foot/leg paralysis in lovebird - more info sought

by beth
(milwaukee, WI)

For the past 3-4 days, my 16 year old pf lovebird has been seeing a critical care vet who specializes in exotics. Although my bird is in critical condition, this question is not an emergency, as his medical needs are being met...rather, I'm looking for additional opinions and more info to better understand the physiology of the problem. I'm also wanting to know if you have seen this before, what the primary causes are, and if anything more can be done.

5 days ago, my lovebird vomited in the am and his ureates were green with slightly watery stool. I knew this was probably trouble. He was fluffed up, eyes closed. It was July 4th (holiday) and we had just moved to this state 1 week prior - I hadn't yet found a new vet. I held him on a low heating pad for a couple hours. He perked up - back to his normal self (eating, drinking, flying all over, vocalizing, etc) but stool still watery w/ green ureates. I kept a close eye on him all day and researched vets. By next morning, stool hadn't changed so I brought him to an ER/critical care clinic. He stayed for 24 hours, got sub-Q fluids, incubator, antibiotics injection, extensive bloodwork, and Xrays. Vomited once after receiving initial sub Q fluids upon arrival. Weight was 44g - a little low, he's usually 46 - 48g.

Bloodwork was normal. XRays showed a mass/swelling in abdomen...on, or pushing on, the liver. So liver is enlarged, or looks enlarged from pressure. Xrays did not show any lead or zinc paticles (we live in an old home so the vet was suspecting lead ingestion). Other than Xray results and initial vomiting, he acted normal -eating drinking, etc. I was instructed to pick him up 24 hours later. He came out of the incubator and flew to my shoulder, peeped, ate, climbed all over his travel cage, hung upside down, etc. He looked great. I waited in the lobby 15-20 min for my bill and a prescription to be prepared, I noticed that he seemed "slow" to use his left foot. It was as if he had to be very deliberate about placing his foot and wrapping his toes around his perch. But once perched, he was fine - could walk back and forth, etc.
Over the next 10 minutes it seemed to be getting more frequent. I thought maybe he strained his foot.

I left the clinic. On the ride home, within about 5 minutes, he would no longer use his foot, and held it up in a fist. Within another 5 minutes it hung limp and twisted at his side. I assumed neuro. I called the vet and turned around. by the time she saw him (15 minutes later?) both feet were paralyzed. Back into the incubator he went and he received 0.015mL lactulose mixed with milk thistle.

He has now been at home for about 36 hours. No change in the paralysis. Other than the paralysis and limitations it causes (e.g. he can't drink by himself, sometimes needs help eating, etc) he is the same perky, outgoing bird, albeit tired and frustrated.

The critical care vet feels it is the liver or the mass/swelling pushing on a nerve causing the paralysis.
Here are my questions...

1. Have you seen this diagnosis before?
2. What are potential outcomes/prognosis?
3. Does it seem normal that paralysis would have such a sudden and severe on set?
4. What is the physiology behind such fast paralysis?
5. Assuming the mass isn't going away, what is the prognosis for reducing the swelling?
6. What if anything can be done to help with or alleviate the paralysis?

any other thoughts or info you might provide would be greatly appreciated.

thank you!

Comments for foot/leg paralysis in lovebird - more info sought

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Aug 06, 2015
Marek's in LoveBirds
by: Anonymous

I have an large outdoor aviary homing about 50 Fischer Lovebirds and one chicken. This week the chicken seems to have come down with Marek's disease. I have researched all over and have not found any reference to parrots or lovebirds contracting the disease.
I have read that wild birds can be carriers of the disease, but have not read anything about them contracting it.
Do you know if my little colony of lovebirds are at risk of contracting the disease? Thank you much, Kristen

Dec 20, 2011
lovebird neuro sx
by: jody

under what heading did Dr B answer these questions?

Editor's note: Look below this question.

Dec 19, 2011
Neurological symptoms in lovebird
by: Jody

I too have a nearly 16 year old PF female lovebird who was well until 2 months ago when I found her one morning unable to use her feet. They were "knuckled" and she was using her wings to try to move. We rushed her to a vet who wanted to keep her, but we decided to just get a shot of antibiotics and see what happened. Next day a bit better and we took her to an outstanding avian vet who kept her 8 days. She went home on lactulose and chloramphenicol and continued to improve. 1 month later, we took her off treatment and in 24 hours, she relapsed to original condition. Back in hospital 5 days, got better again. 1week ago relapsed on treatment but improved at home after about 1 1/2 days. We are stumped.
Do vets ever read these posts?

Editor's note: Yes, if you want people to see and answer, you need to post a question, not an answer here to another question, at Parrot Questions. Dr B answered this question below that you just posted an answer/question to. He can not diagnose over the Internet though.

