Parakeets Tumors and Cancer - PintoPinto was acquired in December 1998 as a hand raised baby, so she was born late October / early November 1998. She came from a pet store in Natick MA. She and our year-older green parakeet Nazo - both females from that same breeder - hit it off famously and were partners for their entire lives, until Nazo died in 2008. Pinto became a bit more lonely and cranky after that. We did have two other parakeets - Santo and Ivory - but they had paired up meaning Pinto was now the "odd parakeet out". She had a flock, but she no longer had a partner.
Pinto was always the large parakeet of the four. We almost thought she had some English parakeet in her. She was always the football-player-shaped one compared with the others who were more svelte. So we never thought anything of it when Pinto seemed a bit larger than the rest.
Then in late October 2009, while Pinto was going through a molt and taking lots of baths, we saw that she had an actual bulge in her rear area. These next few photos show when we really noticed it. It was the combination of the no-feathers and the super-wet body which made it very apparent that she had an unnatural bulge showing now. I realize her feathers look a bit ratty here but it is primarily that she had gotten soaking wet, which is when we could really see her bulge.
Note - these might look a bit gross. It's important to know what these things look like, so you can watch for signs on your own pet. Keep in mind that she's not "hurt" in these images. She just has a bump in her body. It's like you having a wart on your hand. It's just a bump. If it looks a bit "slimy" that's just that she's wet from her bath.
My first thought was that Pinto was egg bound. The keets are all female, but that hasn't stopped them from thinking they can create babies with each other and we do occasionally get eggs (infertile of course). I was, of course, really worried. Egg binding is a serious condition and can kill a keet off very quickly. I took Pinto upstairs to the sink, let her rest in warm water, used olive oil on the area, and she seemed to treat it as a luxury spa. She enjoyed the attention greatly. But it became apparent fairly quickly that this was not an egg and it wasn't coming out. Time for a vet.
I took Pinto in to the vet the first few days of November. The vet decided fairly quickly that this was a tumor and it was inoperable. She said that she could do an xray to confirm, but that the xray procedure would probably kill Pinto and since it would just show that Pinto had an inoperable tumor, there would be little gain. Instead she pressured me very hard to simply kill Pinto right there, since she wasn't going to last more than a week or two anyway. I felt as if the process was fairly callous. Add onto that the "exit procedure". After the vet was done, they sent in an intern with a folder of information for me and she tried to start selling me on buying parakeet pellet food and such. Here I am with a sick parakeet apparently "on death's door" and they are pressuring me to buy food? Not good at all.
I was of course crying the whole way home and was convinced poor Pinto was on her last breath. I wondered if I had been selfish to keep Pinto alive, if she was going to have a miserable week or two of her last hours. I snuggled with Pinto when I got home and doted on her. But in a day or two it was fairly obvious that Pinto was NOT on her last few hours. She was happy, chirping, playing with the other keets and as lively as she'd always been. I do realize that keets try to hide their symptoms so they will not be predated on in the wild. However, close observation made it clear Pinto was not pretending for show, that she really was enjoying her treats and seeking out fun.
Once her feathers grew back in from the molt, she looked fairly normal too. These photos below are taken AFTER the above ones - so she still has the bulge, but they're hidden under her feathers.
Not only that, but a month and a half later (long after her "expiration date" set by that vet) by a very strange twist of fate Santo died almost instantly from a hidden tumor. So while Pinto had this obvious, pushing-out tumor which she lived with fine, Santo had an internal tumor which we noticed when her legs began to fail and three days later she was gone. So it goes to show how very differently tumors can present themselves.
Throughout December and January Pinto was alive and well, still with the tumor, and was now extremely happy being the "partner" of Ivory. So rather than her last memories being of the "odd bird out" without a partner, her last memories were of being snuggled and preened. When she finally did head into her final days, they were peaceful, calm, and with us.
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