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Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

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Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Serafisk » Mon Jun 03, 2013 2:59 pm

Three days ago something really weird happened to my amazon Elliot, and I'm hoping someone might have heard about something like this before and can help me understand what was going on. I apologize in advance for what I think will be a long message, but I want to describe the incident thouroughly.

When I got up in the morning Elliot was his usual self, climbing around in his cage and up to his normal morning-chatter. I left the room for a few minutes to prepare food for him and when I got back he was sitting on the bottom of his cage, completely frozen. He did not fall down, that I am sure of since I would have heard - he must have calmly climbed down.
      Now, when I say "frozen" I mean that he was sitting completely still, totally unmoving, no matter what I did. I've only had him for two months so he's not completely tame yet - usually when I touch and scratch him he will take a step away when he feels like I'm a bit too hands-on, but he sat paralyzed like that no matter if I touched his back, head or even lifted his feet.
      When I lifted his feet up he slowly grasped my finger with his left foot, but his right foot was more or less stiff and he wouldn't grasp my finger with it.

I kind of freaked out - this was early in the morning so I had to just watch him sit there completely paralyzed for more than an hour before the animal hospital opened so I could call the vet. Since he wouldn't move (not even his head) and didn't grasp my finger with his right foot I was scared that he might have had a stroke or something(?). I was told by the vet that I could come in immediately - now, here's where things get funny:
      I fetched the travel cage and when I reached in to pick him up he very slowly started moving again. First he slowly walked over to the wall of the cage, and then he slowly started climbing it until he reached his favorite perch. Even though he "snapped out of it" I made the decision to still bring him in to the vet, since I had no idea what made him "freeze" like that and he still didn't seem his usual self.

Once at the vet he climbed to the corner at the ceiling of the cage and calmly sat there in silence, still he seemed reluctant to move in general. He would barely even move his head.
      The vet did a full exam, kept him for the day so they could do x-rays and draw blood for analysis, but at the end of the day they couldn't really tell me what was wrong with him either. When I came to pick him up in the afternoon (mind you, I had sat all day terrified that they would call me and tell me that he had died!) he was a bit more energetic and the vet said that he had been moving around in his cage and even talked some during the day.

I took him home, opened the travel cage and allowed him to step onto the floor and walk over to his cage on his own (it's something of a game we usually play, walking on the floor to get him accustomed to the house - I want him to always know where his "home" is no matter which room he's in, in case he'll take a flight and end up on the floor in the next room).
      He was unusually still and quiet for the rest of the day, and didn't quite seem his usual self the day after either. Now, three days later, he's back to his usual self and we are still waiting for the results of the blood analysis..

Has anyone ever witnessed or heard of something like this? Does anyone have an idea of what might have caused him to freeze up like that? I've been terrified all weekend that he'd go into that "state" again - seeing him like that was frightening since I had no idea what to do and was so scared that he was dying or something..
      There's no avian specialist anywhere near me, so the vet I saw couldn't give me much answers - they sent his blood and medical record to the nearest specialist (which is like, at the opposite side of the country (I live in Sweden btw)), so I'm hoping someone here might have a clue or at least an idea of what happened. I called the breeder and he has never heard of anything like this either.

Please help?
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Pajarita » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:41 pm

Sounds like a mild seizure to me. Not all seizures are grand-mal and birds don't have them the same way that people do. Some would have the expected convulsions only they don't look like when a human or, say, a dog has them because you don't actually see the body and extremities twitching uncontrollably, you just see the bird flapping his wings on the ground and going kind of like in circles as if he was trying to get up but couldn't but the very mild ones are the same as humans where there is kind of like a vacant look in the eyes and the inability to move or react. Was his calcium level checked? Not the regular blood calcium, those are not good for indicating hyper or hypo calcemia but the ionized one.
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Serafisk » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:50 pm

We thought it might have been some kind of seizure as well, but his eyes were "awake"; he was following us with his gaze most of the time and he was still blinking as usual.

As for calcium level I don't know, the vet did what they called a "base check" (translating from swedish here), and didn't go into specifics about what it included - if they checked calcium I assume it might only have been the regular blood calcium.
      Do you think it might have something to do with his calcium level?

It might not be of importance, but I forgot to mention in my first post that Elliot is 1-2 years old. The breeder told me he was 2 when I picked him out (he had 15 birds in total), but when I recieved the breeder's certificate a few days later he had specified that he's only 1 year, so I assume it was a mistake on his behalf - therefore I'm not entirely sure of his age.
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Eric&Rebecca » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:25 am

If its petite mal seizure (a mild seizure) the eyes will remain awake.... It does sound like this is what is happening. I had a rescue cockatiel who did it, they lived a long life despite it. I also have a very mild form of epilepsy where I experience htese kind of seizures, I'm not a bird but from your description I probably look the same for a few seconds!

