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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello there,

I have posted several times before about my Ringneck Dove - one of two I have had for seven months now. Both are matured but still young, and have identical diets, treatment and environments.

Unfortunately one of them, right from the start, has had a number of watery stools on any given day, regardless of whether or not there is moist food included in his diet. Apart from this ‘back end’ issue, he has otherwise been perfectly well, displaying no other signs of ill health.

My worries went up a notch when, about seven weeks ago, I detected some instances of undigested seed in his stools. This was an anomaly which occurred (ironically) as a direct result of taking him to the vet; indeed, the first ones came on his car trip back, and given it resolved by the next morning, I put it down to a one-off case of stress.

Unfortunately, though, I found today another case of an undigested seed - possibly a bit of nut or a buckwheat kernel (the latter only recently introduced to his diet).

Avian vets are pretty well non-existent in my neck of the woods, and those professing to know something about birds are for the most part unavailable, not all that knowledgeable, and have only a few simple tests they are willing to perform.

So my question is: If this undigested seed issue occurs only very occasionally and isn’t accompanied by any other symptoms/signs, is it something I don’t really have to worry about? Or should I be ringing alarm bells at this point and trying to find some medical intervention? Vet trips are so stressful and often not all that enlightening.

My thanks in advance.
 

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The inconsistency and length of time between incidents of undigested seeds in the droppings makes it sound more like a behavioral issue than a health issue. Pigeons and doves have the ability to move food back and forth in their digestive system -- from the proventriculus to the gizzard, and back again, so whole seed can be repeatedly soaked in stomach acid and ground in the gizzard. Theoretically that ability should prevent any whole seeds from being passed in droppings unless the bird is unwell such as having inflammation of, or damage to the digestive tract which might cause the bird to evacuate food more quickly. If that were the case, there ought to be more than a single undigested seed.

But what would happen if a bird hadn't finished grinding a seed, and then encountered a food that he really wanted to eat? Would the bird patiently wait while either grinding the seed repeatedly or sending it back to the "true stomach" to be acid-treated again? Or could a bird be impatient to eat some favored food, and thus just pass the seed along to make room for some special treat?

Do you happen to know whether the incidents of whole seed being passed both occurred after the bird had a favored treat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for your insights!

I did give him some safflower seeds - his absolute favourite - probably not long before the incident occurred yesterday, which is the only food he will really gobble down entirely and straight away. (I try to give it sparingly because it's high-fat, and both birds would eat it all day and not much besides if given the chance.) So that might have been the culprit. It was safflower as well that coincided with the incident coming back from the vet, with also regurgitation - the first and only I've ever seen from him - on the way there. (I think he must have had motion sickness into the bargain.)

It would certainly be a great relief to me if this were a behavioural issue rather than a physiological one.

You mentioned the concept of inflammation or damage to the digestive tract as a cause for a bird to evacuate more quickly. I note that my bird does pass a lot of very small droppings during the day, at probably high frequency, which I have been trying to ignore as another aspect of his overall 'back end' trouble, but which might be something sinister as well.
 

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I try to give it sparingly because it's high-fat, and both birds would eat it all day and not much besides if given the chance.
Maybe, but with the formerly feral pigeon here, Sky, she ate mostly sunflower kernels for awhile when I first brought her home -- several days. Then she ate more peas for awhile, then lentils, then barley, and eventually back to majority sunflower kernels for a few days. She still eats some sunflower kernels every day, but by her own choice they are not even half of her diet -- peas and lentils nearly are. She also likes a lot of the smaller seeds, but the proportions of those varies wildly from day to day (for example, she'll eat a teaspoon or so of flax one day, and nearly none the next.)

Regarding the possibility of inflammation, if it isn't consistent then it sounds like some minor allergy either to a particular food or perhaps some contaminant or environmental factor. Perhaps perform a test by adding something that reduces inflammation to the diet or drinking water for a couple of days and see if that causes any change? Chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita a.k.a. German chamomile) comes to mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanking you.

I can certainly try chamomile tea; I have some in teabag form (though the exact variety of plant is not specified; hopefully not a problem?).

