Although I considered myself generally well versed regarding avian health I was thrown for a loop when we had to medicate Bingo for the first time.
Sitting in front of us was a bird we had just adopted. A bird who was skeptical of people in general aside from her love of biting hands. Seriously – before she ever said her name out loud we heard a litany of “OUCH MY HAND” and “OWWW” sprinkled with laughter.
Even an unsympathetic person would have to feel a twinge after seeing this:
Poor Bingo received a shot of Doxycycline (an antibiotic) at the vet earlier in the day, hence the giant red mark. And unbeknownst to Bingo we also had oral antibiotics (TMS SMZ suspension) with instructions to administer twice daily.
We looked down at the tiny plastic no-needle syringe we were supposed to use to deliver the antibiotics.
Since Bingo was showing a marked preference for Jon he got the honor of toweling her and forcing the syringe in her beak.
I am still not sure which of them hated the experience more.
The (not so) Brilliant Grape Idea
As her health improved it became more of struggle to towel her so we resorted to trickery.
We knew she LOVED grapes. She was already getting a grape after each toweling as a peace offering of sorts.
So why not hide the medication in a grape?
I cut a grape in half and poked a small hole in the center, which was then filled with the liquid medication. Jon handed the Trojan horse grape to Bingo. She held the grape half like a cup and took a delicate bite.
We then watched in astonishment as she tipped the grape over and shook the medication off of it.
Okay. We were going to have to be more devious!
The (slightly) Better Grape Idea
I took a full grape and made a small hole in it with a metal skewer. Using the syringe I filled the grape with the liquid medication.
Bingo’s response? She took exactly one bite.
Then we watched in disbelief as she dunked the grape in her water bowl and swooshed it around to clean the medicine out.
Afterwards she calmly ate the entire grape, newly devoid of medicine.
And we were back to the toweling.
Finally a Good Idea
Fast forward a bit and we had to administer antibiotics, yet again, due to a preening gland infection. Jon and Bingo had fully bonded by this point so he was even more reluctant to cause her any discomfort or trauma.
But how could we trick an incredibly stubborn AND brilliant parrot into swallowing her medication?
A lightbulb went off for me.
‘Peanut butter image‘ by Meal Makeover Moms/ CC BY 2.0
Bingo adored peanut butter. We gave her no-salt peanut butter as an infrequent treat and would watch her gobble it up.
So Jon carefully mixed the liquid medication with a small amount of peanut butter and served it to Bingo using a stainless steel measuring spoon.
Bingo licked the spoon clean. Quite literally.
Providing peanut butter twice a day for 10 days is not the healthiest choice, so we weighed our options.
Method A – ‘Peanut butter deceit’ resulted in 99% of the medication being consumed with the added bonus of Bingo being super happy.
Method B – ‘Toweling and syringe’, by contrast, only resulted in her consuming about 50% of the medication and stressed her terribly.
Peanut butter won.
Result? Bingo’s health was finally stable.
Peanut butter may not be the best choice for your bird but I encourage you to work with your vet and think outside the box!