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.