Description: Avian vet Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, Dip. ABVP – avian practice, described seizures in a March 2003 BIRD TALK column as, “abnormal electrical activity in the brain, causing the brain cells to fire erratically.”
There are partial and generalized seizures and they may occur singly or in clusters of seizures.
A seizure causes muscle twitching, spasms, blinking eyelids, and rhythmic contractions of the muscles of the limbs and/or neck. Abnormal vocalization and loss of consciousness for a period may also occur during a seizure.
Primary lesions in the cranium or brain can cause seizures, such as a tumor, abscess, trauma or cerebrovascular accident. Problems not directly involving the brain and central nervous system, called extracranial causes can also create seizures, including metabolic and toxic problems. These may include substances found in cigarettes, lead toxicosis, insecticides, zinc toxicosis, mycotoxins, chocolate, salt and overheated PTFE (non-stick cookware). Lack of oxygen to the brain, low blood calcium levels, low blood sugar levels, heat stress, liver disease, emboli, medication overdose and infectious diseases are other examples of factors that may cause a bird to have seizures.
Seizures may be characterized as idiopathic epilepsy, meaning that no specific cause is found. Some species are more prone to epileptic seizures, including peach-faced lovebirds and red-lored Amazons.
Immediate Care: If your bird experiences a seizure lasting more than one minute, the situation has become dangerous, as the bird’s body temperature can rise due to the seizure activity. The bird should be taken immediately to a vet for emergency treatment. Do not wait to locate an avian vet in a true emergency, but just head to the nearest vet who should be able to stabilize a seizuring bird. Wissman suggested that if your bird experiences a single seizure that is not triggered by something, such as a bump on the head, watch it closely and if it has another, take it to an avian vet to get a full work-up (blood count, plasma chemistry, Chlamydophila testing, protein electrophoresis, body radiographs, Gram’s stains and any other necessary testing).
Long Term Care: If a work-up by a vet determines the cause of your bird’s seizures, treat the problem appropriately. If testing does not reveal any specific cause, the bird may need to be prescribed medication to help control the seizures. Many of these medications make a bird groggy, but their body will eventually adapt. The nutritional supplement DMG (dimethyl glycine) is helpful for birds with a seizure disorder, Wissman said, and is often used in conjunction with other anticonvulsants. Medication to control seizures may need to be administered for the life of the bird, or for a period of time, depending on the cause.
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