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Last Post 17-12-2013 7:12 PM by  Mel
Greenwing Macaw with Asthma Complications
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Flash
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15-12-2013 6:45 AM

    Apologies but this is a long and complex post...

    Chilli is a 7 year old Greenwing Macaw, previously in excellent health. We shared our lives with a CAG, but on Halloween Chilli suffered what appeared to be an asthma attack. She had a few of those 6 years ago, which we eventually traced to a wood burning stove, and there had been no recurrence since we stopped using the stove.

    The attack wasn't too severe. I'm not exactly sure when it started as I was out at the time, but as soon as I came back I moved her to the shower room, and steamed it up, after about an hour of that she was pretty well recovered. At the same time I ventilated the rest of the flat, and that seemed to be the end of it. I though it might just be a one off, so decided just to keep a close eye on her. Next day she was back to her usual self, and everything was fine for a week, then she suffered a second attack. The recurrence was more worrying, the attack was a little more severe this time, and lasted longer. I slept with her on my pillow so that I could monitor her through the night, but by morning she seemed to be fine, just a little tired. The day after that she was back to normal again. 

    I do have a nebuliser, but it wasn't available to me at that time (long story).

    Chilli then suffered a third and much more serious attack 10 days later. I'd never seen an attack this bad before, it was much worse that any of the previous ones, and there were times I thought I was going to lose her. She was whimpering through some of it. There is no specialist avian vet within 200 miles of where we live, and to be honest I suspect that if I'd attempted to probably futile journey to the local vet then she might have died in transit. Instead I moved her into the vacant flat below us, which I have access to, and which would be entirely free of dander.

    Eventually the attack abated, but it took hours. At this point I realised that any potential sources of the allergy needed to by eliminated if possible. The list was:

    recent batch of food
    airborne pollution from the city
    oil filled radiator
    dander from the CAG

    I immediately moved the CAG back to live with my ex, who to her credit was very supportive, and also managed to organise a nebuliser and some F10SC.

    Next I bought a carpet washer and hard floor washer, and completely cleaned the apartment top to bottom three times (and once a week subsequently), and aired it out for 24 hours, opening all the windows and running the extract fans. I repeated the dusting again every 24 hours until any traces of dander were undetectable.

    The heater, although unlikely to be the culprit, was exchanged for another one, and I ran this at a lower temperature, and am keeping the room humidified at night times, using a basin of hot water. 

    I have never had any sources of teflon in the house, so that was ruled out, and her cage has always been stainless.

    I examined the new batch of food, it's the same exceptionally high quality stuff we've always used, everything is human grade, and I often munch on it myself. The nuts are all diamond stamped, and I pick out the peanuts. Decided that the food was unlikely to be the source of the problem.

    Chilli's voice was still croaky for a few days afterwards, but within a week it the difference was barely noticable, and I thought we were in the clear. Didn't want to use any medication unless absolutely necessary as she had a strong immune system, and wanted to give that a chance. There has not be any attacks since, and CAG dander is now the main suspect. Although the birds had lived together for 7 years, in our other home they spent a lot of time in the aviary, and haven't had access to that this year However the window is open to air the place every day, and Chilli is out of her cage all day, with plenty of perches around the room, including a large window one, lots of chew toys, and a springy chewable rope perch too.  There's also bird lights on timers. 

    I've also always had air scrubbers fitted in every room of the house, I use the incinerator type, and these are also fitted to this apartment. These were originally fitted because I'm actually allergic to CAG danger, although I found an easy and safe way to control that (PM me if you'd like the details). Later when Chilli was going through her woodsmoke allergy period, CAG dander was a suspect, so the number of scrubbers was increased. 

    Why the dander should become a problem now I'm not entirely sure, but I've been very busy lately, and hadn't been keeping on top of the dusting, and that coupled with the lack of the aviary, the fact that it was winter, and the windows were closed, and the heater was drying out the atmosphere is the most likely explanation. The dust was visible in the air when the sun shone through the window.

    We're now approaching a month since the last attack, but the croaky voice has returned during the last week, and is becoming more noticeable. The only other symptom is that she is sleeping occasionally through the day with he head under her wing, but it could just be that I'm noticing this more, and perhaps it's not actually unusual. These aren't long naps, just a few minutes, and only once or twice a day. She sleeps 10 hours in the dark every night, with an hour of dim light on a timer switch either end of that.

    However:

    she is perching on one leg, including when sleeping
    eyes are clear
    there is no evidence of tail bobbing
    her breathing looks and sounds normal, and her chest sounds clear
    eating normally
    drinking normally
    flying normally
    squawking normally, and very loud when she wants attention (normal)
    preening normally
    no noticeable weightloss - she's a big bird, even for a Greenwing
    there is no discharge from her nostrils
    there is no coughing or sneezing
    she isn't fluffed up, except perhaps during these short sleeping spells
    her plumage is fine, and there's no blackening of it either
    she is playful, vocal, and active
    does not appear breathless
    her droppings are normal

    croaky voice is only noticeable when she's speaking, as opposed to squawking


    If I take her to the local vet, then he's not going to notice anything other than the voice issue. Am guessing that in order to probe further he's probably going to suggest anaesthetising her, and I'm keen to avoid that unless there's no option, or her condition deteriorates even slightly.

