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82861 tn?1333453911

Comfort for Dying Old Cockatiel

Petey, my 22 year and 5-month old cockatiel is dying.  It started over two months ago when he go sick.  He looked like the wild birds I've seen with West Nile virus.  Just when we were certain it was the end, Petey rallied but hasn't been the same since.  He's had loose stools off and on and has lost a lot of weight.  I've used moulting and conditioning vitamins as a supplement for several years, but it's not making any difference now obviously.  He does eat his regular seed, but not as much, and has trouble with his old favorite sunflower seeds.  A spray of fresh millet gets the biggest reaction out of him these days.  

He sleeps most of the time, keeps his feathers puffed up like he's cold, and seems to need his wings for balance more often than not.  There's certainly a loss of coordination.   Petey never would use a Happy Hut, so I have a small towel on the bottom of one corner of his cage that he likes to snug with.  Better than nothing.  During the worst of his illness, he wanted nothing to do with us.  In the past few days, he wants nothing more than to sit under my chin and sleep.

I want to do right by my little companion, so any hints you can offer for comfort measures will be greatly appreciated.  Petey was the first companion "child" that my husband I had. Life will be so strange without him, but I'm grateful for all the years we've had with.  He's never had one single health problem in all this time, so it's difficult to see him like this.  All I can think of is to keep him as warm and comfortable as possible until he's gone.  :-(
106 Responses
82861 tn?1333453911
PS - Does anyone thing that the stress of going to a vet would do him any good?  It's not out of the question by any means, but right now I don't think a vet would be of much help.  Maybe I'm wrong?
82861 tn?1333453911
:-*(   Petey just died at 8:30 am.  When I got up this morning it was obvious that he had only minutes left.  At least he died in the hands of his family.  I can hardly believe he's gone after so many years.  

Nick, our quaker parrot has a cage only 3 feet away from Petey's.  He's very upset and keeps shrieking for his friend.  I wonder how long this will keep up?

You know, I thought I was prepared for this.  Obviously I'm not because I'm blubbering like a child.  It's hard for some people to imagine how a little bird can cause so much grief, but there it is.  Petey had such a great personality and was an integral part of our family from the beginning.  He even traveled with us and actually enjoyed it.  

Petey lived to see 4 dogs become part of his flock and outlived two of them.  When the first one died, he stopped singing all the beautiful songs he once sang.  Petey and Travis grew up together and were actually fast friends.  Petey used to follow Travis around the house, and the minute he sprawled out for a nap, Petey began to clean his whiskers and toe-pad hairs.  It really was cute to see Petey do the cockachicken stroll behind that dog.

Gotta go mop my face and blow my nose....
184674 tn?1360860493
Oh, I'm so sorry for your loss! I know how those little cockatiels can capture your heart--I just lost my little 'tiel 11 months ago. Her name was Petie as well...of course, she was a girl though.
But wow, 22½ years is a wonderfully long life! As my Petie was about to pass away, she was only about 12 years old, and I had no idea that she was in the average lifespan for a 'tiel. I rushed her to the vet because I thought she was sick, but the vet said she was just old and these would be her last few minutes, and that in all the years he'd been an avian vet (and he was an older vet), he hadn't seen a 'tiel live over the age of 15.
I was a mess. I was a week or two away from my due date to have my baby, and I was sobbing so much they brought me a box of tissues. He offered to euthanize her for me at no cost to make it faster, which I chose to do as she was struggling so much to breathe. She also passed away in my hands.
Anyway, I'm sorry for your loss. Petey sounded like a lovely and precious little guy! I can't imagine the sadness you feel right now. But please know that you gave him a more than wonderful life for him to have lived so long! I pray you find all the peace and comfort in the many years of memories you have of him.
God bless. ♥
I'm worried about my Corky, so I understand full well the heart break. I'm so sorry. I'm not sure about my lil' girl, she is 17 years old & I do not want to lose her.  I was profiled by this horrible doctor & her & I were separated for two & a half weeks. The SPCA were wonderful & took care of her the whole time, but her heart has broken. My cabbie friend was so good to her that he heard her say Thank you & now, he wants to own a Cockatiel. She was coming out of it, but then she started crying constantly. She is priming my thumb & herself. Is she just missing me or is she dying Right now, she is priming herself & then me. She seems slightly better, but that can change at any time. We had a long ride to get home from the SPCA & I'm sure that didn't help. She can only fly a foot or so, but her wings were clipped months ago. If I lose my baby, there isn't much else left. Husband has been a bad boy, wants to come back, but I don't know if I can trust him.  Nothing but adversity in our life, but she doesn't want to leave me. How on earth do I help her stay relaxed, when she needs me. She almost lost her balance, but regained it. Such a strong little girl. I'm not ready to lose her! To all those who lost a tiel, believe me   I understand & so do many others.
187666 tn?1331173345
I am so sorry to hear about your bird.  It's 8 am here and I just got started on the computer. You did the right thing, watching over him and being with him at the last moment. 22 years is a long time to have a little friend in your home. Of course you're going to cry.

