Cockatiel with Chronic Respiratory and chewing.

Hi, my name is Connie. I will tell you what has been going on with my cockatiel so far and I would appreciate any and all help. This is going to be a long email but I want everyone to have  as much info as I can give you.

I got Piper almost 2 months ago when he was about 12 weeks old from  an exotic bird store in my area. The owner and his wife breed birds  but the cockatiel there were from an outside breeder that they use.  He was hand raised and fed and finger trained. He came right over to  me and I knew right away he was my bird! (The breeder and vet think  Piper is a boy, but of course it is too early to say for sure) Piper  is my 1st cockatiel, though years ago I had parakeets.

I took Piper right away to a vet who advised me that he had a respiratory  infection and put him on Cefa-drops. I advised him that the bird has  been biting his feathers constantly and since I brought him home and  it seemed to be alot more than just preening. He told me not to worry  about it. I called the man I got the bird from to advise him of the  respiratory infection just in case it might be something he would  want to check with his other cockatiels that were caged with Piper.  He asked me not to take Piper back to that vet and gave me the name  of the vet he uses for his birds.

I took Piper there. I really like the new vet. She seemed to care and even called me at home to check on Piper. She noticed that his throat was red and that the papilla’s (I have not idea how to spell that word)in his throat were not  growing properly. She did some cultures which came back that Piper  had a bacterial infection and E-Coli. His tail feathers were very  ragged since he was constantly biting at them.

She put him on an antibiotic, Benebac to sprinkle on his food, and drops to put in the water for his itching. When I went back for his recheck she said his  throat was still red but doing much better. I advised her that his  droppings did not look normal. She did another culture and some kind  of gram stain. This came back that Piper had a yeast infection. By  this time, Piper was biting alot under his one wing and the skin was  very red and he was losing his feathers there. She gave me a  prescription for Fluconazole which I had to get at a pharmacy where  they made the compound, and Silvadene Cream (mainly used for burn  victims) to put on under his wing.

The Silvadene seemed to make it worse….I think because he even bit more under there trying to get the cream off. Under his wing was really looking bad at this point. I stopped using the cream after only 2 days and she put a collar on  him. (I think I hated this as much as the bird did!) She said to  leave it on one week. The day I was to bring him back to have it  taken off, I got a call from the vet’s office advising me that the  vet had quit and the vet that was near there was not an avian vet.  They told me to take the collar of myself, which I did. They also  gave me the name of another avian vet that they recommend if I would  need it. Piper does seem to be doing better. However, now his tail  feathers are not looking good at all. Not ragged like before, but a  few of them are just hanging down and on one of the top tail feathers  I noticed a little blood, but not near the skin. I read about blood  feathers but I am not sure if that is what this is or not. He does  not want me to touch it.

Also, I am still putting the benebac on his seed since the vet told  me to. Is this a good idea? A few people have recommended  Roudybush. They said that when their bird refused all other pellets,  they loved the Roudybush. Does anyone use that? I tried to get  Piper on Harrisons….went through a whole bag of it, even tried  mixing it with applesauce. He wants no part of it. Besides I wrote to  Dr Greg Harrison on the Harrison’s bird food website who told me that  my bird was a lemon and that I knew it. He said that the only chance  the bird would have would be to get him on Harrison’s right away and  even then Piper did not have much of a chance and went on to say that  you can’t change a lemon into a rose!!! I do NOT want to use his  product and I am glad he is not a pediatrician!!

Anyway, I apologized for this extremely long email!!!! I really  would like opinions on these questions though. I hope you don’t mind  if after this I come up with some more questions! I promise to try  to make future emails much shorter!!!!


Dear Connie:

I have had excellent success getting some of the small species to eat fresh foods by using both clips and Birdie Kabobs.

With clips, you can clip different pieces of fresh foods in different areas of the cage. The birds love to check out food that is presented that way. I clip fresh greens like kale or chard, chunks of cantaloupe, banana, apples, squashes, rounds of corn, broccoli, etc.