    Could drive to the avian vet, which is 200 miles away, but that a whole day of driving with her getting stressed in a travel cage. Again, he'd probably have to put her under to take x-rays, and peer down her throat, so I'd rather avoid that at present, because although she's not quite herself, she's far from being obviously sick. 6 years ago, when we had the previous issue with asthma (which turned out to be due to a wood burning stove), a local vet diagnosed aspergillosis, and wanted to put her under and do a biopsy. I refused, as I felt that the risks were too high, and that turned out to be the right decision at that time. 

    The extra sleeping spells may all be normal, just that i'm more conscious of them, I wouldn't have given that a second thought if it hadn't been for the croaky voice. Now I'm well aware that birds hide their illnesses, but when she's had a cold or whatever in the past, it's always been quite noticable that all is not well, and this isn't the case here.

    She's still playing with me, she showers with me once a week, she plays with her toys, she beak crunches, still burglarising the nutbox... and if you looked at her then you'd see a really healthy looking specimen. There has been some minor feather chewing since the CAG moved out, but that's understandable, and she's previously done similar when we've moved house, so was not unexpected. I'm treating that issue with Featheriffic, which worked well the last time. I don't use the Avicalm, because that turned her into a zombie last time, and the Featheriffic does seem to be working nicely again with regard to the feathers.

    There is also the possibility that the slightly croaky voice isn't serious and will clear up on it's own. In theory there could be a seed that's gotten lodged, but suspect that her body acids would have softened it up enough to be expelled by now, so consider that possibility unlikely. 

    The most likely explanation is that she's contracted a secondary respiratory infection off the back of the last asthma attack, either bacterial or fungal. I've started nebulising her with 1:250 concentration F10SC, three times a day for 30mins. I'm hoping if it's a non-serious secondary infection then that might be enough to shift it. Have also bumped up her diet with addition of some oat biscuits, one spread with palm oil and manuka, and another spread with virgin coconut oil, which is known for it's anti fungal and anti bacterial properties. 

    I've also been reading about stuff called Oxine AH, which is commonly used with a nebuliser to treat respiratory infections in poultry. It's chlorine based, and seems to be used the same way as F10. Chicken and duck people describe it as miraculous, even saving birds at death's door with aspergillosis where antifungals have failed. Has anyone any experience of using this with parrots?

    Any thoughts?

    Helen W
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    15-12-2013 11:55 AM
    Hi there. You obviously adore Chilli and have gone through virtually every aspect of her life to try to find the cause of her asthma. I know that you said you don't want to medicate her but have you tried a ventolin (or salbutamol) inhaler for her attacks? I have a friend with lots of CAGs, some who have respiartory problems. (Interesting one has a cheese allergy and gets wheexy if he gets hold of any cheese - he had an episode after being given a pizza box to tear up once.) Anyway, I know that she gives wheezy birds a few puffs of ventolin as well as nebulising and that helps calm the attacks quicker. Being an asthmatic myself I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to see your bird go through one.

    I have no knowledge or experience of Oxine AH and have never needed to nebulise our birds, so can't help more with that side of things I'm afraid.

    Just one more thought though, I guess you must live fairly remotely but is it possible to arrange a phone consultation with a really good avain vet to discuss your concerns and as about the options? OK they may charge but it could save you a long journey. Just a thought.
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    15-12-2013 12:34 PM
    The last attack was a month ago, the concern now is not the allergy/asthma but that her croaky voice has returned, which makes me suspect a secondary infection, either bacterial or fungal has found an opening when she was weakened after the last asthma attack.

    My concern with the vets are that any diagnostic testing they do will most likely necessitate anaesthesia, which is quite risky, hence I'm going to try the F10 for a while to see if that clears things up before taking that step. If her condition does deteriorate in any way, then I'll take her straight to the vet.

    Question was whether anyone had tried Oxine AH on a parrot, as that may be my next port of call if the F10 doesn't produce positive results? Oxine is used in ducks and chickens, but different birds react differently too different drugs.

    I'm fine with nebulising as I've had to do that in the past, it's just whether the Oxine AH is safe for a Macaw?
    Helen W
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    15-12-2013 1:05 PM
    Sorry can't help with that one. But if you do suspect a secondary infection, a course of antibiotics or antifungals might be worth a try.
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    15-12-2013 2:43 PM

    Does anyone know if there's any way to get diagnostics done without resorting to anaesthetic?  It's the anaesthetic that worries me most.  Here's a good webinar that I found on the avian anaesthesia:

    http://veterinarywebinars.com/assets/ExoticsNotes.pdf

    SharonH
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    16-12-2013 4:59 AM
    When my own GW had breathing problems earlier this year I was in a panic. Our wonderful vet came back from his day out on the moors anaesthatised her, did bloods, x-rayed and scoped her and at the end of all of it concluded she had an infection. After antibiotics and antifungals and nebulising with F10 she is fine, and this was a one off. Another one of the rescues has birds routinely blood tested without anaesthetics, so there are clearly vets that will take blood without, but I'm afraid I don't know who they are, our local one certainly won't.

