Questions about my Green Cheeked Conure

by Donna

Hi -- this post will be long, but people on this site have given me good and valid advice before and I would really appreciate some thoughts regarding my Green Cheeked Conure, Tiki Bob. I need to relay the whole story.

I will have had him for one year in April and am still new to having a companion bird. I love him so much! He was purchased from a PetCo and they guessed he was a couple of years old. Avian vets have since disagreed, estimating his age to be four or five years old.

As you'll read below, we have had a very unsatisfactory experience with an avian vet. We now have a new one and will be returning in a couple of weeks -- so Tiki Bob is under medical care now. I'm relating our situation and asking questions mainly to see if anyone has had a similar experience and what your thoughts on this are.

In late January, I took him to an avian vet who was referred by my regular vet. (She only works with fur, not feathers; hence the referral!) This was for a check up. For the most part, he gave Tiki Bob a clean bill of health. There was a small abrasion on one foot, but the vet was unconcerned. He told me to treat it with Vaseline or Bag Balm. He recommended a pellet diet. Before, I hate to say, I was feeding him commercial bird food but I didn't know that was a bad idea.

I immediately ordered Harrison's High Potency food and power treats. They arrived 48 hours later and I'm happy to say, my boy accepted them right away. He transitioned without missing a beat and loves his Harrison's! Also -- and this might be important -- the vet and his assistant trimmed Tiki Bob's nails. The vet held him while the assistant worked with an electric trimmer.

After this visit, I immediately noticed that Tiki Bob was having problems hanging onto my shirts! He was losing his grip, but I assumed it was due to the shorter nails. As the next few weeks unfolded, though, I noticed that his toes were looking a little gnarly, though he was still very mobile.

Also, we have a parakeet. He and Tiki Bob have separate cages but would sometimes hang out together without incident. One day,though, the parakeet plucked some feathers from Tiki Bob's head... I caught him red handed! The two have been completely separated ever since, but Tiki Bob continued to loose feathers in the area, there has been no regrowth and he's turning into quite the chrome dome. While he is still incredible handsome to me, I know a bald conure is not normal. Regarding the foot abrasion, there had been no improvement but no progression either.

We went back to the avian vet. The feet and balding issues did not concern him! He said nutrition was the culprit and that it would take six months before I saw any benefit from the Harrison's. Well, I was not comfortable with this AT ALL. I contacted an acquaintance who raises exotic birds and she referred me to her avian vet. Our appointment was last week --
his knowledge of and compassion for birds was evident from the start.

He began tests on Tiki Bob, including full x-rays that revealed my boy's toes had been broken!! They had healed, but not in the right direction. Now, Tiki Bob's feet were normal BEFORE we went to the first avian vet. Is it possible they broke his toes while electrically trimming the nails???? I can not think of anything else that could have caused trauma to almost every toe he has. Again, his toes looked and performed completely normal prior to that visit. This had to be painful, and I can't imagine not recognizing that Tiki Bob was suffering -- we are together so much -- but he remained mobile through this and I understand that birds are masters at disguising pain and injury.

Labs showed that Tiki Bob also had an infection in both feet as well as his skin. He received an anti-biotic shot and was put on the oral variety. He is still on them. (Oh, and he loves them. I thought giving meds to a bird would be as challenging as giving them to a cat, but Tiki Bob gets so excited when he sees the dropper!)

We are on day eight of the meds and here is what I'm seeing: the foot abrasion is completely healed. His toes look better -- perhaps because some swelling went down -- but are still deformed as would be expected since the bones did not fuze correctly. He runs and skidaddles like always and very much enjoys time on his perch. He has really, really been enjoying perch time a lot more since beginning the meds. He can grip them a little bit but mostly balances. I have moved all his perches lower in the cage in case he falls off. Using his toes to climb is a problem, but he compensates with his beak and takes off like Super Bird.

I am wondering if there is anything that can correct or at least improve his damaged feet. Surgery? Physical therapy?

There has been no feather regrowth on his head. I did see that he would scratch around the base line and suspect this might have contributed to his increasing baldness. Applying Harrison's Soother Plus seems to have helped with any itchiness he may have had. (He also loves having that massaged into his feet!) Someone told me that, if he regrows those feathers, it won't be until after he's gone through a molt -- is that correct? He appears to be going into a molt (as is the parakeet)now, so I'm hopeful...what I do see on his head are very light strands of what looks like hair. Actually, it looks like thin string or netting.

