I know it’s been almost a week since my last post here on Birdie School, and for that I apologize. We’ve had a pretty tough few days around here, and avian education has had to take a back seat. The birds have been getting plenty of attention, just we haven’t done any proper schooling in almost a week.
Things first got tough around here because everyone in the house (except the feathered ones) caught a nasty cold. When I say nasty, I mean nasty. This one drug on for more than a week and left me feeling tired, fuzzy-headed and unmotivated. Although I did sit down at my computer and do at least some work that week, I couldn’t put in full days. I was in that crummy state where I felt too lousy to be productive, but not lousy enough to where I could just crawl into bed and sleep the germs off.
Then, just about the time I started to feel better, Luna had a couple of seizures.
“Seizures?” you ask.
Now the “good” news in all of this is that Luna has had them before, so when they happen we are (mostly) prepared for them. When she first started having them about a year and half ago, the vet thought they might be due to insufficient calcium in Luna’s diet. We started adding a prescription calcium supplement to all the birds’ water, but even still, she has them about once every four to eight weeks. Usually, she’ll seize early in the morning, and we’ll find ourselves waking up to the sound of her distress calls.
Fortunately, these episodes pass pretty quickly, but they are still scary for bird and human alike. Last Sunday morning was no exception. When the episode started, I fished Luna out of her sleeping cage, and gently held her against my bare chest until the seizure ended and she had calmed down.
I should probably point out that grabbing a seizing macaw out of her sleeping cage might not work for everyone. For some birds, this might be a recipe for a bad bite. In our case, Luna seems to appreciate the comfort, and has never seemed inclined to bite during or after one of these episodes. This is definitely one of those cases where you need to carefully analyze what works for you and your bird.
Usually, Luna will have one seizure and that will be the end of it. This time around, though, she had two. The first came just a little before 4:00 AM, and the second came during breakfast. Fortunately, our kid happened to be nearby when the second episode started, and she was able to collect Luna from her perch before she lost her balance and fell.
Since she had two seizures in a single day, we started a three-day course of phenobarbital. We generally try to avoid giving her the medication, since her seizures aren’t frequent, and the drugs make her very sleepy. Although the medication does stop the seizure activity, Luna tends to become very quiet and almost depressed. She eats less, she plays less, and she doesn’t feel like doing much of anything but sit on my shoulder and cuddle. While cuddling with a gentle macaw is a nice way to spend part of a day, seeing her like that makes me feel sad.
I worry about my little macaw buddy. We aren’t sure how old she is, but based on her history, we think she’s somewhere around 28-30 years old. According to some sources, that’s pretty old for a Severe Macaw, though others say that she might live until she’s 80. I think the truth is, there really isn’t a lot of scientifically-documented information on how long these birds can live. I try not to think about it, and just take things day by day. I’d hate to lose my little green bean buddy especially so soon after Coco died.
But of course all of this once again highlights the importance of training medical behaviors. Immediately after her second seizure, she was an absolute gem when we asked her to take her phenobarbital. Later, though, after she started feeling better, she was substantially less cooperative. Now the good news is that we were able to get the medication into her beak without a huge fuss, but I’d still like to teach Luna to take mediation calmly from the syringe. She has a tendency to bite the darn thing with her powerful beak, and I’ve lost count how many syringes have been destroyed by her habit of biting that which she does not like.
The good news is that Luna seems to be feeling better, so we’ll be able to get back to training with positive reinforcement. Since we’ve been again reminded of the absolute importance for Luna to cooperate with her medical treatment, we’ll obviously be focusing on this.
Now, so as not to leave you on a completely bummed-out note, I’d like to spotlight something amazing Luna did the other day. It has to do with poop. If you are a bird owner, you’ll appreciate this. If you are not, well you can just close your browser window now.
Macaws, unlike small cockatoos or African Greys, tend to have really big poops. Luna’s, compared to my other birds’, are massive. Not only are they big, they are wet and sloppy. If she hits the tray of her play gym with them, the clean up is easy. If she misses, and nails the wall or the floor, it’s a lot less pleasant.
So yesterday, Luna ended up shooting an enormous poop over the side of her gym. It was one of the biggest I’d seen, but it landed in the most amazing place. It didn’t hit the floor or the wall this time. Instead, she managed to shoot the big one into Static’s neighboring cage. Even better, she didn’t hit any of Static’s food bowls, toys, or perches. Static, fortunately, was not in the cage at the time, since she was busy playing on her gym, but I suspect that Luna’s aim was so good, it would have missed Static anyway.
Seriously, for a blind bird to aim so well, that takes real talent.