Also, with the Kabobs, you can hang a round of corn, a  slice of apple, a grape, a round of zucchini, etc, and hang it high in the cage.

Many species will eat fresh foods that way, as opposed to eating it out of a bowl.

I also use this method when weaning baby birds. It gets them started experimenting faster than when placed into a bowl!

Good luck.

Sincerely, Mary Sara Fields

Hi Connie, What a terrible thing for Dr. Harrison or his representative to say! Actually, it is my understanding that ‘tiels need at least some seed to be in good feather!

But, maybe he felt he was trying to save you a lot of money. Unfortunately, many ‘tiels are known as throw away birds in our society. Did they do any blood work on Piper originally or just a culture? Did they test for chlamydia or giardia?

Wish i had some helpful suggestions, but hopefully someone else will! My only thoughts on the Roudybush is that it contains ethoxyquin as a preservative, though many people swear by it. Pat


It’s too late if Dr Harrison was trying to save me some money. I’ve already  spent $400.00 in veterinarian bills. I am not sure exactly what the vet was  testing for in the cultures. I would have thought that chlamydia or giardia  would have been two of the things she would have tested for though. I am  going to be picking up all of Piper’s records in a few days at the vet office  though so that I have them ….I will check to see then.

I have been made aware that they need seed along with pellets which I will  continue to do, even after switching him to Roudybush, but I think that if I  can get him on Roudybush he might be better off as far as vitamins go. I  have such a hard time getting him to eat vegetable or fruit. He’s eat a very  little broccoli, that’s it. I offer him veggies everyday but I haven’t  broken him down yet!


I agree with Pat. I was also thinking of chlamydia, a sinus infection, or  toxic metal poisoning. Benebac is not an antibiotic. It is used to help replace the natural flora,  in the digestive tract, that is destroyed from taking antibiotics.  I hope you can get a better diagnosis. Good luck. Regards, Linda

Connie, has Piper been tested for Psittacosis.? Fluconazole is an  anti-fungal, has to be given for several weeks to destroy aspergillus or a  highly resistant yeast. Teils kept outside have a high incidence of Psitt  and Polyoma. Please have the vet check for both. Polyoma is a virus and can  cause feather problems. Also, the vet should check for mites and other  parasites. Ivermectin will destroy internal mites, other parasites will have  to be tested for. Giardia is one, and it does cause those symptoms. It is  difficult to discover on a fecal test as it isn’t shed all the time. Most  avian vets treat it if they seriously suspect it is there. It is a water  borne parasite, and is common in many outdoor aviaries. Bordetella avium is  another bacteria which is becoming common, it can and does cause respiratory  problems. JJ

I’m sorry, Connie, but I don’t feel that Roudybush is a good choice. Too many  artificial additives. Changing the bird’s diet, at this time, can stress out  the system more. What was he eating at the pet store? Any change needs to be  done gradually. Regards, Linda

I have switched over 70 birds to pelleted diets and have so far not found a bird that would not eat them if approached properly – even some that don’t taste so good. Some pelleted foods are easier to feed than others for obvious reasons. So far the easiest pellets I have found have been the least processed.

I have had birds eat Triple P over Harrison’s, Roudybush, Haggan and Scenic when offered these foods at the same time. Of course now that we have started producing our own 100% organic pellets (See my website for more info) we have switched everyone over to our Foundation Formula Pellets which everyone has eaten immediately – this may partially be due to the similarity in consistency to the Triple P we fed previously. So far the reports that we are getting back from customers indicate that the Foundation Pellets are readily eaten by their birds also. I have not yet tried a comparison test with the Foundation Pellets with other pellets at the same time and would be very interested in anyone’s experience in this respect.