This has been there all along; however, since starting on the meds, I'm seeing some very tiny bumps emerge on his little bald head. Could this be the very beginning of feather regrowth?

As I said, we'll be back to see the newer vet soon; meanwhile, Tiki Bob is active, eating well and certainly responding favorably to the anti-biotics. I'm just really wondering if anyone else has experienced something like this and has any advice or info. Thanks! Donna and Tiki Bob

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Jul 27, 2011
July 27 Update
by: Anonymous

One more update on Tiki Bob. The avian vet recently ran tests for Psittacosis and Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease. He did not run these tests earlier due to Tiki Bob being ill. He wanted to wait and see if he got stronger, which he did, before having him undergo blood work since there is some risk.

Anyway...NEGATIVE and NEGATIVE! So good to know!

Jul 10, 2011
Update on Tiki Bob
by: Anonymous

Hi -- just wanted to update on my Tiki Bob and let you know he is doing really well! It's been a long road -- my boy was so sick. I can't say enough good about Harrison's High Potency Diet.

Tiki has regrown his head feathers, as well as all that were lost elsewhere when the infection got into his skin. (One side of his chest was almost naked). Everything has come back in nicely and full of color. He also molted and all appears to be normal. He has regained his status as "handsome devil!!

He has also gained 5 grams since he got sick, which his avian vet is glad about. His feet are still deformed, as expected, but he gets around just fine. He really zooms across my desk, as a matter-of-fact. We do a little bit of physical therapy and it is helping him to grip better. He has been off the Baytrel for about a month now, but stayed on it from March until June.

He saw his vet June 29th and will go back in about 6 weeks for another check up. I am just so thankful Tiki Bob is still with me. The avian vet had me take a picture of him every month in the same place and same position so I could have a visual record of his progress. Wow, he sure looked rough and pitiful a few months ago.

What a difference now, though! I tribute it to a lot of prayers for my boy, lots of TLC, good vet care and the Harrison's food and power treats, which Tiki Bob loves. Well, that is all for now!

Apr 25, 2011
by: Donna

Hi -- just a quick update on Tiki Bob. He had his April follow up with his avian vet the other day. The vet is really pleased with Tiki Bob's progress!

He is molting right now and it looks like some beautiful orange, yellow and green feathers are on their way in. The vet also said the head feathers are preparing to make a comeback - yay!

Tiki Bob's infections are cleared up, but the vet wants to keep him on the antibiotics until he is back to full health. He does have a couple of small abrasions on his chest due to over preening when some blood feathers were coming in.

He is also starting to grip with his toes a little while on the perch, whereas he was just balancing himself a few weeks ago. We've been doing light physical therapy and leg/foot/toe massage in conjunction with Avi-x Soother Plus cream.

Tiki Bob's appetite is great and the vet was thrilled to see that he is gaining wight back. His beak has gotten very, very strong.

It was a good and encouraging visit! Tiki Bob is such a happy, happy bird and so very busy. He is always doing something, whether it's playing with his foraging toys or working on his shredding and chewing art. He has also learned to say his name and must like the sound of it -- he will chant it over and over!

Apr 23, 2011
by: Donna

Hi -- thanks again for the comments and advice. I just wanted to give you a quick update on Tiki Bob -- he saw his avian vet for another follow up today and he is very pleased with his progress. Tiki Bob is molting right now, but it looks like some beautiful orange and yellow feathers are on their way in!

The vet said he can see where Tiki Bob's head feathers are starting to make a comeback -- yay! Infections are under control, but vet wants to keep him on anti-biotics until he is back to complete health. He is beginning to grip with his toes a little; he was just balancing on the perch but we've been doing some light physical therapy and foot massage.

He's been on Harrison's for about two months. Appetite is great and the vet was thrilled to see that Tiki had gained some weight back.

He is such a happy, happy fellow -- and very busy. He is always doing something. He has also learned to say his name! My oldest son is getting ready to graduate from high school -- I was addressing announcements last night with Tiki Bob "assisting" from my shoulder. He began saying his name over and over...TikiBobTikiBobTikiBob...and it went on for a good 30 minutes. I hope I didn't address some of the announcements as Mr. and Mrs. Tiki Bob!

