SAVE Saves a Bird

August 13, 2014
Scarlett's x-ray

Scarlett’s x-ray shows her stuck egg

As her name suggests, Scarlett is a pet that is red, but not a red setter, a redbone coonhound or a red Abyssinian, she’s an African grey parrot with a red tail. This 25-year-old parrot is also an artist, creating colorful abstract works of art in the bathtub. She was referred to The Animal Medical Center to see Avian and Exotic specialist Dr. Kathy Quesenberry for an egg that wasn’t being laid, an avian condition known as egg binding, putting a damper on her artistic endeavors.

Like many medical problems, egg binding occurs in overweight birds with a sedentary lifestyle or a diet lacking adequate calcium. Medical treatments can be effective in resolving a stuck egg – calcium, fluids, lubrication and keeping the bird warm may cause the egg to pass, if not, then manual or surgical removal of the egg may be necessary. These treatments had been tried in Scarlett, but they were unsuccessful.

IDing an Egg
One of the first steps in treating an egg-bound bird is to pinpoint the egg’s location within the reproductive tract. Because eggshells contain calcium, they can easily be seen using a standard x-ray. In the x-ray image on the right, you can see a thin, egg-shaped structure in Scarlett’s abdomen between her pelvic bones representing Scarlett’s stuck egg.

Avian Endoscopy
The inside of a bird’s vent, called the cloaca, contains multiple openings – one for the intestinal tract, one for the reproductive tract, and two small openings for the urinary tract. Dr. Quesenberry used endoscopy to view inside the vent and was planning to remove the egg at the same time. Endoscopy identified a tear at the end of the oviduct where it entered the cloaca, making surgery urgently necessary.

Scarlett in the tub

Scarlett as a component of her artwork

Bird Spay
During the two and a half hour endoscopy and surgery, Scarlett’s torn oviduct at the cloaca was repaired, and the remainder of her oviduct was removed to prevent another egg binding episode. Unlike mammals, most birds have only a single left oviduct and ovary. Because a bird’s ovary is close to large blood vessels, it cannot be removed safely. A “bird spay,” or salpingectomy, is the procedure of removing most of the oviduct so that an actual shelled egg cannot be formed, even though the ovary still functions normally. Scarlett recovered uneventfully. Two weeks after surgery her sutures were removed and she was given a clean bill of health and she has returned to emulating Jackson Pollack-esque abstract impressionism in her bathtub. The photo seen here shows Scarlett as a component of her own artwork.

Help From an AMC Community Fund
The happy ending to Scarlett’s story would not have been possible without the generosity of those who support The AMC’s Community Funds. Scarlett’s care was covered by the Seniors’ Animal Veterinary Effort (SAVE), which provides free or subsidized general and emergency veterinary services for the pets of the indigent elderly.

To learn about other pets treated through The AMC’s Community Funds, read the heartwarming stories about TikoFrankie, and Baller.

Become a supporter of The AMC’s Community Funds today.


Watch Scarlett at work in her bathtub studio on The AMC’s YouTube channel.


View Scarlett’s virtual art gallery.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Kitchen Catastrophes

November 17, 2009

New pet owners often ask their veterinarian, “What is the greatest danger to my pet?  Is it the dog park, the sidewalk or being cat-napped?”  It may come as a surprise to you, but your kitchen holds some of the greatest dangers for your pet.

Xylitol, a sweetener found in low-calorie foods, induces excessive insulin release in dogs.  No one knows why insulin production ramps up in response to xylitol, but the result can be a fatal low blood sugar in your dog.  Dogs consuming xylitol may experience vomiting, lethargy, lack of coordination progressing to seizures and liver failure.  If your dog eats food containing xylitol, see a veterinarian immediately.

Dogs have a bit of a sweet tooth and often find grapes and raisins tasty.  Tasty can turn into tragedy because some dogs develop kidney failure following consumption of even a few grapes or raisins.  The toxin has not been identified, but a quick trip to the veterinarian and a short hospital stay can help prevent long-term kidney damage.

Both cats and dogs have red blood cells which can be damaged by ingestion of onions, garlic or garlic powder.  Red blood cell damage can result in the need for a blood transfusion, so avoiding these ingredients in your pet’s diet is critical.  Typically dogs get into onions by snacking from the trash can.  On the other hand, cats may have problems if they are fed human foods flavored with garlic powder. 

Birds love human foods too, but bird owners should be cautious about avocados, which can cause respiratory distress and death.  Like in dogs and cats, the caffeine-like substance in chocolate can be dangerous for birds.  Baking chocolate contains the most of the caffeine-like substance, dark chocolate somewhat less and white chocolate the least.  Ingestion of the caffeine-like substance can cause hyperactivity, heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures.  Too much salt is bad for all of us including birds, so it is best to keep the salty snacks on your plate rather than your bird’s.

The AMC recommends you check with your veterinarian before feeding your pets any human food.  Keep these foods out of your pet’s reach and ensure that your garbage is not easily accessible by them as well.  If your pet has ingested any foods that may be toxic you should contact your veterinarian immediately or call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435, 24 hours a day.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts.  Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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