Abbott, CAS
S. August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 8568
Experience:  Work w/Avian Vet; published bird care nutrition& behavior articles; consults, research
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My local vet who is not an avian vet says that she believes

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My local vet who is not an avian vet says that she believes my budgie has air in the air sac just below the front of his neck. The budgie had a course of antibiotics which reduced the air but there is still air in the sac which is making him very lethargic but she does not think he is any pain. My vet is reluctant to do any kind of procedure to release the air as she thinks it would just refill. Is there anything else that can be done to help him.
Assistant: I'll do all I can to help. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help your bird. What is your bird's name and age?
Customer: His name is***** do not know his age as he flew into my garden some years ago. He must be at least 5 years old
Assistant: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Snowy?
Customer: No except before this air sac developed he was quite an active budgie flying around the room and playing with his mate. Now he just rests and sleeps a lot.

I am August Abbott, certified avian specialist, owner of Broken Birds Sanctuary in northern CA. Please allow a few minutes for me to compose a detailed response for you and feel free to share with your vet if necessary.

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Thank you

Birds are efficient animals with a remarkable 65 million years of evolutionary ‘perfection’ that helped them survive the last major/mass extinction on earth. Only one other species also survived - crocodilians.
Part of the birds’ efficiency is lack of a diaphragm which is just one part of what makes them ‘light for flight’. A bird’s lungs are relatively tiny and work more like a bellows rather than balloons. This ‘bellows’ sends air to air sacs located throughout the body. 2 cervical (neck area), 1 intraclavicular (throat area), 2 abdominal, and 2 posterior thoracic (the area at the underside at ‘hip’ location) and 2 anterior thoracic (lower chest/'belly’ area) for a total of 9.

There are many potential causes for an air sac to leak or rupture, including injury from a fall or even a bump at the right angle. Sometimes it’s a spontaneous rupture/leak and no known cause is found. When an air sac ruptures or leaks there’s a bulge at the area which is the air from that sac. If touched it will feel almost like small bubble wrap and make the same sort of “crinkly” sound.

A bird knowledgable vet will, under sterile conditions, simply push a sterile needle into the area and allow the air out. While it may quickly refill repeated releases at least lowers the pressure and discomfort of air being where it shouldn’t be.

Your vet may teach you how to do this yourself - but remember it’s vital that sterile conditions be adhered to every single time.

A course of antibiotics prescribed by your vet is also important ‘just in case’.

In some birds surgery may be needed, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Sometimes, spontaneous recovery happens, but a vet should at least initiate a puncture to release the air accumulated where it shouldn’t be.

This is especially prudent when the bird is lethargic, going off their food and not behaving the same as the owner knows them to be. When symptoms like this accompany the leaky sac it indicates the bird is likely in some degree of pain or at least moderate to severe discomfort.

I'm not sure I'd return to the vet who did nothing. Was this an actual 'avian vet' ??

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