Mar 20, 2011
by: Anonymous

Thanks so much for the responses! Well, I don't feel like a good bird mommy right now because I rue the day I took Tiki Bob to the first avian vet. I hate that my decision led to him going through so much.

That vet, though, is very respected in my area. He's a very nice man with an equally nice staff and has practiced in my area for a long time. When my regular vet recommended him for Tiki Bob, I didn't question it simply because of reputation. His website shows long time experience with all exotics...but none of that matters in my case!
I won't be shy at all about naming him. I do want to confirm a couple of things with our new vet first. I am also telling my regular vet about this since she referred the first AV.

I will keep everyone posted on my boy's progress. I'll be talking to his doctor this week. As for the molting, he does seems a little testy, but not bad. He seems drawn to his fun and comfort activities more than usual -- showers, foraging and chewing. He's an avid chewer...on his Facebook page, he actually describes his occupation as a "self employed shredding artist" and we think some of his work is pretty impressive. :)

Thanks again for the advice, kindess and support!

Mar 18, 2011
Questions about my Green Cheeked Conure
by: Linda

My poor Donna, you were duped by an Avian Vet who does not know what he is doing in any way, form or fashion. Nobody clips birds nails with electric clippers because it scares the birds to death which resulted in them breaking his toes. A reputable Avian Vet uses clippers very similar to cat clippers and clips off a small amount and if there is no bleeding may clip off a bit more.

If you have a better business bureau, turn them into it. If possible make a claim against them, but they will doctor up the records once they know you have taken bird for a REAL examination with a reputable avian vet.

I'm so sorry this happend to you, and it can happen to anyone who is not aware of a few simple rules. First and foremost is NEVER, EVER allow people in an avian vet's office to "take your bird away" to do something. You make sure you are standing beside your bird where you can see what is going on every second bird is there. If bird has to have a surgery or something, then know you can trust this vet because they won't allow caregivers access to operation rooms.

As for your baby's feet, there is nothing that can be done short of re-breaking each and every toe and getting it back in the right shape. This would be extremely painful and could kill your bird. Make sure perches you have for him are of the natural safe wood branch variety and that they are made for his size feet or a bit larger since he cannot hold on as he should. Keep them lower too in case of falls.

The other thing that was bull was NEVER, EVER put vaseline on a bird or any other kind of petroleum product. For one thing it is poison and the other is oils like that can be groomed into the birds all over feathers, into the skin, and your bird can suffocate once all the skin is closed to the air.

All of you, get references from other clients when you go to a new Avian Vet unless you already have a reference like you did, Donna. Do not go into an Avian Vet cold without asking for references BEFORE you allow them to do anything to your bird. Keep your bird in site all the time you are at the Avian Vet's no matter who they are, and do not allow them to clip beaks with a dremmel or toenails with electronic clippers either. The dremmel on the beak can cut the tongue off, and the ones for the nails obviously can cause all toes to be broken.

Thanks for your letter, Donna, and keep us posted on your bird's progress. Vet may have suggestion for a natural diet additive that could help with his feet because as he ages, he will have more and more problems with them and will get arthritis prematurely.Next time you write in, just "accidentally" drop the name of the first avian vet you saw or what their clinic is called so people can stay away from them.

Love to you both,

Mar 18, 2011
Green Cheek treated by bad vet
by: Tracie

Oh wow! You guys have been through so, so much!!

You are one of the best bird mama's I know. It sounds like the first avian vet did NOT learn anything in school and hires incompetent people. I am glad you found another vet. Please go online to different review sites and warn people about this place.

I suspect that the bumps on his head are the new feather shafts. He may get grumpy and itchy, so just beware. Once the shafts are all the way in, he may, or may not, appreciate you helping him preen the white sheath off the feathers. Encourage bathing or lightly mist him with water to soften the protective covering.

These feathers are called blood feathers, until the sheath is ready to come off, because there is a blood supply still going into the feather. They are painful, apparently, to birds when messed with.

The question about his feet healing or needing surgery is best left to your new avian vet. He/she can see the x-rays etc. and will know what can be done. I suspect whoever trimmed the nails held the feet too tight and broke his tiny hollow bones. Be thankful they didn't squeeze his chest too tight too.

Let us know how the vet visit goes. Bless you for all you are doing!

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