Aug 16, 2011
Legs just stopped working
by: Anonymous

What about a bird that's fine 1 minute and unable to use it's legs the next. Feet cannot clasp or anything. Like sudden paralysis. This is the second bird this has happened to.

Editor's note: If you want people to see and answer, you need to post a question, not an answer here to another question, at Parrot Questions and please Find an Avian Vet for your bird right away.

May 19, 2011
Lovebird paraliysis.
by: Anonymous

I just noticed this paralysis with my lovebird. He was acting sluggish then today I noticed both legs are not working. He is getting around a large aviary well so I will let him be for now since no one has any cure.

Dec 27, 2009
Please, what was the outcome?
by: Vanessa

My little lovebird is having similar problems. I have him on milkthistle, an antibiotic, a painkiller, and a diuretic. What happened to your bird? Please tell me he made a full recovery.

Jul 10, 2009
Foot/leg paralysis in lovebird
by: The Vet

1. Have you seen this diagnosis before?
Yes, I have seen similar cases. I do not know what your bird?s diagnosis is, however, since I do not have the results of the tests and x-rays. It is rare that a liver mass would cause rear limb paralysis. Masses in the abdomen can and do do this, but it is most often related to the ovaries, testes, and kidneys. It is also possible that there is a metabolic disturbance such as hypocalcemia, other calcium metabolism issues, toxic metabolites secondary to liver or kidney disease, and even heavy metal toxicity. I realize that no metallic particles were present on the x-rays, but lead and zinc can still be possible without radiographic evidence. If this is a tumor, the cancer can be causing problems, too, with metabolism. Infection and all of the side effects that go with infections (both viral and bacterial) have to be considered in the differential list, too.

2. What are potential outcomes/prognosis?
I cannot give a prognosis without a diagnosis.

3. Does it seem normal that paralysis would have such a sudden and severe on set?
Yes, acute paralysis does occur. One would need to determine if this paralysis is related to the major problem or if it is a separate unrelated issue. Then determine if the primary problem is acute or chronic. I suspect that they are related and the primary problem is more chronic, and the paralysis is secondary and acute. Often times problems appear acutely but, have been chronically developing without symptoms, then appear suddenly, making them seem acute when in reality they are actually chronic.

4. What is the physiology behind such fast paralysis?
There are many different physiological causes for paralysis. Calcium metabolism (primarily caused by deficiencies in Calcium, vitamin D3, and/or phosphorous) which can affect muscle and/or nerve function, toxic metabolites from liver and kidney disease affecting neurological function, direct physical pressure on the nerves preventing conduction, heavy metal poisoning, dehydration, ......

5. Assuming the mass isn't going away, what is the prognosis for reducing the swelling?
If you are referring to the swelling of the nerve, that is not going away until the mass does.

6. What if anything can be done to help with or alleviate the paralysis?
I can?t offer treatment options without a diagnosis.

Dr B

Jul 08, 2009
by: Linda

So sorry to hear about all this awful stuff you and your bird are going through. It sounds to me, from what you have explained, that there has been a mass in his abdomen for some time and that it could be growing fast now. A mass like this does put pressure on nerves as it grows and spreads out. It sounds like cancer, and this may not be confirmed except with a necropsy. As for sudden onset, that one is the mystery as you should have seen some signs of this tumor before now.

I wish I could be of more help, and just do not know what could have caused this. Sometimes drinking water that has bad chemicals in it can cause this kind of tumor. Water with chlorine and the fluoride is poison for birds. Those two chemicals stay in bird's and our bodies and is stored in soft tissue like the liver, pancreas, heart, lungs and brain. Once the levels are high enough, and in a bird, does not take that long, the organs stop working properly. As I say, I don't know if this is the problem or not, and sorry to say, at this point the prognosis does not look good for your little bird. If your poor bird does pass away, please have the vet perform a necropsy so you will have the answers you seek and closure for you and your family.

As for drinking water, our is full of the chlorine and fluoride plus a lot of other pesticides, etc. We rent an under the sink Culligan reverse osmosis filtering system for our drinking water for us, dogs and birds. We also live in a Limestone area and Lime is poison for humans, pets and everything that drinks it over a long period of time.We are doing the best we can and hope and pray it is enough.

I wish I could be of more help to you as you seek answers for what is happening to your bird. Unfortunately, it sounds as if even the vets are stumped by all of this. The tumor is, I think, the main issue, and if it is large enough to be crowding his organs, removal is probably not an option. If it is cancer, then opening him up would be a mistake as that makes cancer spread even faster.

We will keep you and your sweet bird in our prayers that he is relieved either of his sickness or of the pain he must be suffering from it. Prayers will also include you and family as you go through this terrible time. All our hearts go to out to you and yours.

Let us know what happened and if vets are successful in helping him. Let us know if the news turns really bad as well as we, on this site, are here to support each other in good times and especially in the bad times.

Linda and Family

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