Jade's head shaking (seizure?) (Mexican Redhead Amazon)

by Monette
(N. TX)

Jade is our Mexican Redhead Amazon who is 6 months old. We bought her from a breeder 2 months ago who has said that she never saw her do this (of course).

Her food DID change when we got her however she had a couple of these episodes before the food change. The breeder's food was nasty with bugs thus the food change to Katyee Fiesta parrot food and ZuPreem Avian Maintenance Fruit Blend Flavor diet for Parrots & Conures.

I finally was able to get her random head shaking on video, except for what triggers them. (copy and paste to see her head shaking)
(The link did not work, so it was removed.)
All she does is ruffle her feathers, like a dog shakes when getting out of a bath to get rid of the water on it's fur then this happens. Not ALL the time though. And she seems to be fully aware of everything going on while it's happening. If I hold her beak while it's happening then her eyes keep shaking like her head did. She even proceeds to climb around as if nothing is happening.

Here are some questions someone asked me that I answered for more information:
"What is happening in the seconds before she starts it?"
It's random. She ruffles up and shakes her feathers up like in pruning. The head shaking is only as a result of that. The harder the shake the 'harder' and longer the head shaking is.

"Was anything at all (cleaners, toys, food, etc) changed right before she started doing this?"
Nope. Same stuff since we got her in November. Her first 'episode' was the first or second day we got her. I asked the breeder and she just said that she never saw her do it before and that it sounds normal (I'm thinking she's thinking Jade's the an up and down wobble which is normal) But I can't really expect her to say that yes, she's seen her do this before we got her and then sold her to us without mentioning it, you know?

"Can she stop easily? (when you call her name? does she always stop?")
Just like you saw in the video it gradually slows down and to a stop. Doesn't matter if I'm talking to her or not. I've watched her have them after a ruffling when she doesn't know I'm there (I think! ha)

"What happens as soon as she starts? (you see and call to her, then she stops, she notices you looking at her and she stops? you walk by? )"
No, it's just a matter of time before it'll stop. I had a dog that had seizures and I would just have to hold her and calmly talk to her to let her know every thing's OK and eventually it would stop. She would be exhausted afterwards though.

Do birds have fluid in their ears like we do (I think we do?) When she fluffs up when pruning and shakes it all out it's like her itty brain bounces around in there like a spring and it keeps jiggling until gradually comes to a stop. I'm sure that's not what it is but just using it as a comparison to what it looks like. She responds normally even when it's happening too and will 'talk' to you or try to bite your finger if you give it to her (the usual). Birdie vertigo I guess.

I'm going to email this video to our avian vet too. Just wanted to know what your thoughts are.

Thanks for any help you can give :)


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Jan 19, 2008
Jade's head shaking (seizure?)
by: Monette

Thank you for your response Dr. B :) I have taken her off of the ZuPreem Fruit Blend and her head shaking has almost stopped as well as giving her Harrison's food the vet gave us to try. We are waiting on blood work to come back. :)

Jan 14, 2008
Please take to an experienced Avian Vet
by: The Vet

This certainly sounds like a primary neurological problem – possibilities include calcium deficiency, idiopathic seizures, brain tumor, hydrocephalus, inner ear infection, CNS infections, toxins (especially lead and zinc) and head trauma.

I would recommend not feeding the colored pellets or pellets with sugar (i.e. ZuPreem and KT). It can be very challenging to determine a cause. Switch to an organic pellet. Also a veterinarian should treat empirically for a calcium deficiency.

She should take the bird to an experienced avian veterinarian, preferably board certified for a complete work up and diagnosis.

Hope this helps.

Dr B

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