So, Guess Who’s Back?

He's Baaaack...
Clocking in at 79 grams and extra feisty

So there will be twice daily oral medications (he doesn’t like them, but it’s fairly easy on a bird since they get annoyed and bite things stuck in their face). We still don’t know what was wrong with him, so I bought a digital kitchen scale and will weigh the little guy. Fortunately he’s pretty good about that part.

But to see the look that sealed the deal for me to spend gobs of money making sure this moment happened, click here.

The Two Happiest Grams I’ve Encountered

…are the two grams Squeak gained since yesterday. This despite not getting fluids last night. He was acting much more himself, and vocalizing fairly normally–he even imitated me for the first time in a couple of weeks. Plus he was feisty enough to want to escape from me and go check out the paper the vet tech was writing on.

He’s still incredibly thin–he should be 90 grams and is clocking in at 74, where he was a week and a half ago. I also saw him produce some droppings that were more water than…stuff, if you know what I mean. That scared me because that was the first clue I had something was wrong with him earlier. The vet this morning said his other stools looked OK and some fluctuation is normal.

So today we’ll drop one of his tube feedings and see if he eats enough to make up the difference. He’s not out of the woods yet, but I was fearing much worse after I saw his droppings last night.

After all I’ve been through I’m reluctant to relax, but things would definitely be bad if he hadn’t gained weight. So here’s hoping the little guy decides to chow down like it’s a Roman feast–minus the vomitorium.

My Kingdom for Something Definitive

sleepy_squeaky.jpgSqueak was just coming off his treatments–being injected with fluids, tube-fed, and getting his course of medicines–when I went to visit him last night, so I just let him sleep in his hospital cage. The vet had gotten his blood test results back, but other than being in starvation mode when I brought him in, it wasn’t obvious what was wrong. His calcium is still too low, even lower than when they tested two and a half weeks ago.

This morning he hadn’t gained any additional weight, but hadn’t lost any, either. The vet said he was pretty feisty when she tried to handle him, so hopefully he got a lot of rest and will eat a lot today. He is eating both pellets and seed. So the plan is to try to wean him off supportive care and finish off his meds. If he still gains weight, that’s an excellent sign and he can probably go home soon.

If he doesn’t gain weight or loses any, I think we’re looking at a very tough decision.

Blog Temporarily Standing for Bird Log

Sorry to bang on about this, but this blog has always been about what’s on my mind rather than any one subject, so you’ll just have to trust that once this is over I’ll have something to say about other issues.

Squeak is up two grams from yesterday and his color has improved. I spent a couple of hours with him last night, and he was behaving much more normally than this weekend. Still, this puts him at 72 grams, and a week ago he weighed 74, and his normal weight is around 90. So he has a long way to go and supportive care may be the only thing working on him right now.

We’re still waiting for lab results, and that will at least let us rule some things out.

Ever since I got attention focused on Squeak, I’ve been much happier with Eastern Exotics. They let me spend a couple of hours last night with Squeak in an exam room and have been very good at keeping me informed.

Here’s a pic from yesterday’s visit:

Tough Ol’ Bird

Squeak is, if just barely, hanging in there. His weight is dangerously low, but it’s been stable for the past couple of days. He’s not in any pain–except when he gets intravenous fluids and drugs–and occasionally tries to eat and preen. He has been a headscratch-needing machine each time I’ve visited him. So now he’s on pretty much everything: liver support, broad-spectrum antibiotic, and an anti-parasitic, and he gets tube feedings to make sure he’s getting enough nutrition.

If it’s his liver and he responds, hopefully we’ll see improvement by tomorrow morning. If it’s a sneaky infection that didn’t show up in the previous bloodwork, then it will take another day or so. The bloodwork is due back tomorrow, so hopefully we’ll know more then.

Of course, if he hasn’t responded to anything in a couple of days, that is a very bad sign. But for the moment if it’s treatable, we’re making sure he gets that opportunity.

Here’s a pic I took with my phone Saturday:
Squeak the Dignified Cockatiel
Squeak is as Dignified as Ever

Squeak Update

It’s not looking good. I finally got a vet to give me some advice on food, and he still wasn’t eating enough. I called back with this information and they said it was time to hospitalize him. So he’s there now, being given fluids in a tube. They’re running tests and seeing how he responds.

Fortunately this vet leveled with me. Turns out there were things on the first blood test I wasn’t told. He’s basically incredibly dehydrated, even though he’s going through a bottle of water every four or five days. That suggests some kind of organ failure. If it’s liver disease, there is a drug that can prolong life for a while. If it’s kidney disease, then we have to determine what his quality of life will be, and decide if it’s fair to let him suffer. Fortunately they euthanize with gas first to put him to sleep before they inject anything, so it should be fairly painless if it comes to that. I hope not, but I didn’t realize that a 9 1/2 year old cockatiel is considered geriatric. So it’s not at all unusual to see this kind of problem in a cockatiel this old.