How should I offer it? - straight (cooled) tea as a replacement for the drinking water, or just an amount added to the regular drinking water?
 

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Given that your doves took to oregano straight, try it the same way - as dried chamomile from the tea bag. If consuming it results in the droppings becoming normal, and also returning to abnormal a day later, then it is likely inflammation. If no change, then not inflammation. If the problem disappears permanently, then it may have been a minor infection since chamomile does happen to be naturally antibiotic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you!
I don't know that would be very instructive as a test, as the phenomenon of undigested seeds is only a rare and sporadic occurrence. - Assuming that when you say 'normal/abnormal', you are referring to the appearance of undigested seeds, and not the frequent wateriness?
But in any case I can try the teabag contents on him and see if there is any change to anything at all.
 

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Yes, right -- I meant the frequent small and wet droppings during the day. Perhaps inflammation causes the bird to drink more, and therefore to produce more droppings that are overly wet, yet small in fecal solid content. Chamomile reduced inflammation in tests with birds even under more dire conditions of infectious illness, so it is likely potent enough to either improve any minor cause of inflammation, or to definitively disprove that the problem is due to inflammation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you again!

Hmm... I'm sure he doesn't drinks any more than my other, non-problematic dove.

If he is still having the same issues in five years' time and still not showing any other concerning signs, I might well stop worrying - but it will probably take that long!

In any case I am going to try the chamomile as you suggest, as it certainly can't hurt, and just see if there is any change. Thank you for the careful thought and recommendation.
 

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Hmm... I'm sure he doesn't drinks any more than my other, non-problematic dove.
Ahh, if they are both taking in the same amount of water, and ejecting the same overall amount of water in droppings, then the overly wet droppings may be due to less fecal material per dropping? So it is not so much that the droppings are overly wet, but rather that they contain less solids?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I wouldn't have instinctively said so. He ejects plenty of solid material throughout any day. I don't know where all the liquid content comes from... :(

It is both mystifying and disheartening that the problem persists despite my trying various things, including:
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Regular probiotics
  • Multivitamin supplement (before he started accepting fresh fruit & veg)
  • The naturally antimicrobial seeds you suggest (unfortunately won't eat any I've tried though; just dried oregano)
  • Dry food only, to remove any moisture content
  • A variety of grains, seeds and herbs

There doesn't seem to be any obvious correlation between the problem and what he eats, since it occurs on any menu. And it isn't apparently behavioural or environmental either, as he has identical treatment and surroundings to my other dove, and is certainly a very bright, happy and otherwise healthy little creature. He is also well conditioned and has a stable weight.

The bad droppings seem to exemplify every possible problem, i.e.
  • puddles of clear water with almost no faecal content (these luckily not often)
  • loose mushy faecal content with or without a puddle of cloudy-white or greenish water
  • lots of dry, perfectly well-formed stools which are just too small

I count a good day as not more than half a dozen instances of the too-wet kind, and he probably has more such days than not. Certainly on any given day he has plenty of good stools.

His recent gram stain test was fine, and his crop wash test earlier in the year showed the antibiotic treatment had cured him of the canker he brought with him from the breeder. A blood count test is possible at a surgery I haven't yet tried, but I don't know how useful that would be. Do you know if that, X-ray or endoscopy might be useful if I could find a place that does those?

Apologies for the rant and thank you for always reading them. And thank you for all the good you do here. Don't ever die :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
P.S. The only conditions under which he is almost invariably guaranteed to produce good stools is after a long break - i.e. overnight, where there are longer intervals between stools, and during the day if he has been ‘nesting’ a long time. So: as if the stools are given a long enough time to form. Not sure if that is enlightening in any sense.
 

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I thought that the issue might be due solely to production of urine, since there isn't much actual stool in the droppings. So I looked-up foods that are natural diuretics which increase frequency of urination. Among them are acidic (especially citrus) fruit juices, oregano, and dill. Perhaps only serve those in the evening before birdy bed-time?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you again!
I don’t think that is it either, because of those foods he only eats oregano, and only a little, and not every day. But it is all good intel and very good learning - much appreciated.