If he had been in severe pain (like a compound fracture), I would have recommended tucking him into a comfortable box with towel and transporting him to the vet. Being in a quiet, dark place reduces the stress a lot. I deal with wild birds and that's how we handle them. It really works.

As for Nick, did he get to see Petey up close for a few minutes? That sounds morbid but I raise a couple of orphaned chickadees and they managed to survive having avian pox. But one just never was quite right. He never grew feathers properly and seemed off. One morning I went out to feed them and one chickie was up in the nest box calling. I kept looking for its sibling and the bird kept looking down at the bottom of the cage. Sure enough, sibling was down in the branches and leaves but deceased. That surviving chickadee called and called for a couple days and then gradually recovered to the point I could release him. But I had made sure he got to see his sibling up close. He seemed to look carefully at him but still was upset for a couple days.

Don't take down Petey's cage yet. Let Nick see the empty cage so he might understand Petey is gone for good.

Who knows what birds think but we have to assume they understand more than we realize.

242912 tn?1402543492
Oh Jaybay, I'm so sorry you lost Petey.  What a great long healthy life he had.  He sounded very special.  It's true, some people have what I call "just a bird in a cage" and never have a close emotional true relationship with them.  I had my parakeet, Blondie, for 11yrs - she died in 1992.  She was my buddy and so cool and I still miss her after all this time.  My mother couldn't understand my grief until she herself had a trained bird who was a part of the family.  Like Petey, PJ died in my mothers hand after holding him for hrs the day he got ill and I still tear up just typing that and that happened 6yrs ago.

I just wanted you to know I understand.  It may take Nick a few weeks to get over his grief.  Blondie was partnered with my mothers bird of the time (not her trained one) and she sat fluffed up for several weeks and barely moved after seeing him die in front of her.  Give extra love (I know you will) and watch closely depression doesn't get out of control.  

Hugs to you, Jaybay...♥
82861 tn?1333453911
Thank you all so much for responding.  It's funny how those little fluff-balls can get under your skin, isn't it?  The living room seems really empty right now.  I never realized how many times in a day I looked at Petey's cage or just mindlessly chattered and whistled with him.  Obviously more than I realized because I keep catching myself doing it.