I took some pictures before I took him to the vet, because I had an idea the news might not be good. He’s not in dire shape yet, but he’s obviously not feeling well. I’d prefer he die in his sleep at home, but that may not be possible, or even the kindest thing to do.

Eastern Exotics Veterinary Practice is On My Shit List

So, I’m trying to get a goddamned sick cockatiel looked at. I bring him in, the vet sees him and says he’s underweight and that we should test, but it will be a while before the test results come back because despite claiming to be a full-service facility, they don’t do tests in-house. But she says “someone” will contact me with the results, but if nobody does, call back and another vet will “talk me through” the results because she’ll be “out” for the rest of that week.

So I wait and then call back and get a vet on the phone who talks me through the results, which are inconclusive. But apart from some basic tips about feeding and giving him some cuttlebone to increase his calcium, she’s reluctant to tell me anything because she didn’t examine the bird. So apparently nothing was written about his physical examination, because recording that would just be silly. She says the other vet is supposed to call me back. But following this vet’s advice does leave Squeak a little more energetic, if addicted to treats.

So I wait until the original doc is back, expecting her to call. So of course I have to call, but of course, being in the office a whole day has shagged her out and she’s off a week after I originally brought Squeak in. So I leave a message and she calls me the next day (leaves a message and claims she’ll try my cell, which never rings, even though that’s the number I gave). I call her back and she is alarmed at the initial advice to feed Squeak some treats (I was never given an amount, so I gave him a bit but tried to make sure it was in with his regular food, and I saw him eating a bit of the regular food too once his energy was up). She claims that “maybe he had something and he’s feeling better.” This despite the fact that the original vet said his white blood cell count was normal.

Did I mention this vet can’t ever get Squeak’s sex right? Inconsequential in this case but symptomatic of the level of concern she’s showing.

So she keeps suggesting that he’s “addicted” to the treats and that’s why he’s not eating normally. Now, Squeak wasn’t eating normally previously, and he’d lost a lot of weight, and he hadn’t had treats in about a year. So I don’t fucking think it was my poor feeding habits. In fact, it’s on his chart that he is on the vet-recommended diet. But she keeps asking me if he’s been on a seed diet. NO, the breeder even gave him the bird equivalent of spinach and wheat germ. I finally get her to admit that it couldn’t have been my bad feeding habits that affected things earlier, so she wants to test to see if he’s just eating the treats now because they’re more fun or if he’s doing it because he’s feeling better. So she orders me to cut back on the treats but I finally badger her into doing something, which amounts to taking an initial weight (again) to see if feeding him the normal food is not working.

So I bring him in and get him weighed and ask what’s next, and they reply…nothing. Well, the vet is off again, having worked a full two days in more than a week, and she won’t be back for a week and a half.

All this would be no big deal if Squeak were truly on the mend. But sure enough, as I’ve got him back on the original food he’s back off it and slowly starving to death. So I’m to hope that he’s going to make it until she gets back from whatever vacation and decides on a lark to maybe treat him?

Fuck that. I’m calling tomorrow and telling a vet, a real vet, that it isn’t working, and they had better have some advice for me besides waiting to see if he dies. Maybe a course of action toward a diagnosis? Maybe matching a vet who can both…and this is really radical, so stay with me…examine him and read his lab results and…follow me…use these two actions to form hypotheses about what’s wrong for him that can be confirmed or denied through further tests, or perhaps suggest a course of treatment? And maybe set up a schedule and lay out possibilities for what to do if said treatment doesn’t work? And maybe if there are further tests, perhaps get back to me with the results?

I am so pissed off, I can’t sleep. That’s going to make me a bundle of joy for the unlucky receptionist tomorrow, but then if this is the standard of care at Eastern Exotic, well, that’s probably something they’re used to by now. At every stage, it’s been me pushing this along. At every point, the default option has been to do nothing until I pushed. I mean, I’m paying them a lot of money–much more than for a dog or cat–to look at my bird, and I haven’t complained once about the cost. Just fucking DO something, other than giving me your vacation plans.

Israel Is Going Too Far

I don’t have time to properly do this. I’d like to give supporting quotes from major players, but I just have to say what seems not to be said very much: Israel has a stupid strategy, and they need to just stop it.

