Out of Town Blues

One of my colleagues just described the following case:Gabby

Petey is an elderly amazon whose owners are out of town for 2 weeks. A petsitter comes by once a day to change his food and water but otherwise he’s alone. On Monday he seemed fine but on Tuesday he was at the bottom of the cage, fluffed with rapid heavy breathing. The petsitter takes him into the vet and agrees to an initial workup.

In The Past…
Petey has been seen by a veterinarian once every 2 to 3 years for an annual physical exam but no health workups have ever been done. The owner always felt the bird seemed fine.


Petey appears to be seriously ill. Luckily the petsitter is prepared and agrees to a health work up. A diagnosis of pneumonia is made based on xrays and bloodwork but Petey needs to be hospitalized. He is sick enough to need monitoring and supportive care.

The Concern…

The owners cannot be reached. All attempts to call their cell phones go straight to voice mail. Emergency contacts listed on the chart are not available.

There is no information for the petsitter to make decisions – potentially costly decisions, potentially life threatening decisions.


What Would You Do?

Do you want your pet to get all possible care? Do you have a financial limit or know that your pet has a long-term disease that may be getting worse while you are away? How does your veterinarian or your petsitter know these things?

The Solution

Provide your petsitter with a few pieces of information about your desires…even if you are only away for a few days. Some decisions must be made immediately and if your cell phone is off or lacking service you may not get to be a part of that decision.

Let your petsitter know where to take your pet – your regular veterinarian, an alternate, the emergency clinic you prefer (if there is more than one nearby). Advise them what you would like done – all lifesaving treatment? stabilization only? a humane euthanasia under the right circumstances? Be realistic…is there a financial limit you cannot go past?

Authorize your petsitter to make decisions in your absence and discuss that with them. Leave contact numbers that you can be reached at or advise the petsitter when you cannot be reached so that time is not wasted trying to get a hold of you. All too often we have sat around watching a pet that we are not allowed to treat or diagnose while waiting for permissions.

Miss Gregory

The Result

Thinking about your wishes, putting them on paper, advising your petsitter – all these steps can help make your vacation a little more relaxing if all goes well and a little less stressful if things don’t.

Fluffly Did It…Or My Cat Attacked My Bird!

Sad Endings.

Recently we saw a very sick bird here at Bay Area Bird Hospital.  She had been found in a cat’s mouth – apparently unharmed.  But that was 4 days previous.  The day we saw her she was quiet and sleepy-eyed.  She was fluffed.  Not moving or eating.  We started aggressive treatments right away to support her system and try to treat the effects of the attack.  But we were too late.  She didn’t survive.

Predator Attacks Can Be Deadly

When a bird, a rabbit, rat or any prey animal gets bitten, life threatening emergencies can result.  Some damage is easy to see…

Beak attack
…this conure’s beak was damaged in a hawk attack.

conure no beak
…this little guy lost his upper beak after flying into a wall.  Although we’re pretty sure he got bitten by an amazon right before he flew into the wall.

But some damage is much more subtle.  Bite wounds might be hidden under feathers or in areas that your pet won’t let you look at.  Puncture wounds close up at the skin level rapidly but dirt and bacteria may have been injected into the tissues below.

Can you tell that this budgie is extremely ill?

…she nearly didn’t make it.  Luckily she responded to supportive care, antibiotics and warmth.

Why So Deadly?

Predator attacks are deadly for the reasons listed above – hard to see wounds, puncture wounds…  But the saliva of dogs and cats carries a large number of dangerous bacteria.  Pasteurella is a common bacteria that does not harm cats, dogs or humans but can result in death in birds in as little as 24 hours.

Antibiotics should be started the same day as the encounter with the dog, cat or other predator.  Even if there doesn’t appear to be any damage or your bird seems fine.