ireneo - great minds think alike.  After seing Petey so traumatized when Travis left the house for the last time, I made sure that Nick saw him.  I swear he understood.  He suddenly got very quiet and cocked his head and just stared at Petey.  He calmed down after the "viewing".  I don't think it's morbid at all - more along the lines of common sense.  These birds are smart (sometimes too much for their own good!) so I figured I'd give him the benefit of the doubt where death was concerned.  Glad to know I unwittingly did the right thing.  :-)
Avatar universal
I am so sorry for your loss.  I know exactly how you feel. My cockatiel named Buster died unexpectantly on 1/10/11, after having him for 23 years and 1 month. Buster had been around for so long that his death was a complete shock to me. I never really gave much thought about him dying because he has weathered a lot. My home feels so different without him, and I can't seem to stop crying. It really bothers me that I noticed that he was acting a little different like sneezing a little more than usual, and I didn't think too much about it, except for making sure that he was warm. I also saw him with his head down, and tucked to the side, but he has done this before, but this time it seemed that his head was more to the side than usual. It is really bothering me, that maybe I could have done something to prevent him from dying, like taking him to the vet. His death has affected me as if it was a person that died. I really miss him, and I truly understand how you feel.
Hi, I just list my tile and I am suffering from so much pain and guilt, in the same way you mentioned.  Why didn’t I notice and when I did, why didn’t I recognize  how sick he was?  Looking back it was so obvious.  My tiel, Stephen, looked up at me and I kissed him all over his little head, and was holding him in both hands.  Then I placed him on a soft fleece blanket in his cage as we were leaving to take him to the vet...just minutes before he died.  I feel It was all my fault and that he would still be here with me if I had just taken him to the vet the day before when I saw he was not himself.  I made the wrong choices - I didn’t realize he was so fragile at this point because he always seemed so strong and healthy.  When he passed I went into complete shock.  I didn’t think he was any where near dying.  I am in utter grief.  And I miss him SO much.  
1573808 tn?1295906400
awww im so sorry for your loss. i currently have a cockatiel who is about 26 now how she is still alive i do not no. Sarky has a problem with her back as if its been broken in the past (ive only had her for 5-6 years) and about 2 times a day falls of her pearch as if she forgets to stand straight to the bottom with a thud we i have put towels underneath her for when this happens to take the weight of the landing. she plucks her feathers under her wings and has warn away some through roosing. Her beak over grows a lot so every 6 weeks or so we have to trim it for her. she still has a lot of character bullys my other 2 younger tiels and eats for a past time. she is thin although all she does is eat,sleep and squawk and doesnt even attempt to fly any more. and as yours was she is usually seen in the corner puffed up as if she was cold. i think if i take her to the vets the journey itself will be stressful. i worry every time i uncover them in the morning any one know what i can do to help her? shes not in any pain and still bright eyed and responsive
187666 tn?1331173345
As birds get older, they experience some of the same changes we do: they're not as strong, they have balance problems, they tend to lose muscle mass. You've made some adjustments for her like padding the bottom of the cage in case she falls. You may want to move her perch a little lower. It's probably getting more difficult for her to reach the perch.

She may get chilled more easily than before so keep her area warm. Watch her diet, provide food she enjoys and will eat.

We have an old Red Tailed Hawk at work (she's 20) and when she was younger, she lived outside in a large cage. But because of her age and arthritis, she now lives inside the building. She has a large platform to walk around on and low perches. All winter we keep a heat lamp on in her area so she can stay warm (it's in one corner so she can also move away from it if she wants). But she still has sass and spunk.

We do what we can for our feathered friends.
1573808 tn?1295906400
yeh she eats like a horse which is good and will eat anything we give her, their favourite little treat is a nibble of cheese they go crazy for it haha not to often though so much salt in to. we have tried moving her perch down but she always climbs to the top anyway as she likes to be high up, she has no problems with climbing untill her beak gets to big then she gets stuck. still bullys the other 2 bless her, yeh we do what we can for them.
1596413 tn?1297321607
It's comforting to read these comments tonight. I'm 21 & my 21 year old Cockatiel Charlie is dying :( my dad noticed that Charlie was huddled in the corner of his cage all fluffed up. When I went outside to look at him you could tell right away that my little old guy is very sick and weak. He hardly reacts like he used to, but he was trying to sing as he stayed sat in that same corner. Occasionally he walks around the bottom of the cage and he still struggles his way onto his perch to eat some food. I don't want him to be in pain anymore but it is going to be really sad not hearing him and seeing him every day anymore like I have been used to my whole life.
187666 tn?1331173345
I'm so sorry to hear little Charlie is slowing down and nearing the end. He's given you many wonderful times and memories. Spend time with him if you can. He knows you well and will feel safe with you. That's all the comfort he needs right now.
1932143 tn?1323286656
My cockatiel is about 27 years old we have had him 15 years inherited when my Granny was moved to a nursing home (RIP) now today since noon Pretty Boy has gone into a state of paralysis at the bottom of his cage.  I talk to him and he comes back around and goes back to his perch.  This has happened twice in a 3 hour span.  Once he comes back to normal state he sings to me again.  He is eating and his stool is normal.  His cheeks are still a vibrant color.  We placed a cloth down to prevent him getting caught between the rungs of the grate but he got tangled so now we have paper down for him.  It is breaking my heart to see this.  He has been in our family for so many years and he always sings to me, dances for me, and lets me hold him but he won't do it for my husband. I am afraid to hold him now as he is quite fragile at his age.  I cannot imagine the silence that will fill our home without Pretty Boy.  Is there anything I can do?  I don't know if he is having strokes or what is causing this periodic state which just started.
Avatar universal
I found this site through a google search for how to deal with a dying cockatiel. My guy, Whitney, turned 27 on April 8, Easter Day this year. He has been with me since he was 2 months old. He has been slowly losing his mobility, falling off his perch, and his droppings are watery. An avian vet diagnosed him with advanced liver disease but did not give me the cause for his lameness.