Israel’s avowed strategy is to make the government of Lebanon as a whole disarm the Hezbollah who attacked and kidnapped a single soldier. Never mind that this government only came to power when the pro-Syrian government was embarrassed out of office. Never mind that the peace process had been unable to disarm Hezbollah, never mind that the government itself is outgunned by Hezbollah. Rather than attack Hezbollah in a full force, Israel would rather play dueling barrages and then bomb unrelated parts of Lebanon in an attempt to “pressure” the rest of Lebanon to do something about Hezbollah.

Sure, at the same time they bleat about Syria and Iran ending their support, but they aren’t bombing Syria or Iran. They’re bombing Lebanon, and not just Hezbollah possessions. They’re basically undoing the good that has been done since Lebanon finally achieved real independence following the assasination of Rafik Hariri.

Yes, Israel, you’ll be a lot more secure if you make Lebanon more like it was in 1986 than it was in 2006. Brilliant. You’re actually managing to make Bush look smart by comparison.

Squeak Update

One of the vets talked me through Squeak’s blood work results today. Basically everything is normal except his calcium levels, which are definitely too low. So there’s no obvious reason why he should be not eating enough, though a calcium deficiency would cause lethargy. He eats junk food well enough, so he may have suddenly developed a distaste or an intolerance for his regular (healthy, vet-recommended) pelleted food. So we’re switching him to exclusively the high-fat version of the feed, plus giving him millet sprays to get his weight and appetite back up, and giving him cuttlebone to get his calcium up (normally caged cockatiels on pelleted diets don’t need cuttlebone, as they get plenty of calcium).

So we don’t know why Squeak has gone off his feed or is unable to get the nutrition he needs from it, but we’re going to try to treat it with the cockatiel of junk food to keep him from starving. Then we’ll check in a month to see if his calcium has improved.

So it’s going to be a long road for Squeak, unless something more obvious presents itself in the meantime.

Sick Little Birdie

So for the past couple of weeks I’d noticed my cockatiel, who named himself Squeak, was being quieter and fluffing out his feathers more than usual. After a while I noticed he had a lot more urine in his droppings than usual, and he was drinking a lot. So I finally took him into the vet when it became obvious that this wasn’t just a momentary thing.

Squeak spends a lot of time fluffed out and sleepy like this now

He’s still occasionally the old Squeak–not liking me (or anybody else) going into the bathroom, excitedly yelling when anybody comes in the front door, but he’s running between 50 – 70% capacity. When the vet weighed him, he was at 70 grams, down from his normal weight of 90. He’s clearly a sick little birdie.

The vet said that we may be looking at kidney or liver problems, but will need some blood work and maybe some urine samples to be sure. If it’s just an infection, those can be treated. If it’s his liver, there’s something they can give that supports liver function. I got the impression that kidneys might be the worst possibility.

True to form, I researched it on the web, and it turns out there are special diets and treatments that can be used if we’ve caught his kidney disease in time, but that I was not bright in waiting to bring him in. Some people suspect that kidney disease can be caused by all-pellet (formulated food) diets, but the maker of the most respected brand vigorously denies there is any evidence of this, and cites his work with UC Davis. In any event, it seems like a pelleted diet isn’t a great idea if this really is kidney disease, which the symptoms he’s having resemble. However, apparently more urine in the stool isn’t unique to kidney problems, so it’s by no means guaranteed. There is also apparently genetic defect in special colorforms of cockatiel (anything other than the normal gray) that causes kidney failure at an early age. Squeak isn’t a normal gray, he’s a lighter-colored (and, in my biased opinion, prettier) cinnamon colorform.

I’m really hoping this is just a passing thing that can be treated–Squeak is 9 1/2 years old, which is middle-to-upper-middle-aged for a cockatiel. I was hoping he’d be around for five more years at least. Even though he lacks the brain for consciously thinking of it, he gave me a reason to get up every day when I first moved to DC and was having a very rough time of it…if something happened to me, who would take care of this little noisy guy? Indeed, who’d put up with him? So for being there when nobody else was, I owe it to the little guy to be there for him.

Obviously it’s a little premature to worry this much, but nothing I’ve read suggests this isn’t serious. But fortunately there seems to be a good chance that it’s treatable, whatever it is.

Unlike many people, I was allergic to pets as a child and, following the death of our Siamese cat when I was something like 4, I didn’t have any pets. So I haven’t really been through the death of a pet. I’m hoping to put that off for a few years, if at all possible.

Addendum: Hey, folks, thanks for the well-wishes, but don’t assume this is the whole story: modern veterinary medicine actually did work for him, and he’s back and bigger than before. He’s still on a pelleted diet, just a different one. So I haven’t had to go through this yet. It will happen someday, but not yet as of over a year later.