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Your pet bird is living longer that his wild country cousins, and over the lifetime, cancer may occur due to the longevity of your bird and the accumulation over time of disrupted cells turning to cancer. This may be caused through diet, extremes in climatic changes, and stresses that they encounter over their lifetime. Fibrosarcoma, described as tumors arising from the connective tissue, are the most common cancer found in birds, with the leg or wing being the most likely location. They feel firm to touch, with a mass forming around a long bone.
Cancer in your bird is the result of an accumulation of cells which for many reasons, grow and replicate gradually getting out of control.
The first symptom you may notice is a large mass forming on your bird’s wing or leg. As soon as you notice this, consult your veterinarian to schedule an examination. During the physical exam, he will probably take a sample of tissue using a fine needle aspiration, wedge, punch or surgical biopsy. This tissue sample will be examined under a microscope to diagnose what the condition is. If the condition is confirmed as a fibrosarcoma then you can discuss treatment options with your specialist.
These cancers can grow to a large mass, and can also spread to the organs of your bird. Although this is distressing news for you as an owner, there are options available. A lot will depend on the extent of the growth and we must consider the quality of life before and after treatment. Your veterinarian will be able to explain the treatment options available, and advise on recovery and care
If the mass is on the wing, amputation of the wing is a very real option. Birds that have had this done have gone on to lead full rich lives, even if they only have one wing. Of course, if your bird flies a lot that may be quite a decision to make as your bird may be distressed over losing a wing. Amputation removes all the mass, and if the cancer hasn’t spread to other areas, your pet may live on to a ripe old age.
Other options are surgery to remove the mass. This option prognosis is guarded as total recovery depends on removing the total mass, and sometimes it is hard to see if it has affected other tissue. The chance of the cancer reoccurring is a lot higher than the amputation option. Radiation and chemotherapy are alternatives to be considered although the results from such treatments are guarded. Another element to consider is the age of your bird. If it is in his last years, maybe it is kinder to allow him a quality of life in his remaining years. With cancer, there is no guaranteed cure yet.
If your bird has had an amputation, gentle care while he recovers will be necessary. There will be a time of adjustment to life with one wing, but birds are amazing creatures and adapt readily. Attention to the wound and keeping the bandages clean are necessary to ensure infection doesn’t set in. This applies also to surgical removal of the mass; the dressings must be kept clean and sterile. Chemotherapy and radiation reactions are always unknown and cannot be guaranteed but a quiet clean cage, plenty of fresh water and a variety of quality food will be essential to help them to heal. Keep the cat away from the cage so as not to stress your bird, and allow a quiet dark room for plenty of sleep at night.
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