His left foot apparently has no feeling although he is able to move his toes to grab onto the cage bars. I was shocked one day to observe him sitting on his perch with three toes facing forward and one toe facing back. Psittacines have two toes forward and two toes back! I wonder if he had a stroke that has affected his left side?

It was my belief that birds usually die suddenly and unexpectedly because they mask their illnesses. My sister recently lost a cockatiel and lamented that her bird had been "fine" the day before but was dead at the bottom of the cage the following morning. As for Whitney, I did not expect a long, drawn out debilitating illnesses. Whitney is still hanging in there. He's got a lot of spirit but it's so difficult to watch his daily struggles.

My heart goes out to all of you who have experienced the decline and loss of a special feathered friend.
187666 tn?1331173345
I think anyone who is in tune with their bird will notice some subtle differences when their bird is sick. It may not be obvious like vomiting or laying on the bottom of the cage but the bird may not be as vocal or not eating as much. We tend to just think they're having a bad day. But then we're surprised when we walk in and find them gone.

In the work I've done, I have seen some birds take days to fail. We keep trying to turn things around with fluids and meds but sometimes it just isn't enough.

As for Whitney, provide lower perches for him if he needs them and pad the bottom a bit in case he falls or needs to sit there at times. The harder surface can cause foot lesions if he spends too much time there. I'm sorry he's not doing well. Did the vet give any suggestions on dietary changes to ease the strain on the liver? Or maybe it's just a matter of time. So sad.
Avatar universal
I appreciate the information and suggestions, ireneo. I use layers of paper towels on the bottom of Whitney's cage now. Would you suggest using a towel or something else?

For Whitney's liver, the vet suggested Roudybush Formula AL ("Avian Liver") pellets, which I have added to his diet. I haven't switched him over completely for fear that he'll lose too much weight if he doesn't eat it. I mix the AL Formula with his Roudybush Maintenance Formula so as to switch him over gradually. I recently bought a digital bird scale with perch to monitor his weight.

His vet prescribed Calorad Supplement and Lactulose Syrup—a drop of each twice daily—to help his liver. Although I have administered medication in the past for short-term conditions, those experiences were stressful for both of us since Whitney doesn't like to be handled (except on his own terms). This time is no different except the duration is indefinite and I cannot look forward to an end date.

When Whitney sees me with the towel, he immediately scrambles to get away, tripping over his feet and extending his wings to make it difficult for me to grab him. After I get a hold of him and administer the drops, I put him back in his cage where he sits for hours looking dazed. Naturally, I feel guilty for putting him through this trauma, especially when he isn't feeling well to begin with.

A friend who had worked in the medical field suggested that I was ending Whitney's life even faster by increasing his heart beat twice daily. I took his advice and stopped the medications. (I hope that was the right decision.) Both medications take a while to build up in the system so I don't know if I would have seen an improvement in Whiteny's condition over time.

