Since December of last year, my husband and I had been battling illness in one of our birds, nearly 18 yr old Sassy, a cockatiel.
At first it was arthritis. And then it was more.
It was discovered this spring that he had testicular cancer. The only realistic option was Lupron shots that ‘might’ slow it down and give him some more quality time before it took his life. Surgery was extremely high risk. Little birds don’t tolerate anesthetic well, and he was already weakened by the cancer.
We decided to try the Lupron but it didn’t help. He took a severe downturn in April. We had to make the hardest and saddest decision of our lives, to have our vet put him quickly and painlessly to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer. We always knew that once he appeared to be suffering, we would have to make that decision. Up until then he’d had a relatively quality life, but we could tell he was going downhill. We knew that unless the Lupron did something pretty amazing we were looking at having to say goodbye soon. Nothing can prepare you for suddenly seeing a beloved’s eyes implore you, “Help me!” As he slipped away, my husband and I fell apart, and can only hope he was aware of our presence, petting him, and telling him we loved him, and that he wasn’t in any pain.
An internet friend, Juanita March, wrote this poem for the many bird nuts like us, who’ve lost their best friends. http://photos.imageevent.com/featherbutts/poemsfrommyheart/On%20the%20Other%20Side%20of%20the%20Bridge.JPG
Sassy’s death came on the heels of our recently adopted budgie, Jade, dying. She’d had two checkups in the short time we’d had her, all clean, but I felt something was wrong despite tests. One day she was overly tired and refusing to eat much. We took her to the vet again, where they determined she had a respiratory infection, (though not any of the scary contagious avian diseases). This kind of thing is often a sign something’s gone wrong and a normally harmless bacteria has “opportunistically” taken over. (Sassy also had problems like that while battling cancer, and antibiotics and probiotics became part of our routine.)
We medicated Jade that night at home and she promptly regurgitated quite a bit of food even though we’d seen her eat almost nothing all day. In the morning she again regurgitated food. She died shortly after. We took her back to the vet, for a necropsy, (autopsy/post-mortem), where preliminary results indicated inflamed lungs and crop stasis, (no food was moving out of her crop and into the digestive system). She still had food in her crop even after all that, so it probably hadn’t been passing thru for a day or more. We are still waiting for complete necropsy results for Jade and hope we get some definitive answers.
Because two birds died, we had our other two birds back to the vet for more exams and tests, too, to be sure nothing infectious or toxic was going on. They’d all tested clean recently, but things happen fast in birds, and tests aren’t always 100%. So far, nothing has shown up as to why we lost TWO birds in such a short time. I would suspect Jade may have brought in something except for one critical fact; Sassy became sick before we ever met Jade.
My husband and I are heartbroken. So are our two remaining cockatiels, both adopted from a bird rescue, and both geriatric also. We’re trying to get through it all together, and heal. It’s still hard to believe Sassy is gone. Our other birds didn’t see him die, so they hold out hope he’s going to appear in the living room or something. He left a huge hole in our hearts and our lives, and a deafening silence where there used to be the secret cockatiel language of squirks, chirps, clucks, chuckles, clicks, and even whispers, as well as that frequent and cheery “Hello!”
It hurts that we had Jade only a few months before she died. Barely time to get to know her. She had already picked out which of our other birds was the easiest to tease, and she was the prettiest blue-green and yellow. We so looked forward to her coming out of her shell and letting us know who she really was.
Rest in peace, Sassy and Jade. We will see you on the other side, if there is an other side.
An update I meant to post but never got back while the pain was still too fresh: When we adopted Jade we were told she ‘turned in with a huge bag of pellets that was almost gone and 2 yrs past expiration.’ It indicated she’d only eaten pellets for years, (the ‘expired’ part couldn’t have been good either). Jade’s necropsy showed kidney damage consistent with an all pellet diet, something that is not well known or talked about much. We’d had Jade only a short time; the damage had been done over years, we just happened to be her last stop.
“Cockatiels and budgies should probably not receive a 100% pelleted diet. I have seen too many cockatiels and budgies that have been on a pelleted diet for years develop renal disease.” –exoticpetvet