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A Lesson on Medication and Senior Birds

Liz Wilson shares an experience with her senior blue-and-gold macaw

By Liz Wilson, CVT, CPBC

If you read my article on aging parrots (What To Expect From Your Senior Bird,  BIRD TALK September 2006), you might remember that my blue-and-gold macaw, Sam, is quite old. My avian veterinarian, Liza Clark, DVM diagnosed Sam as having arthritis in her feet, and she prescribed a painkiller called Metacam(Boehringer & Ingelheim). Due to a hectic travel schedule, I did not administer the meds right away because careful observation of Sam had convinced me she showed no signs of discomfort. 

A break in travel, however, allowed me to begin medicating her, and the change in Sam’s behavior was astonishing. It is as if she drank from the Fountain of Youth and magically dropped 10 or 15 years.  She was playing, flying and talking much more. What a difference!

I learned an important lesson about how incredibly stoic parrots can be, and I wanted to share this in case others are in a similar situation with their senior birds. In Sam’s case, meticulous observation (even from an experienced veterinary technician like myself) was insufficient, and I am dismayed that Sam suffered needless discomfort. So take it from me, if your avian veterinarian suggests pain medications for a senior bird, try it out for a couple of weeks before assuming they are not necessary.


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A Lesson on Medication and Senior Birds

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Reader Comments
This is an excellent article. I have been treating Nikki, my dusky headed conure for 9 months, for a skin inflammation that has made her itch all over her body. The poor little girl suffered terribly, pulling feathers out and gouging her skin, until she was tested for allergies. Now she is much happier, taking her antihistamine medication 3x a day. The allergy trigger is still a mystery. But I pay careful attention to Nikki's behavior as the vet and I try to figure the problem out.
Deborah, Burlington, MA
Posted: 5/3/2011 12:28:53 PM
My OW Amazon, Sunny, is 47 years old. He had been picking at his belly and his feet to the point that he had started de-feathering himself. I took him to the vet, and found out that he had a lypoma that was putting pressure on the nerves in his feet and causing him discomfort in his belly. The vet prescribed Metacam for Sunny. Initially, getting it into him was a challenge, but mixing it with juice, and making getting his medicine a game, he now jumps off his cage onto my arm for 'juice time', and no longer has any problem with his feet and belly. He will be on his meds for the rest of his life, but that's OK...we have a nightly game to play, and he doesn't hurt anymore. Pay attention to your birds' behavior...it might be important, to him and you.
Mike, Benbrook, TX
Posted: 3/24/2011 2:18:06 PM
Thank you for a great article.
Dan, Sandy Valley, NV
Posted: 3/23/2010 8:53:10 AM
Thanks for this very helpful article. It's something to keep in mind.
Eowyn, Ithilien, ME
Posted: 11/4/2009 8:43:26 AM
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