I have an older blue-fronted Amazon Parrot. She is at least 25 years old. Since she was an adult when she came into my life she is likely quite a bit older than that. Her body is certainly showing evidence of aging.
She was diagnosed with arthritis a number of years ago and has been taking glucosamine daily ever since.
Giving her glucosamine is fortunately relatively easy. Avian veterinarian Dr Scott Echols gave me a resource for excellent quality supplements. I learned from him that supplements are not well regulated and you can’t always be sure you are buying what it says is on the label.
The source he recommended is a company called Usana. I buy glucosamine tablets from them and pulverize them. I sprinkle the powder on cooked quinoa (a high protein grain) that my Parrot adores.
To pulverize the pills, I use a mortar and pestle, a tool I was introduced to in college chemistry class. It just takes seconds to get a fine powder when you use this ancient tool. I bought mine for a few dollars at World Market.
I also use the mortar and pestle to pulverize the heart worm pills I give my dog. Despite their claim to be tasty, my dog is not fond of them. After I grind the pill up I mix it with palatable treats such as cheese or tuna juice.
They taught us about acids and bases, how to make soap and the formula for alcohol. But now it turns out the handy dandy mortar and pestle was the best thing I gained from chemistry class.
I also recently learned about another way to give medications that has exciting potential for the Parrot world.
Dr Susan Clubb and I recently lectured together at the Kaytee Learning Center. She mentioned she has delivered some medications transdermally, especially Haloperidol for Parrots with feather destructive behaviour. I LOVE this idea. Can you imagine simply gently rubbing a medicated cream onto your Parrot’s foot?
The medication is then absorbed through the skin. This wonderfully non stressful way of delivering medication is perfect to help maintain trust between the caregiver and bird.
Too many birds learn to fear their owners when they end up being toweled over and over to be medicated.
It can take a long time for some Parrots to trust humans again. Unfortunately this method is not yet readily available for all types of medication.
This predicament caused by restraint is why I made an eBook to help people learn how to train their Parrot to take medication from a syringe. It is a pretty simple behaviour to train and one I demonstrate at most of my Parrot training workshops.
Best of all it also helps avoid having to restrain a Parrot to medicate them. However most people don’t take advantage of this resource until it is too late and the bird is already sick. This is a resource to use now, before your Parrot is ill.
Just recently I received this wonderful email:
“I want to let you know that your video on medicating birds was extremely helpful. I was able to train my 30 year old Congo African Grey Parrot to accept oral antibiotic medication within minutes of being offered the medication in a syringe while he was sitting on a free standing perch.
I have been toweling him for years and it was never a positive experience for either of us. I was absolutely shocked when he immediately accepted the antibiotic solution. Your video helped turn an unpleasant experience into a fun event. He willingly swallowed more of the antibiotic than he ever swallowed when held in a towel. Thank you so much for your video. I just wish I had known about it sooner!
Emails like this make my day. It makes me happy to know there is one more Parrot who has learned taking medication can be fun! Medicating a Parrot is something all Parrot owners will likely face at some point in their bird’s life. I hope you find the ideas and resources above helpful to you when that day comes.
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This article was originally published on Good Bird’s blog in October 2011
Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training (www.BarbarasFFAT.com) provides animal training DVDs, books, webinars and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in over twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara works with the companion animal community and also consults on animal training in zoos.