I am currently treating Dende for Heavy Metal Poisoning (HMP). Before diagnosis, his symptoms included repeated bacterial infections, vomiting, sneezing and slight balance issues. Dende has always been slightly clumsy since I got him. It has perhaps gotten slightly worse as the months progressed. I've now had him for 13 months.
My first reals sign of his illness was when he vomited twice one night. I rushed him to my avian vet the next morning.
He has an average of 80% gram negative bacteria (bad bacteria) in his crop when he should only have about 5%!
We put him on Baytril for a week and then let him recover for a week. The recheck at the vet showed that he now had 50% gram negative bacteria.
He was then given a Doxycycline injection in case the remaining bacteria was resistant to the Baytril.
This didn't help and we decided to put him on oral Calsenate medication as HMP was a possibility and he was getting sicker every day. The Calsenate medication makes the metal in his body non-toxic.
So how did this happen?
Well, HMP can be caused by A LOT of things. This is why it is so tricky to fix!
Did you guys know that Head & Shoulders shampoo contains lots of Zinc? This is fantastic for your hair, but if you have a bird that likes hanging out on your head, then this is very bad! Zinc is one of the most common metals to cause HMP.
This is the shampoo I've been using all along! I've now switched brands to one that does not contain Zinc.
I also recently discovered that a lot of the toys in my birds' cages are made with galvanized wire! This is also a big no-no! Galvanized wire needs to be weathered for at least 3 months before it is safe for parrots to play with (and honestly, I wouldn't even trust it then).
If in doubt about a toy or toy part in your cage, contact the manufacturer or seller you got it from to ask for specifications!
But we think we've found the most likely source of Dende's possible HMP.
Believe it or not, but that was the cage Dende was kept in before I rescued him over 13 months ago.
Rusty cages are DANGEROUS! Parrots don't need to specifically chew on the rusty parts to get HMP. They simply have to use their beak to climb around the cage and they can get poisoned. It only takes a small bit of rust.
Heavy metals can stay in a parrot's system for months and months! Dende only recently started showing signs and the last time he was in contact with that cage was more than a year ago.
HMP affects the liver first and then the other organs. If left untreated it is fatal.
Diagnosing HMP can also be tricky. Blood tests for Zinc and Lead can be performed by your avian vet. X-rays can be taken to see if there are any metal fragments in the body.
After a week of the oral Calsenate, Dende showed improvement but not fast enough.
So an X-ray and blood work was in order.
Firstly, his X-ray didn't really show any metal fragments left in his body. Here, have a look for yourself! Any metal would show up as a brilliant white contrast on the X-ray.
However, that simply means that the metal has probably been completely absorbed by his body already and now sits in his muscles and organs.
The X-ray did show that his kidneys are three times larger than they should be. My avian vet said that this is not uncommon for a bird suffering from long-term Heavy Metal Poisoning.
So he had a full-body blood test to see how well his kidneys are functioning. The results came back looking good! (His liver looks good too!)
Along with all of this they cultured the bacteria in his crop. This is where they take a sample of the bad bacteria and grow it on an agar plate to see exactly what it is. They will then test all sorts of antibiotics on this culture to find the most effective one at killing this bad bacteria.
We have since found out that the right antibiotic to use is Augmentin! He has been on this for the last week and will be going back to the avian vet tomorrow for another gram stain to see how much bad bacteria remains.
To treat him in the most effective manner he had to be taken off the oral Calsenate medicine and put on the injectable Calsenate medicine! This will help leech out the metal from his body faster.
This meant I had to get a crash course in injecting birds! A vet nurse from my avian vet's office showed me this Wednesday exactly what to do and how to inject Dende! I have to do it twice a day!
I use a cotton ball soaked in Methylated Spirits to part the feathers down his keel bone. This exposes the skin and allows me to see exactly where I stick the needle. I use a fresh syringe for every injection and that's why there are so many in the above photo!
I have to say that Dende is taking it better than I am!