I am open to other ideas regarding how to administer medications without the trauma of catching him.
187666 tn?1331173345
The continued daily stress of handling is not good for him. And considering he is a companion bird, it's not doing your relationship with him any good. I worked for a short time at an Avian vet's office and the owner was never allowed to hold the bird during procedures, not even for nail clipping. The parrots have great memories and will not appreciate connecting "mom" or "dad" with something uncomfortable or scary.

Is there any way to put the meds on a treat for him and offer the treat? I'm doing that now with my cat who has cancer and poor kidney function. I sneak her meds into a kitty treat. Makes us both happy.

We do use towels at the wildlife care center for the birds but we have to be careful to watch for any loose strands of thread. If a towel has a tiny hole or shaggy edge, we toss it in the trash. I like towels that have no nap to them. Dish drying towels are like that, not terry but plain cotton. I use those for the small birds like juncos and finches, etc.

I use a kitchen digital scale for weighing small animals. It goes as low as 1 gram and that's worked out well, even for baby deer mice that only weight 2 grams when I get them.

Good idea to mix in the new diet gradually.

That's about all I can think of right now. The end of life care is difficult for them and for us.
Avatar universal
Hi two off my birds died yesterday within half hour I lost a red necked Amazon which only had for 7 mths & a canary which I adopted (melody) I had her for 6yrs. My Rock pebbler (Roxi) is fine but I'm worried incase something happens her. The vet did a postmortem & said lungs were purple so obviously wasn't getting enough air, he was convinced could b carbon monoxide poisoning I bought a monitor & alarm hasn't went off, I'm so upset & torn can anyone help? Lynne
2190601 tn?1338240205
I have a 13 yr old cockatiel and I think we're getting close to the end. He weighs 81 grams. But, he has a hard time maintaining heat and most of the time is not as active. I wish someone could give me some signs to watch for to know when I'm getting close cause it's going to seriously have a devasting affect on me!!!
187666 tn?1331173345
It sounds as though his entire system is slowly shutting down. He's underweight by about 30 g and he's having trouble thermoregulating. If his end is near, all you can do is provide comfort. Somehow add some heat nearby so he doesn't feel so chilled. Give him easy to digest food that he likes. He may drink more water or hardly drink at all if his kidneys are failing. Both are signs of kidney failure. He may become too weak to perch so provide a cozy spot for him to snuggle and feel safe. Reduce any stressors near him like noise and sudden movements.

Knowing when the exact moment will come is difficult to predict. The best you can do is make his last days comfortable. This is the hardest part of having a little animal "baby" at home. Our cat has been fighting cancer for the past year and the waiting is so hard.
Avatar universal
We have a cockatiel who is about 10 years old. He has been very healthy and active. My husband accidentally shut his head in a door 2 weeks ago. I thought he would die, I cried and cried. He slept for 3 days, and I mean SLEPT. He woke up and is slowly coming around. However, I don't think he can see out of his left eye. I f you are on his left side, he doesn't really know you are there, unless you say something to him. He is also having trouble seeing in dim light. I notice he has trouble landing on things if the light is dim. Does anyone have experience with birds that are blind in one eye? will he adjust? I was going to take him to the vet, but his vet is about 1 hour away, and he is slowly getting better and I don't want to stress him out. He is such a good boy, and such a personality. Never thought I would get this attached!
187666 tn?1331173345
Yes, he will adjust. It's not like a hawk that needs excellent vision to capture food. The injury to the head may have caused some hyphema - blood pooling inside the eye. That may explain why he's having some trouble seeing in dim light. Generally that clears up in time. If there is damage to the retina (detached) then he'll never regain sight in the one eye.

I know the vet is far away but it still wouldn't hurt to have him checked, see what's going on in the eyes and check for any skull fractures.
Avatar universal
I lost my little friend two days ago and my family and I are devastated. If anyone has any advice email me. ***@****
Avatar universal
I lost my little friend two days ago and my family and I are devastated. If anyone has any advice email me. ***@****
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