The question remains as to when or whether I should take him to a vet, in case it is something eventually serious that can only be diagnosed by medical testing. (I feel a bit of a panic merchant, given the plethora of genuine emergencies going on at any given time on this forum :( :) )

I will continue to try things and observe any changes.

Thank you again!
 

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My usual mode of thinking about illness in birds is heavily weighted toward prevention because the vast majority of birds that I deal with are free ferals that are almost always difficult to catch. Adding to their diet foods that inhibit or destroy certain types of pathogens has worked well, to the point that nearly all of the birds that I bring home for extra care are all physically injured rather than suffering from any notable illness. They do sometimes have symptoms of illness but very mild and minor compared to years ago here when birds throughout the neighborhood were clearly sick and dying. So my first response is always "feed them foods that fight illness!"

Only within the past year since the fabulous formerly feral Sky lives here have I begun thinking about other methods of birds' health maintenance. The most frustrating part is the genericness of symptoms. There are so few symptoms that concretely indicate a single specific illness. Even many of the things that we think we know, we don't actually seem to know at all when one gathers enough information from varying sources and that holds with even the most basic questions such as "How long do parent pigeons create crop-milk for their young?" I expected that to be a very simple look-up, but no, not at all. Completely conflicting claims with wildly divergent data seems to exist for every pigeon related condition and illness, which is more than just a bit disconcerting. At the very least, some things that "we" think we know, aren't true and may indeed be no more than mere vanity.

So perhaps a reasonable course into the apparently unknown despite much documentation would be to firmly establish what we can actually verify. Things like a monthly recording of each bird's body temperature, taken at a consistent time of day and in a consistent manner. Use of simple, reliable mechanisms such as litmus strips to determine the "normal" Ph of each bird's droppings, once per month with consistent time-of-day and manner of testing. Charting each bird's G.I.T. (gastro-intestinal transit time) by hand-feeding a bit of blueberry, and then noting the elapsed time before the bird passes a blue dropping. If possible, at least periodically (one day per week perhaps) measuring the bird's food before it is served, and then again at end-of-day to chart consumption by weight or volume, and the same with the bird's drinking water.

Establishing "norms" for the bird, and continuing routine checks may be the best early-detection method when an illness occurs. It also may clearly indicate when a bird's condition is improving from an illness. On the other hand, it may all be a bit much tedium for people, especially if they have a lot of bird friends.

What do you think about the idea?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yes, agreed that prevention is always better than cure! And certainly your observation of the mess that conventional wisdom seems to be in vis-a-vis pigeon illnesses does tend to make one lose faith in the established order...

Consistently recording the state of the bird's normal functions, as you say, seems like very good sense (and actually, I have been doing it to some degree for my problematic chap).

Sounds like you have done a remarkable job for the birds in your area!
 

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One of the more perplexing things that I've encountered whilst researching bird health issues is the curled-toe paralysis usually said to be caused by lack of vitamin B2 / Riboflavin. A study done in the 1970s found that even when B2 was completely eliminated from the diet of test birds, only 7% developed curled-toe paralysis. After examining blood test results from the birds, it was discovered that they still had B2 in their systems. It turned-out that some of the birds had bacteria in their systems which were creating B2 that prevented total deficiency in those birds. Next I ran across a more recent study which noted that the remedy for curled-toe paralysis in one particular region was not B2, but rather calcium and phosphorus -- and without explanation as to how those could achieve the same effect as B2 in remedying curled-toe paralysis. I still haven't found any explanation, but I'm guessing that some gut bacteria which produce B2 do so much more with sufficient dietary calcium and phosphorus than without, which would mean that in birds that have the bacteria, either a B2 supplement, or calcium and phosphorus could "cure" the condition. Or perhaps there is yet more than we just don't know about the subject. 🤷‍♂️

If you are interested in testing the Ph of the fluid urine, I have inserted some notes below.


