Birdsafe California Bird Nerds

Lumps can be cysts, tumors, even hernias

I have a parakeet who is almost nine years old and is usually very healthy. Last week I noticed that she was scratching, and when I looked closer, I saw she had a large pink bulge under her tail. I took her to the vet, who said that the bulge might be a fatty deposit and gave her thyroid medication. Since then, she has only gotten worse -- she's puffed up and is very lethargic. She doesn't seem to be drinking her water, which has her medication in it. I'm wondering if it's possible that she is constipated, since there is a lot less fecal matter in her cage than usual and she seems to be straining to pass it. I've added a mineral supplement to her water, and have been putting veggies in her cage, but she's not interested. Any suggestions on how to get her to eat and drink more?

-- Louisa

One of my budgies recently got very watery droppings, and now her intestinal area is bloated, and there is a bulging lump on the lower left side just below the crop. Is this diarrhea or some other serious illness?

-- Carol L., Toronto

I noticed that my double-yellow-headed Amazon has a lump on his underside between his right paw and his mid-line in his chest feathers. It is half round and does not seem to have any feathers growing on it. Crocker does not seem to be affected by it. He continues to swing around and play as usual and I would not have known something was wrong had I not noticed it while we were "rough-housing". I am worried about him.

-- Ramie Zomisky, Pittsburgh, Pa.

First, a word about medicating a bird's water. While it may be logistically necessary in order to treat a large flock for illness, keep in mind that adding medicine to water will make it taste different and can cause a bird to drink less - or avoid drinking altogether. This may result in dehydration and aggravate your bird's medical condition. Medicating a bird is always best done orally or by injection.

Budgies are very prone to tumors and cysts. However, other species of parrots can also develop lumps. Some bulges are tumors composed of fat or cholesterol deposits underneath the skin. Cysts, often caused by an ingrown feather, also can occur just beneath the skin or within it. Bulges also can be internal tumors or hernias. Internal tumors most often affect the kidneys, liver, and reproductive system, but if they grow large enough, they can block and affect the functions of other organs, too. Birds can get abdominal hernias. Hernias appear to be most common in females that are laying eggs: The abdominal wall thins over time and finally the muscle layer gives way allowing organs to "herniate through".

Always have your veterinarian check any lumps or bumps you find on your bird. Even benign and cholesterol tumors can enlarge dangerously. The latter can also break down and cause severe reactions. Malignant tumors, of course, are especially dangerous.

Your veterinarian will examine your bird and use its history and other tools, including possibly radiographs and biopsies if necessary, to determine what kind of lump it has. Surgical removal is ideal. Chemotherapy and radiation are available to treat malignancies.

Dr. James Harris James Harris, DVM is owner and medical director of the Mayfair Veterinary Clinic in Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia. He founded Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, Calif., and has served as medical director and chairman of the board for the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Berkeley. Dr. Harris' numerous professional honors include California and National Bustad Companion Animal DVM Awards. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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