    The only person I know of who might be able to answer your question about Oxine AH doesn't come on here, but I might be able to ask her later today. I'm guessing from Helen's reply that it's not a drug that her medical expertise has made her aware of.

    When my problem arose, it was brought to my attention that a lot of birds had succumbed to breathing difficulties after a new sack of seed had been opened. One of the well known, and generally well regarded, manufacturers had a batch that was badly contaminated with flour mites. Someone I knew saw a tremendous number in her new food, and one of the retailers that many of us use has stopped dealing with this company on the basis of many people having this experience and seeing it for themselves. Most of this was in the Spring/Summer though.

    I can only say that although having your bird anaesthatised is terrifying, it is a very light anaesthetic and I've heard of only a couple having problems over the years, so the odds are highly in your favour. With the symptoms you describe, personally I would want to be sure that the bird had been scoped to rule out aspergillosis.
    SharonH
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    16-12-2013 12:29 PM
    http://www.birdline.org.uk/portalid/0/Parrots/VetListings/tabid/62/Default.aspx

    Have a look at the vet listings above, under the parrots tab at the top of the page, as I think that unless you are on the Outer Hebrides, there will be an avian vet a lot closer than you think. You don't say where you are, so I can't point you towards any specific ones.

    I have talked to someone who has dealt with literally hundreds of birds with breathing issues and she has never heard of this drug.

    You need to consider that the current breathing difficulties may be nothing to do with the previous ones, and the only way to be sure is for your bird to see a vet. So many different illnesses can cause breathing problems and the only way to narrow it down is to get some tests done. Voice changes are so characteristic of aspergillosis that this really needs to be considered.

    You plainly adore Chilli, and without wishing to distress you, I have to say that I think your fear of an anaesthetic could prevent you from doing the best thing for her. I can only emphasise that our vet, and many others, use an anaesthetic as they feel that it is kinder to birds than trying to do treatments or tests on them when they are conscious.
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    17-12-2013 7:40 AM
    Flash, It is very clear that you think the world of your bird but I really can't understand why you won't have her scoped to rule out Aspergillosis. I always used to be afraid of a GA for my birds until my daughter who is a fully trained Avian Vet Nurse pointed out that it is only a very light anaesthetic which only puts them out for a matter of minutes. Now, with the benefit of her expertise and experience I no longer have worries. I have a U2 which last winter had breathing problems. I took him straight to Neil Forbes who GAd him, scoped him, X-rayed him and found him to have Aspergollosis. PLEASE research Aspergillosis because it really is The Silent Killer. However, with medication supported by Nebulising with F10 3 times a day for half an hour a time, he made a quick recovery. Aspergillosis CAN be cured but it really is one of these diseases which is best caught early. I couldn't understand how he got it because my General Housekeeping and Cleanliness is second-to-none but Neil Forbes said there was a lot of it about due to poor quality seed. Everyone is trying to save money so a lot of the seed used is old or dirty seed as this is obviously cheaper. There is no substitute for expensive seed. I am not trying to suggest you use cheap seed but trying to offer a reason why your bird might succumb to this awful disease. We are approaching the silly season where vets are off for Christmas and/or New Year so PLEASE take your bird to a SPECIALISED Avian Vet before the silly season and get him properly diagnosed. The correct treatment for Aspergillosis is expensive but much more importantly, it WORKS IF caught early enough. PLEASE don't take any chances with your bird. A quick GA really is nothing to worry about and it really could save your birds life and you a lot of heartache.
    Dave
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    Dave V
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    17-12-2013 7:44 AM
    I have just looked up my notes and the "wonder drug" is called Voriconazole. Read on my website under Birds => Billie => Billie Gets Aspergillosis for details of his attack and what we went through to get him better.
    My website is http://parrotland.weebly.com
    Dave.
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    Mel
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    17-12-2013 7:12 PM

    Hi there you truly obviously love your bird which is fantastic.

    I have a bird with aspergilla's and he had to have antibiotics and antifungal medication as well as being nebulised.

    Some vets are using a drug called VFend which is suppose to cure this, it is about £90.00 a tablet (I am not sure how long the course is but could be 10 tablets) and according to some vets it actually cures it and eventually the scaring goes away in the airsac, but you would need to speak to an avian vet about this drug.

    Like Sharon said though it could just be an infection? Either way the bird definitely needs to be treated with something. Nebulising will help the breathing but will not cure the problem.

    The voice can be one of the biggest signs of aspergilla's so I would definitely seek a vet.

    I hope you find a vet close by and keep us updated.

    Good luck with your bird.

     

    God loved birds he created trees, man loved birds he created cages :-(


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