Roundworms – a case study
By Anna Kollak, October 2004
In August 2004, we unfortunately had to put our first budgie Bibo down. He was suffering from epileptic fits and was unable get out of one fit. It was horrible for us, but watching him suffer was even more painful.
His five budgie friends were somewhat disturbed when we returned from the vet without boss Bibo. His female partner Pebbles was especially suffering.
Even though it wasn’t easy for us, we quickly knew that we had to consider the other five: Pebbles was already emaciated since she had had a bad start into life (when we bought her, she had a multiple infection of trichomonades, coli bacteria, staphylococcus, streptococcus and lice) and we became very concerned: if she were to stop eating because of mourning, she might be in danger.
In addition, the ratio between female and male budgies in the flock wasn’t too good: three extremely bitchy females and two males! Thus a short time afterwards and with a heavy heart, we decided to buy another male budgie. Since three pet shelters in our area did not have any budgies to give away and two budgie chat rooms did not come up with a match, we were unfortunately on our way to a pet store.
On the surface, things looked great there. Unfortunately, as it turned out later, this was wrong. This time, we took our time to pick out the fledgling. We both liked a dark-green opaline the most. He was lively, curious and constantly busy doing things. Sven gave him the name Brutus because all male “Cologne vultures” (that’s our bird’s nickname) have a name starting with a B, so this cute sugar tooth ended up with such a big name.
Once home, we put Brutus into the quarantine cage in the study. During that evening, I noticed that the tiny guy had difficulties defecating and, whilst trying to do so, made gentle squeaking sounds. In addition, he hardly ate anything. Since he was new, we found it normal and blamed the excitement.
The next day, however, he still had hardly defecated and those droppings were often stuck in the feathers around the vent. In addition, the droppings were of a greenish colour. Brutus still didn’t want to eat much and hadn’t drunk anything so far. Thus we decided to go to an avian vet in order for a check-up.
One day later, I went to our vet by car together with a dear friend. Unfortunately, we do not own a car and reaching the vet without car takes a very long time and is quite stressful for the budgies. When the vet took Brutus into his hands, he noticed the low weight right away. He took a sample from the crop and the vent as well as some faeces samples (a fresh one and one collected by me). When he took a look at the crop sample under the microscope, he merely said: “And there we have the first problem: the bird isn’t clean.”
Great, I thought, not trichomonades again! During the microscopic faeces examination, I merely heard “Oh, oh, oh! We haven’t had this for a long time! Roundworm eggs everywhere! A very strong infestation! This explains the stool problems and his bad physique.”
By that time, I was seriously upset because the vet explained that this happens when the breeder is working unclean! He also made me aware that I should contact the pet store, for in all likelihood, the other birds were infected as well.
The therapy was as follows: Three days of Metronidazol liquid (3 ml on 20 ml water) because of the crop infection (sour crop), followed by one to two days of just vitamins and electrolytes dissolved in drinking water (vitamin mixture from the vet and Multielectrolyte by Virbac). Afterwards thrice three days of Concurat-L 10% powder, 0.06 mg in 20 ml water (it’s best to have this measured by a pharmacy since they have very accurate scales), in between a Concurat break for five days and just vitamins and electrolytes via the drinking water. We had to take the tiny guy to a concluding control check before he was able to get together with the other birds.
The important thing regarding this treatment is that the budgies discharge the worms. These are up to 3.5 cm long white strings that turn their colour into a reddish brown after they have been discharged and dried. In order to see the worms clearly, the bottom of the cage should be covered with kitchen towel which should be changed twice or thrice a day in order to prevent the budgie taking up its own droppings and thus the worms again.
During the first day of treatment with Concurat-L 10%, Brutus was already passing many worms in the faeces. They were well discernable with the naked eye. Unfortunately, we did not have a digital camera at that time (it had been borrowed) so that we were unable to take pictures. But it is nearly impossible to overlook these suckers. If the affected budgies do not pass any worms, the dosage is too low. If the powder has been weighed exactly, the treatment works magnificently.
It was easy to see how Brutus was improving every day. He was eating more and was able to pass bigger amounts of faeces without squeaking.
He was also becoming fitter: to ensure that he was taking his medicine, I caught him every day for during the treatment cycle with Concurat in order to drop the mixture into his beak with a syringe without needle.
In spite of being caught so often during that time, he has become quite affectionate and was perching on my hand for a long time after having received his medicine. However, it was increasingly difficult to catch the tiny rascal as he was gaining more strength and endurance. The tiny guy was also quite clever: He was always perching on my hand so that it was difficult for me to catch him!
At the end of the treatment cycle, we had to wait a while for the vet to return from vacation in order for a check-up. Luckily, this turned out well and after the conclusive finding from the examination of the droppings, Brutus was finally able get together with the other budgies. After having been kept on his own for six weeks, it was a pleasure to observe him enjoy the company of the others! Bibo’s misfortune was Brutus’ luck for if Bibo had not died, we would not have gotten another budgie.
I am unaware as to what has happened to the other birds at the pet store. The store management was informed by us; however, they did not do anything but actually insulted us when we returned for an inspection in order to see if there had been an improvement. Unfortunately, we observed a female budgie during this visit who threw up her entire food three times. The district veterinary only visited the store four weeks later and was unable to find anything at that time.
If Brutus had been adopted by someone without experience with budgies, he would have died a miserable death due to intestinal obstruction caused by the many worms. Regarding this matter, we have come to the conclusion that we will never buy another budgie in a pet store. Four out of seven budgies that we have or had bought in a pet store were sick at the time of purchase.
We miss Bibo every day; however, he sent us Brutus so that we don’t feel so sad anymore. Brutus has taken over a different spot in our hearts and we are incredibly glad to own this little magic “mouse”.
Translation of this chapter: Melanie Ebenhoch.