Blossom’s Ordeal

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Blossom- tape holding her scalp to her head

On August 12th, I was contacted by WildCare regarding a scalped racing pigeon that had been brought in. (A predator had caught and begun to eat her before she miraculously escaped.) Because she was a banded racing pigeon, she was not eligible for vet care and needed transfer and help ASAP. Thanks to the help of WildCare staff and a Palomacy volunteer, we were able to get her from San Rafael to Medical Center for Birds in Oakley for treatment. She arrived with her skull partially exposed and her scalp taped onto her head.

Pigeon with scalp taped to her head

Blossom upon arrival at MCFB

Back view of Blossom

Part of Blossom’s skull was exposed

The extent of Blossom’s injury required that she be sedated so that her wound could be surgically cleaned and repaired. When she was anesthetized and intubated, it was discovered that she had a ruptured air sac as well (revealed by the way her body inflated abnormally with breathing support).  She recuperated in the hospital for a couple of days, receiving supportive care. She had come in emaciated and, even though her scalp was back in place and she could see again, she wasn’t eating. But she was super thirsty and had polyuria (excessively watery poop). Blood tests came back normal and didn’t reveal any answers. In a couple of days, she began eating and they were able to discontinue the tube feeding. The thirst and polyuria continued.

Blossom looking a lot better

Blossom looking a lot better after her surgery 8/14

Blossom's wound is checked

Dr. Fitgerald checks Blossom’s progress 8/15

I went out to Oakley on August 18th to pick up Blossom and as soon as I met her, I realized that the name I had originally given her- prior to meeting her and when I needed something quick for our and the vets’ records- Rex- was so wrong as to need changing (something I hate to do because it creates extra work and potential confusion). She’s a delicate, petite, shy little flower of a pigeon. I renamed her Blossom.

Blossom in the vet's loving hands

Dr. Fitzgerald and Blossom

Once home and fostered with me, Blossom, on antibiotics and pain meds, was stable and her wound seemed to be healing but something else was going on. Her thirst and polyuria continued.

Blossom in foster care

Blossom 8/21, note her too-watery poop

On 8/25, I did a routine weight check expecting to see that Blossom was gaining weight (she seemed to be eating well) but I was surprised to find that she had actually lost weight. I took her back in to see the vets the following day. She surprised me by eating almost non-stop the whole 54 miles. (She doesn’t seem like the adventuresome type so I hadn’t expected that a roadtrip would spark her appetite but it did.)

Pigeon eating in the car

On the road, Blossom ate & tossed seeds enthusiastically

Once at Medical Center for Birds, Dr. Speer looked through her matted feathers to reveal what was really happening with her scalp. While a portion of the reattachment was healing well, there were places that had reopened. When I had looked at her scalp, I hadn’t really looked.

Blossom's matted feathers

Note to self: Look more closely at wounds

Dr. Speer examines Blossom

Dr. Speer examines Blossom

Close examination reveals only partial healing

Close examination reveals only partial healing

Dr. Speer checked the wound for necrotic tissue and infection but found none.

Blossom's wound after being checked

The blood is a good sign & means living tissue

Dr. Speer added a few new sutures to help close the wound and speed healing. She received topical Lidocaine to numb her scalp and was an incredibly cooperative patient throughout the procedure.

Blossom calmly getting stitches

Blossom was very calm and brave

Dr. Speer sutures Blossom

Dr. Speer sutures while I hold

Close up of Blossom's new stitches

Blossom’s new stitches

The vets didn’t see any obvious explanation for Blossom’s weight loss, thirst and polyuria and recommended I discontinue the anitbiotics and Meloxicam in case they were contributing.

Today is September 2nd and Blossom is doing OK. Her weight is back up to where it was (though she is still too thin) but her thirst is, if anything, is increasing. She will drink this entire huge bowl of water in 24 hours. We’ll be going back out to Oakley next week for more follow up. Through all the years and so many pets and so many pigeons and doves rescued, I’ve worked with a lot of vets, many of them truly wonderful, but none more supportive, responsive, helpful, generous and dedicated than those at Medical Center for Birds. They work tirelessly to help us (and so many others) and that’s why we go to such lengths to get our birds all the way out to Oakley to see them whenever we can. They also do everything possible to help us stretch our dollars as far as they will go but even so, medical care is expensive and Blossom’s bill, despite the discounts, is over $1200 already.

Blossom & her extra large water bowl

Blossom & her extra large water bowl

Blossom, this brave young survivor of pigeon racing, barely six months old, was lost and starving to death before she was attacked and nearly killed by the predator that scalped her and ruptured an air sac. Pigeon racers say, “let the (training) basket and races cull for you“. To them, birds like Blossom, who get lost, hurt or killed while being flown, are worthless. As if Blossom’s life means any less to her than theirs does to them. It breaks my heart to think of all that birds like Blossom endure. They suffer a lot. Blossom is one of the lucky ones.

Please help us help Blossom and the others. If you can, please make a donation to support our work. Blossom and all of us thank you for your compassion.

Blossom chilling

Blossom

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4 Comments

  1. Hi:
    Please give an update on Blossom so we know how she is doing and why she has such an excessive thirst. Also, I have 3 roller pigeons and want to build a better house for them with an aviary. Is there a place or book that gives more information about the aviary you built for Animal Place? Thanks.

  2. i go to the same vet, they’re wonderful. Blossom is lovely, and I think it’s so sweet and heartbreaking that she was so gentle that you changed her name. Sweet because it shows her wonderful personality, but sad because that gentle bird went through so much to be found. So glad she was found.

  3. Is there an equivalent to SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone secretion) in birds? It can result from head trauma in humans and causes excessive thirst and drinking of water. Please ask Dr. Speers.

    • Hello, Amy- Yes, I believe there is. Dr. Speer thinks Blossom’s condition is less exotic but one another of our readers shared this: “After reading about Blossom’s polyuria and excessive thirst, I am writing to you about the possibility that she has a rare disease called diabetes insipidus. This is NOT sugar diabetes, and unrelated to that disease. D. Insipidus is usually about the pituitary gland producing insufficient quantities of the hormone vasopressin which regulates the kidneys and how they process water. Normally the kidneys clean the water and send it back into the body. Without vasopressin, the kidneys just dump the water, which results in chronic and severe dehydration, and therefore chronic and severe thirst.

      Without water to drink, Blossom would continue to dump water and will lose weight rapidly, and probably die of dehydration within a day. So she must be given free access to abundant water until she is medicated. Even with drinking abundantly, with unmedicated DI , her body and brain are in a chronic state of crises and she may be lethargic.

      Because of her head injuries, her pituitary gland may well have been injured, causing the gland malfunction. It could eventually heal, or not.

      Here is a link to a page about a parrot which was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus.
      Central diabetes insipidus in an African Grey parrot. – PubMed – NCBI

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