To start feeding pellets I mix the pellets in with their other foods. I don’t really care if they eat them at first. I let them see that the pellets are regularly in the food bowl and thus by association become established as a food. I will slowly begin reducing the amount of other foods that I put into that bowl, allowing the birds to get hungry at times, but never starving them. Once I see the bird eat any of the pellets, I pull the other foods. Once they are eating the pellets on a regular basis, then I begin again feeding them other foods in addition but in a separate bowl. I believe that it is very important to continue feeding live foods such as sprouts, nuts, seeds and fruits & veggies in addition to your pellets. Many people seem to have trouble with this though and I think it is because they often place all the food into a single bowl and/or provide a variety of foods all at the same time – like a seed *mix* seems to cause many birds to eat only some types of seeds and discarding other types – types are discarded in a mix that if fed as a single type of food in the bowl, the bird likely would have eaten that type of food. You can also use trick training techniques to teach the bird to eat pellets also – rewarding the bird with a favorite seed (like sunflower seed) for touching, then later eating the pellets.

Parrots: More Than Pets, Friends For Life

Chris Biro

Hi Connie, Welcome to the list. What took you so long? <g>

I agree with Linda that trying to force your bird onto a lot of new foods right now is going to stress out an already debilitated bird. The natural diet for cockatiels is mainly seeds. This is the diet they evolved eating. Mike Owen from Australia wrote a couple of nice articles about the proper diet for cockatiels. Susanne Russo, who raises tons of healthy cockatiels, also has information about the diet she feeds her birds. Both of these articles are located on the HolisticBird website.

Still, seeds are not a complete diet.. even for cockatiels, who also evolved eating some greens, buds, and berries. If this were my bird or if I had him here, this is what I would do: 1. Give him supplemental heat. I would do this by using a ceramic heating bulb or heating panel (made by perlco) and attaching it to his cage. Then he will have the opportunity to move closer or farther away from the heat source as needed. The ceramic bulb and panels do not emit light and will not shatter if water is splashed on them. That’s why I usethese. In a pinch, you can use regular infrared heat lamps that you get from a farm supply store.

2. Purchase a good quality cockatiel seed mix that is not fortified with anything. It should contain just seed….no kibble, pellets, dehydrated this or that. Moisten his daily portion of seed in warm water, drain, and mix in green food supplements. The supplements will stick to the moistened seed. They will also contain an excellent variety of nutrients that are lacking in seed.

3. I’d offer but not force a selection of fresh veggies. Someone suggested kabobs and that was a good suggestion. I’d also offer greens, not iceburg lettuce. Kale, endive, romaine…other dark green. Right now because he is sick, I would see if he would be interested in greens in the cabbage family. I’d offer as much a variety as possible to see what he is drawn to. His body wants something that nature has for him. When he finds it, he will gorge on it. I would let him have all of that food he wants/needs.

4. To address what is ailing him, I’d go with my old stand-by herbs that everyone is thoroughly sick of hearing about: Garlic powder (not salt) because it is anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. This herb will support your bird’s fight for health from many directions. I would also give echinacea, which is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Another herb that might make sense for your bird is powdered pumpkin seed. This is anti-parasitic and contains some wonderful fatty acids.

I would mix 1/3 capsule of each of these herbs into his freshly prepared (moistened/drained/mixed with greenwoods and herbs) seed mix twice a day. I would smell his breath and if it didn’t smell obviously garlicky, I would increase the dosage a bit. Once a day I would also sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on his seed mix along with the bene-bac recommended by the vet. Since I also keep digestive enzymes and powdered vitamin C handy, I would add a pinch of those to the seed mixture once a day, too.

5. I would send gloria a copy of the letter from Dr. Harrison’s staff remarking that your bird is a lemon.

6. I would stop treating with chemical antibiotics or antifungls for now. Normally, when a bird is in an acute condition I say to go with what the vet prescribes. However, your bird has been on a merry-go-round. This bird’s condition is chronic, not acute. Holistic is the best way to deal with chronic conditions because it supports the body’s effort to heal itself.