Moluccan Cockatoo

Update on Our Sick Moluccan Cockatoo: Ruling Out PDD

Ugh. Your parrot is sick and the avian veterinarian suggests ruling out PDD or another worrisome diagnosis.
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Moluccan Cockatoo

Peachy and I have discovered a whole new flock of supporters as we've battled ruling out PDD! Peachy, our sick Moluccan Cockatoo, has been a proud parrot supplies tester at products since 1998.  He got sick in late September 2013.  It has been a scary roller coaster ride.  I swear that there were at least five nights over the past month in which I've feared he wouldn't be around in the morning when I woke up.

It's so scary when your bird is critically ill with a difficult to diagnose illness

I adopted Peachy when he was 3 years old.  He is the same age as my son, Max and the two are like brothers.  Peachy is truly a family member. Peachy was actually the one to choose me.  I had originally entered the pet store looking for a Blue and Gold Macaw. But, Peachy literally called out to me.  I went to that same pet store once or twice a week and each time, Peachy would holler, "Hey!! Come here!"  The store staff noticed his reaction and demeanor and convinced me that he'd fallen for me.  I was told that he "came to life" every time he saw me, which was a lot considering that I visited numerous times  I knew that I wanted him in my family early on, but I just wanted to make sure that I was up to the task of caring for a large Cockatoo.

Sick Parrot Syndrome

Peachy is experiencing labored breathing

Peachy has been the picture of health for years.  He's been offered a complete and balanced diet and all the amenities for play, enrichment, exercise and diet. He became really stressed when I cut his foot during a routine nail trim.  Within a few days, things went terribly, terribly wrong.  He succumbed to sick parrot syndrome.

I'm lucky enough to have a Board Certified Avian Vet, Dr. Lena Roeder of Dublin Animal Hospital in Colorado Springs, just a few miles away.  I've got access to everything bird health being so close to Denver and the Vet School.  Yet, my bird was in critical condition for most of October 2013.  Our lives became a day by day thing.

This crazy saga started on September 29 with the cut on the foot.  We first tried a round of antibiotics, but Peachy lost 75 grams within just a few days and showed signs of labored breathing.  Since Peachy's condition had actually declined with antibiotics, X-rays were taken.  The results were grim.  They indicated that he had two massive tumors in his chest cavity and in his gizzard area. Dr. Roeder felt he may need immediate surgery and referred me to a vet in Denver. We drove up to a Denver vet which was equipped to perform delicate surgery.  Dr. LaBonde reviewed Peachy's chart and opted to start with the least invasive procedure given the symptoms rather than immediately opening Peachy up.  He did a procedure called  Barium X-ray which would reveal if Peachy had  gastrointestinal damage.  It was positive. Peachy's digestive tract was literally so swollen that it was squishing his air sacs. In fact, the area was so swollen that it looked like tumors on the original X-rays. The test indicated that Peachy "may" have contracted PDD, also known as Macaw Wasting Disease.  Dr. LaBonde performed a few tests including a crop biopsy and rushed the samples to the lab.  He also sent a consult request to the vet school, as Peachy's symptoms were proving to be a real mystery.

Peachy's medications
I found that mixing meds with Organic Baby Food and pouring it from a tiny pitcher saved a lot of syringes!!

Waiting 10 days for the results was unbearable.  During those 10 days, we kept Peachy stable with meds , a different antibiotic, Baytril, and Metacam to treat the inflammation and pain in his gut.  Peachy required gavage feeding at the vet office daily.  Even so, Peachy only had two semi-good days where he was alert and out of his hospital cage.   One night, I had to rush him to the vet a hour before closing because he started throwing up blood!  We added Succralfate Carafate to the medication regime.

Parrot Lover's Unite

But, a karma thing started.   I've been involved in writing a series of bird first aid articles and despite loving parrots for years, learning bird first aid and intensive information about bird wellness has been like Avian First Aid Boot Camp. My new knowledge has helped me save Peachy's life several times throughout the Fall 2013 months.  I was well aware of the symptoms to look for in addition to first hand knowledge of my birds body language.  I knew when he was in dire straights. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not been writing bird first aid blogs. I also got a prayer chain, of sorts, going on for Peachy.  There were over 1,000 people sending prayers and karma to my feathered friend. Peachy knows how much he's loved and he had a desire to pull through, as well. Finally, I got the call.  Dr. LaBonde told me that Peachy's crop biopsy was negative for PDD!  But ... "maybe he didn't get a good sample."  He indicated that he felt the results may not be accurate and that Peachy's condition was not improving and he told me that Peachy's prognosis was "very guarded." I cried so hard that night.  I felt like I was losing a son.

University Of Colorado Vet School Saved Peachy

One small glimmer of hope, he said, came from the Vet School.  They suggested that we rule out ", which is very rare in large birds like Peachy. It is usually seen in much smaller birds like parrotlets, budgies, finches & lovebirds. While a possibility, Dr. LaBonde considered a real long-shot in Peachy's case.

On October 22 I resigned myself that I was going to lose Peachy fairly quickly.  I've never cried so hard in my life.  Peachy is really my buddy. I slept horribly that night. I decided to go into work despite my grief and tiredness.  I'm a school social worker and I work with special needs kids.  Peachy comes to work with me and my co-workers and students love him. Well, on the way in, Dr. Roeder called.  She had a different twist on the situation.  Her prognosis was not nearly as grim. She agreed that a fecal test for Mega Bacteria was in order.  And, she saw a lot more hope.  

I changed my route and took Peachy over to her for the simple $35 fecal test.

You guessed it.  Peachy's stools had this nasty fungus everywhere.  We started him on a round of Amphotericin. <Unfortunately, riding the body of the fungus is a fairly intensive treatment.  In Peachy's case, treatment involves 30 days of twice daily medication that has pretty yucky side effects.  Peachy is like "Don't stick a freakin' syringe in MY mouth."  He bit it in half.  This strong bird knows how to thrust his tongue and spit out what ever he doesn't want.  And, furthermore, he is a real handful at 900+ gm.How To Give A Large Parrot Medication
But, developed a system for how to give a large parrot medication.  Using a creamer with a spout, I mix up a couple of tablespoons of Organic Baby Food with warm water, add the meds and sometimes Formula One or Electrovites, depending on his weight, and pour the "happy juice" in his mouth.    It much more palatable and actually lets me get the meds in! In fact, he now sees the pitcher and starts doing a happy danceGreat vet care, lots of loving, time consuming hand feeding and med management, prayers, karma and again, love.  My baby boy is recovering more every day.  I took him into Dr. Roeder for an exam after being on Amphotericin for 6 days and he has greatly improved.  The Mega Bacteria are almost gone!  Look at Peachy now! We've got 3 more weeks of treatment and then a follow-up x-ray to see if the gastrointestinal damage has reversed, but at this stage of the game, I'm sooooo much more hopeful. If you've had a similar illness in your bird, we'd love to hear from you.  The support is really helpful.


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