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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22460
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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I have a four year old canary (male), and on Tuesday he started

Customer Question

I have a four year old canary (male), and on Tuesday he started the following symptoms:
· Puffed up feathers
· Rapid breathing
But he was still hopping about from branch to branch with ease
Then over the past three days (Wednesday, Thursday and today):
· His feathers are permanently fluffed, even when I cleaned him out he didn’t move
· His breathing has become a little worse with his beak slightly opened sometimes when he breathes
· Loss of appetite
· Still seems to be drinking fine
Today his eyes wouldn’t open properly either
I'm really worried, but live in London and don't have a car so don't know how to get him to the nearest avian vet - any advice would be welcomed.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Now I must say I am very concerned about your wee lad, especially if he is showing signs of breathing issues. This open position of his beak is worryingly suggestive of early stage gaping or gasping and is a sign of respiratory distress. So, as his signs sound progressive and this development is dangerously abnormal, it would be prudent to have him seen as soon as possible. Because if he is gaping, then this is a red flag of urgency and he may need his vet to put him on oxygen to stabilize while addressing what is causing his respiratory disease and airway compromise.

As I am sure you can appreciate just like people, birds can suffer breathing difficulties for a variety reasons. Specifically, a respiratory infection in this species can be caused by bacteria, fungus, parasitic, airway irritants (ie chemicals/fumes/smoke), nutritional (ie Vitamin A deficiency), and viral agents. Furthermore, we can see breathing troubles secondary to heart problems and even masses or tumors.

The problem I am sure you will appreciate with birds to that they do a very good job of covering up when they are sick. This is because as a prey species, attention to your illness will make you a target for predation. So, if we are even seeing him like this then we need to pay attention and address this aggressively before it can become an even more serious issue (and becomes too unstable to travel to his vets). Too often we are the last to know when our birds are sick. And too often we only see signs of struggling when their condition is just too advanced for them to hide any longer. Therefore, bird instinct puts us human owners at a disadvantage for catching things early, and makes addressing the signs we are seeing now even more important.

Therefore, it would be prudent to get your vet involved at this stage to rule out those differentials and initiate appropriate treatment. You want your vet to examine your bird, have a listen of his chest and determine if there is a respiratory infection (and if so, to what extent). Depending on the vet’s exam findings, they will be able to advise you on which causative agent might be present, and guide you on diagnostics and treatment steps to get him well.

While you are sorting out veterinary care for him, since he is fluffed up and likely chilled, then do make sure you are keeping him warm enough. Measures to help supplement warmth include covering 3 sides of the cage to keep heat in or consider moving him to a little hospital cage (one level with a soft substrate floor). You can use a heat lamp, or a heating pad under half her pen (do not put it in the cage) but do monitor closely.Alternatively, you can make a safe warmer for the bird from a clean sock filled 2/3rd full with uncooked white rice. Tie it closed and microwave (approx 1-1.5 min). Make sure to shake it before adding it to the cage, to allow the heat to distribute. Make sure its not too hot (as we don’t want to burn the bird. If it cools, you can re-warm as required). Whichever technique you use, do monitor the temperature closely, since we don’t want to overheat him (and we cannot be confident he would move himself if he grew too warm).

Finally, in regards ***** ***** of a bird that is progressively becoming too compromised to travel, we need to get him seen as soon as possible. With this in mind, the best thing to do would be to ring your vet for a house visit. This would be a means of having him seen while avoiding any travel stress. Otherwise, if this is not possible, do consider relocating him into opaque carrier or cardboard style carrier box (with airholes for breathing but not major holes for drafts or so that he can be stressed by all the stimulation of being outside). The dark interior of this type of carrier will help keep him calm and reduce stress. Once in said carrier, direct transport via a taxi would be best if you don't have a car.

Overall, you wee lad’s signs starting to get very serious here, we just don't want to leave this to linger. If he is struggling to breathe, then we do have to consider having him seen by his vet as soon as possible to get him help and address this respiratory issue. This will give you the best chance of helping address this and getting him back to breathing comfortably.

So, do ring your vet and see if they can come to you. Otherwise, if you don't have a specialist avian vet, you can check where you can find one at near you at the RCVS Register (HERE -make sure to click the appropriate specialty),, or Avian web (LINK).

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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