Sick Pets | Boulder Small Animal Veterinarian |

Nov 2, 2020

Sick Pets | Boulder Small Animal Veterinarian |

My son’s parakeet has been very sick.  About three weeks ago he vomited a bunch of dark red stuff and became very weak.  For my son and our entire family, this was a big deal.  He’s made some progress but it’s dicey.

Prior to having this bird join our household, I wouldn’t have thought a little 32 gram neon-feathered life form could possess so much personality or intelligence.  He (the bird’s name is Hobbes) and my son are very, very bonded.  When my son is home, which is a lot during COVID, Hobbes has free rein of our home.  He pecks around at our dinner table and talks up a storm.  He has many places where he’s likely to perch and observe, and our two dogs accept him as part of the pack.  The guinea pig does too.  When you look Hobbes in the eye you can see his species is underestimated.

So – high level of concern when Hobbes became acutely ill.  As a veterinarian, I’m very comfortable with dogs and cats, and know a good bit about horse feet and teeth.  Birds however aren’t in my wheelhouse.  Stress from handling can kill them, and I have no idea how exotic vet specialists find a vein on these little guys.  In addition, if I screw up on his bird and something happens….well, I don’t want to see that scenario played out.

We took Hobbes to Dr. Hayes at Arapahoe Animal Hospital.  He was great and has been working on birds for years.  He diagnosed him with hepatic lipidosis (aka fatty liver disease) which is a consequence of years of him being overweight and on the wrong diet.  The diet thing was a surprise and very frustrating.  We had some bad advice.  Bottom line though, Dr. Hayes did what he could, but the prognosis was poor.  He didn’t think Hobbes would make it through the night.

To our delight, Hobbes did make it through the night.  We are about three weeks post-diagnosis, but we’re not out of the woods.  He’s lost 25% of his body weight (now stable weight-wise), he’s ruffled all the time, he’s not perching at night and just sleeps on the floor of his cage, and he’s stopped talking.  None of these are great signs.  He is eating a different diet though, which was a hurdle in itself, and he’s still social.  So there are some positives

Now we are on the verge of taking him to CSU for hospitalization.  Our reservations though stem from that stress bit I mentioned above.  Given Hobbes’ bond with my son and his current condition, I worry he may die from the stress.  The first night back from Dr. Hayes my son slept on the floor next to his cage.  I’m convinced that helped keep him alive. But the situation is a real pickle.

The point of this story though is to share my own headspace on handling sick animals and the dilemma of how to proceed.  Our concern here isn’t really about the money, although CSU’s not cheap, and I’d get no “industry-insider deals.”  It’s really this question of whether we’re going to jeopardize his heath more than help it by hospitalizing him.  In the majority of cases, hospitalization does help a great deal.  But when an animal is very sick, and the odds aren’t great, everyone hates the idea of their loved one dying stressed and alone in an unfamiliar setting.

All this is why I try to take more time to discuss your own animal’s case and make sure we’re on the same page.  I do think there is an intuition pet-owners carry that is valid and should play a role.  There’s a lot of philosophy that differs from one person to the next, and there is no right or wrong.  It’s one of those heart-based decisions that we’ll all inevitability face.  When the time comes, know we empathize with your situation, and we’ll do our best to guide you down this uncertain path.  It stinks, it’s hard, and it may not end well.  But we can all help each other through it.

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