Excerpts below from "Avian Medicine, 3rd edition", 2016
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"Very few investigations have determined normal parameters of avian urine"

"pH
  • Most pet birds have a urinary pH between 6 and 8. pH is related to the diet: carnivores tend to have acidic urine and granivores more alkaline urine
  • Birds with urine pH less than 5 are considered acidotic"
"The main problem with birds is collecting uncontaminated samples. Ostriches are the only bird to deposit urine separately from their feces, which enables the collection of clean samples of urine without being contaminated with protein from feces. Under experimental conditions, samples have been collected from pigeons fitted with a cloacal cannula or from birds placed in holding cages with mesh floors, the samples from whom could be collected onto plastic sheeting."

"Sometimes the only laboratory evidence of renal disease may be the presence of casts and urine sediment. Therefore samples should be carefully examined for the presence of these."
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^ Ph can be tested from the excess clear fluid urine in droppings on a non-absorbent surface (plastic, glass, etc.) The urine should be clear, not cloudy. If the clear fluid is allowed to dry, it should not leave notable sediment. High acidity in urine may indicate kidney problems, or urinary tract infection. Low acidity may indicate diabetes.

Example of Ph test strips product at the site below:
 

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For measurement of drinking water, I have a set of the bowls shown at the link below. They have graduated measurement markings on the inside of the bowl, in one ounce increments. I use one bowl for each bird that is here although the last fledgling here was so eager to be near Sky that he spent nights sleeping on the top edge of her basket, and then had breakfast with her inside the basket rather than at his separate bowls outside the basket. The only reliable measurement that I get from the bowls currently is the overnight amount of water consumed. I fill the bowl to five ounces in the evening when returning Sky to the basket, and then check the level in the morning. She drinks from one-half ounce to just a tiny bit less than one ounce every night. During the day she is outside the basket, and she has the option of drinking from a bowl or the bathing dish that I set out for her daily, so the measurement during the day isn't reliable. The bowls are heavy enough that even when both Sky and a fledgling are perched on the same bowl, it doesn't tip over.


I also tried using one ounce ramekins to monitor consumption of each individual type of seed, which was counter-productive. First they were too small and lightweight, so I created a holder for them to prevent them tipping over. Then they appeared to influence Sky to eat more of only a couple of individual types of seed rather than allowing me to monitor how many of each different type she was eating normally. I think that the arrangement of each seed in a different tiny dish (though side-by-side) made it less likely that she would see and choose different seeds as she ate, and the result was her eating more of fewer types of seeds. I've since reverted to using her tray (long narrow tray with sloped sides) which allows her to see all the different seeds while she eats, and she has resumed eating a much wider variety of seeds daily.
 

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On the subject of recording birds' body temperatures... thermometers intended for humans generally don't have sufficiently high range for avian body temperatures.

If you happen to have a glass cooking thermometer, merely holding the metallic contact against the bird's skin for a few minutes would at least result in a reliably repeatable method of recording body temperature differences even if the measurement isn't exactly the internal temperature of the bird -- changes in temperature could still be detected. The ambiguity in actual temperature using a cooking (or a glass laboratory) thermometer is that the measurement markings used for cooking aren't intended for very fine accuracy, so it may be impossible to distinguish 106 degrees from 107 degrees, for example -- but changes in temperature may yet be apparent depending on the individual design of the thermometer.

Another option is to use a veterinary thermometer with greater range. Both contact and infrared types are available. I want to try the infrared type, but have not yet decided which brand/model to order. As to their utility and accuracy, the 2019 research paper linked below concludes that at least some are effective and reliable -- but digital thermometers may be too limited in range: "The upper range of temperature of the digital thermometer was exceeded by 12 birds, thereby eliminating these subjects."

Also the infrared thermometers in the study returned slightly lower temperatures than did contact thermometers, but they were consistent about it, and thus still useful given that the discrepancy was known. The final caveat is that the prices of the professional veterinary models is of course shockingly high compared to commercial thermometers for home use. If a home-use infrared thermometer produced at least reliable measurements (even if not quite exact in actual temperature), and supported the higher temperature of birds, then it would be the more reasonable option, in my opinion.

During the test, they began each bird's session by noting the room temperature (which might be a good idea in home practice as well), then using different methods of taking the bird's body temperature and comparing the results from different instruments.

^ Source site for the article, which provides only the abstract for free access.

^ Full paper as image not text, which is readable but not searchable.
 
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