Calcium is one of leading causes of seizures in birds but can be down to a number of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I think they need to rule out other causes b testing vitamin and calcium levels before they proceed.
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Serafisk » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:31 pm

Thank you, that is great advice! I'm hoping (and assuming) that the avian specialists that my vet sent the results to will test for vitamin, mineral and calcium deficiencies. Elliot eats pellets that are enriched with vitamins and minerals as his base food (with fresh fruit daily as a compliment only and some seeds and nuts for when we are training) so I would have assumed that he's getting what he needs, but I suppose that might not be the case.

As for the seizure theory in itself, did the cockatiel you have ever have seizures that were this long? I mean, an entire hour is a very long time, which is why I am so worried about him :/
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Pajarita » Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:55 pm

The most common causes of seizures in birds are low or high calcium, metal poisoning (but there are other symptoms before they get to the seizures), low or high blood sugar (unlikely in such a young bird unless he is diabetic -a condition never found in the wild but becoming more and more common in pet birds), dehydration (does he dunk his pellets or does he eat them dry?) and neurological trauma (but you would have noticed) but diseases like aspergillosis and PDD can cause them, too. If the vet did a 'base' blood work, it was most likely what we here in the States call a CBC (Complete Blood Count) which doesn't include the ionized calcium test.

And, yes, an hour IS a long time but they get VERY scared when they have a seizure and most birds would 'freeze' when scared or feeling disoriented -they are prey animals and they always try to hide that they are not 100% so 'freezing' is a good way of doing this.
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Eric&Rebecca » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:42 am

About an hour and a half at their longest... we later learned this was from an owner who had allowed him to eat calcium rich foods and dairy products. Sorry I forgot to mention that! We put him on a 25% fruit and veg, 25% seed, 25% grains rice and pulses, 25% 'tablefoods' pastas, a small amount of crackerbreads or wholewheat crackers, homemade birdie breads, eggfood (no eggshells) lots of different birdy safe stuff. Back then they didn't know so much about birds but a change in diet seemed to solve it.

Overtime he did recover... but he always had some seizures... Like i said this was nearly 17 years ago... I had to speak to my Mum to recount what it was.
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Serafisk » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:20 pm

Thank you so much guys, you've been most helpful!

I talked to the vet yesterday and the tests all came back fine, there was nothing out of the ordinary - but as far as she knew the specialists hadn't tested for ionized, but she would call them and talk about it she said. Hopefully they have what they need for the proper test so we won't have to go in again, since I don't want to put him through that kind of stress again.

He had a very mild version of this incident again yesterday morning, but then it only lasted for about 5-6 minutes I think. Problem was that he was sitting on top of his cage this time and not down on the bottom, so I was a bit afraid that he would fall down.
      For the bird that you spoke of, E&R, did it ever have a seizure where it ended up injuring itself? I'm worried that Elliot will go into that state when he's climbing about on his cage or even when he's flying around in the room. Gosh, I sure do worry a lot about him. I guess I'm a bit of a hen-mum when it comes to him, but he just means that much to me.

I'm definitely going to try to change his diet a bit. I will need to check the pellets so there's not too much calcium in them - unfortunately I don't have the package left since I store the food in a large airtight container meant for dogfood, but I bet I can google it. I must admit that I sometimes allow him to eat some yoghurt with me when I am having breakfast, but I'll make sure to stop that now.

As for the info from Pajarita, I suppose he might have had a seizure for some time, and then just stayed "frozen" out of sheer fright afterward. I mean, when I did try to pick him up he was suddenly able to move again, and I suppose that if he was coming out of a seizure just then he would have been a bit more "dizzy" or disoriented I guess.
      You've definitely given me something to think about and consider, so thank you! :]
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Eric&Rebecca » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:53 am

No he never hurt himself... he almost knew it would happen he would go to the bottom of the cage or hold onto something be there for a while and then just carry on. We kept him in a separate padded cage for a time as I remember in case he did fall but he never did. At least not to my knowledge... I was young at the time.

Once he was on a good diet for a while it almost completely disappeared.
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Re: Parrot temporarily "frozen"??

Postby Serafisk » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:53 am

Oh, thank you, that put my mind at ease. Since Elliot was on the bottom of the cage the first time it happened it did almost seem as if he had anticipated it too. Like I said, he didn't fall down, since I would have heard it if he did.

I hope he'll keep being as careful, and that a change in diet will help, if that is the cause of it. I've been feeding him little pieces of apple all morning, trying to get him too eat more fruits and greens. He doesn't want to eat them if he gets a big slice, but he'd rather be fed with bite-size pieces - time-consuming, but you know, the things you do for your pets.. :P
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