Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer break = heaving Mika.

This is a long post...  beware.  :P

Summer has officially started for me and I will be home for two months!  This is the time I look forward to every year!!  I truly am a homebody (much to my bf's chagrin LOL) and love nothing more than to be home all day with my babies.  Unfortunately, this is also the time of year that Mika's violent heaving goes into full force.  Even with controlling the amount of affection we show him, the mere fact that I am present 24/7 for an extended period of time is enough to kick it into high gear.

For those that don't know, Mika has a couple of issues - a compromised immune system, no thanks to former vets, and "hormonal overload".  The compromised immune system is due to Mika having been on different broad-spectrum antibiotics for a WHOLE YEAR.  Why a whole year?  Because one Exotics vet, and then an Avian vet, could not figure out why Mika was continually heaving.  And... stupid me...  I put my trust in these vets so I never questioned them.  

I remember that the heaving started while Kano (RIP) was still alive.  Kano was my rescue Creamino lovebird.  It began soon after I started my current job four years ago, a job that allowed me to be home more often.  I worked one hour less per day and had Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer break off.  I, along with the previous vets, didn't imagine that it could be hormonal because he doesn't heave like he's regurgitating to feed me.  I know what "I love you" or "let me feed you" regurgitation looks like.  No.  What Mika does is whole body, violent/spasm-like, painful-looking heaving.  

It wasn't until my current bf came along that, with the help of a very knowledgeable lovebird expert in Florida and some online research, he figured out what was wrong with him - hormonal overload, so to speak.  Mika is SO bonded to me that he can't control his heaving. 

Unfortunately, by the time it was all figured out, Mika's yearly gram stains/C&S's ALWAYS show something.  While he was completely fine prior to this, he has never had a clear gram stain since being on antibiotics for a whole year.  We are somewhat anal people that keep a clean, but not sterile, home.  Clean food, clean water, liners changed daily...  yet, somehow, every single year - or sometimes more than once a year - he gets SOMETHING while Raptor remains healthy.  My current Avian vet said there is no scientific evidence that being on continual antibiotics damages your immune system, but there is a REASON human doctors try to avoid us on back-to-back antibiotics ourselves.  We don't need Ph.D.'s to put two and two together.  The lovebird expert in Florida, along with other experienced lovebird owners on a forum, was extremely surprised Mika survived having had that much antibiotics in a year.

We have tried rounds of Lupron shots two years in a row to try to lessen his hormones.  The first year, it lessened a little but it made no difference the second year.  In the end, the only thing we can do to help lessen it is by not touching him AT ALL.  No scritches (I was never one to give full body rubs/scritches ever, just the head, so it's not like he was getting riled up that way), no beak rubs, no letting him nap cuddled up under our chins or in the crook of our elbows, nothing.   When we follow that strict regiment during our normal work schedule, his violent heaving tapers.  It never completely stops, but at least he's able to maintain his weight and I don't have to watch him day in and day out looking like he's in pain.  He doesn't cry out so I don't THINK he's in pain, but it just looks painful and I end up crying half the time.

Anyway, it really is hard for us to follow that strict regiment every single day.  Mika is my boy.  We have shared over 10 years together.  He is the love of my life.  How can I not give him a little scritch on the head here and there or let him sleep against my skin because he's already squatted and dozing off?  Both my bf and I fall off the wagon sometimes.  The bf more than myself... and, if it was too much, we'll see the resulting heaving for days after.  Mika so desperately wants our affections so I always have mixed feelings about giving in.  I want him to know he's loved but I don't want him heaving.

Now that summer is here again, even if I don't touch him at all the whole two months, he will heave.  I will be doing my best to follow the illusion of having my work schedule, allowing Mika to be out and about in the bedroom but with the door closed so he can't see me until the time I usually come home from work.  We'll see if that helps at all.  

I've had numerous people ask, "Why don't you just get him a mate?"  My bf, my vet, and I wholeheartedly agree that a mate would do nothing for Mika.  Mika is a true "human" bird.  No matter what other lovebird comes along, he still always chooses me before being with another bird period.  Even when Kano was here, he unfortunately played second fiddle to me.  We've tried to shack Mika up with a couple of females in the past and he still always chose me.  I am his chosen one.  So, no, a mate is not the answer for him.

While Mika's situation can be a burden, both emotionally and financially, I would not trade him for the world.  He is my perfect little boy.  Look at him.  Would YOU be able to resist cuddling this ball of fluff my bf says "is softer than air"???


  1. Gosh, that is a tough situation :( You want to show him you love him but you can't become too affectionate. After reading this post, I too thought that maybe another lovebird would help. You wrote you had tried but it did not work. But wouldn't it at least lessen Mika's affection to you? Even if he is totally devoted to you, having another lovebird to play with or even to watch only IMO would help a bit.
    But since he is 10 yo, I'd only try an older lovebird. Definitely not a baby who is full of energy and ready to play and stay active all day long.

    That's really something that he was prescribed antibiotics for a whole year. Glad you got a second opinion.

    1. No, it wouldn't lessen his affection to me or his heaving - heck, his heaving STARTED while he had a cagemate he liked!! The thing is, no matter what other bird is around to entertain him, just visually (which Raptor fills that role just fine) or physically, he is still completely bonded to me - and starting to become very bonded with my bf as well. The only way getting another lovebird MAY work is if I stuck him in an aviary and never saw him again - but he would be miserable with that because he really doesn't care to be around other birds and he would always be calling out for me. Him playing with another bird really has nothing to do with his attachment to me or the physical affection we show him. So logically, getting another bird isn't the answer.

      Also, I had to get a THIRD opinion. The "second opinion" put Mika on broad spectrum antibiotics continuously just like the first vet! >_< The first vet is an Exotics specialist, the second is an Avian vet, and now my current is the most experienced Avian vet on the island. In hindsight, I should have gone with my current vet FIRST but I kept hearing ONLY negative stuff about him and his bedside manner - of how mean and snappy he is. I was afraid somewhat, so I avoided going to him!! But once I realized I had no choice and he was my last hope and went to see him, he was really nice and I have no idea what all the negative verbal and online reviews were talking about! I admit he has a BIT of arrogance to him but it doesn't bother me. I don't dwell on it because it does me no good but I wish I had started with him from the get-go and maybe Mika wouldn't have his compromised immune system.

  2. I forgot to add that it as an interesting post and I enjoyed reading it, despite the fact that it was quite sad to read about Mika's problems.

  3. I know this is an old post, but I wanted to say that Peanut is a lot like Mika in how bonded he is to a human. Peanut has always been around other birds. He has 4 other lovies that he lives with, including 1 little girl that he has moved in with. He will feed her and preen her, but that is the extent of their relationship. He still humps his hump buddies and still seeks me out.

    Poor Mika, and poor you, too. I don't think I could handle it if I couldn't hold my lovebird.