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#258194 - 03/19/15 02:00 AM Psychoactive drugs for feather plucking  
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Specialist Elbru Offline
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First of all, I must say that I am not a vet. I can not tell you what you should do for your bird in his/her situation, that is a job for a qualified avian veterinarian. I am talking about birds in general and what is best for that majority of birds in bad situations.

I've been watching the Chloe Sanctuary videos and they have had much success with the drug Haldol/Haloperidol when combined with environmental changes. I like the evidence based approach that the sanctuary applies. After making an an attempt to improve a bird's life, they track what was tried and it's effect. After working with a number of birds, the sanctuary has set of techniques to try, and some idea how often each those techniques are effective.

I know the consciences opinion of this forum is disfavorable towards the use of psychoactive drugs to stop birds from plucking. I would be too, if the idea of treatment was, "give a bird a pill, then put him/her back into the same old crappy situation". However, it seems to me that when combined with positive environmental changes, psychoactive drugs offer the best solution to a bird that was forced into a bad situation.

I have read many objections to Haloperidol, these objections are based on the birds being "doped out". However, many times such a reaction to Haloperidol is caused by administering too much of the drug. When a bird in the Chloe Sanctuary is placed on the drug, the goal is to use the minimum amount necessary to stop (FDB) Feather Destructive Behavior. In some cases FDB can be stopped and use of the drug is eventually ceased, in other cases some birds only require the drug during hormonal times of the year. Because of the minimal use philosophy, the actual amount given to a bird in a single dose will change over time. When given as minimal dose, many birds can spend there day in an engaged state and not be "doped out". This statement does not hold true for each and every bird, there are birds that do not respond well to Haloperidol.

Given the consequences of FDB when left unchecked, many caretakers are left with the only other choice of putting the bird in a restrictive collar or vest. In my opinion, birds in restrictive collars are worse off than the birds who are given drugs, because collars prevent so much movement that is natural to a bird. I understand that not every bird will be better off under Haloperidol. It seems that if collars have been the only thing that has been tried, and it seems that life long use is required to stop FDB, it seams reasonable that the use of psychoactive drugs should at least be discussed with a qualified avian vet.

The way the birds are dosed can be a major draw-back in real world situations. That is to say because people have to deal with life in general and deal with birds that giving the drugs to the birds can become "almost impossible" to do it correctly. The actual amount that a bird is given is constantly changing, because if this the drug must be given in a liquid form. A pill is not useful, because pills always gives the same amount of a drug. Once it is decided precisely how much drug to administer, a syringe must be used to measure it. This procedure must be performed once or twice a day. Missing a dose can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. Because of the complexity of the delivery, there will be caretakers who can not mach the consistency needed, and I can understand those people not using the drug because of it.

#258195 - 03/19/15 02:07 PM Re: Psychoactive drugs for feather plucking [Re: Specialist Elbru]  
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BE2Cassie Offline
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I haven't had an opportunity to watch the videos and will try to get to them this week.
While I don't object to the possible use of psychotropic drugs to treat birds who have progressed to self mutilation I would prefer to use a vest. I see a vest as being less invasive than a mood altering drug. I also would think that there are less side effects to a number of possible drugs that could be used. Haldol is a horrible drug with long lasting central nervous system side effects in people. I can not imagine what the side effects would be in a parrot.
As far as administration of the drug it is the same as the majority of medications available to birds. Most of us here have learned what works best for our birds to administer the proper amounts. Some folks need to towel, some can mix it in food like applesauce and others have been able to teach their birds to accept the meds directly from a syringe.

Last edited by BE2Cassie; 03/19/15 02:08 PM.

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#258199 - 03/20/15 04:22 AM Re: Psychoactive drugs for feather plucking [Re: Specialist Elbru]  
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Originally Posted By: Specialist Elbru
Given the consequences of FDB when left unchecked, many caretakers are left with the only other choice of putting the bird in a restrictive collar or vest. In my opinion, birds in restrictive collars are worse off than the birds who are given drugs, because collars prevent so much movement that is natural to a bird.


My personal opinion is that there is a huge difference between run of the mill FDB where it's plucking/barbing/biting off shafts, etc., and mutilation. Since 2003, I've volunteered at a parrot rescue that takes in hundreds of birds every year, so I've seen more than my share of various FDB as well as mutilation. I also have a grey that plucks, fostered a couple of former mutilator greys, and own a former mutilator caique.

So many humans are fixated on the external appearance of the bird and resort to collars, drugs, etc., for cosmetic issues. I am very against that. It's unnatural for parrots to be in our homes -- of course many are going to act out in some way, whether it's externally (attacking, screaming) or internally (FDB). Some of the sweetest birds pluck, and they are as happy as a captive bird can be, and it breaks my heart to see them drugged up.

I just can't get behind drugging for FDB that doesn't progress to mutilation (and most doesn't.) I don't know the specifics behind the program you're talking about, but is it done just with mutilators, or also with pluckers? Do they try environment changes first and add drugs only if necessary, or are drugs a first solution?

I just don't think it's an either-or collar or drugs. In many (not all) cases (especially when there is no mutilation), environment change and behavior modification by the humans is enough to make a situation more tolerable.

Just to be clear -- this is my opinion only and not necessarily that of mytoos.

#258201 - 03/20/15 06:35 PM Re: Psychoactive drugs for feather plucking [Re: Beeps]  
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Specialist Elbru Offline
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Originally Posted By: Beeps
I just can't get behind drugging for FDB that doesn't progress to mutilation (and most doesn't.) I don't know the specifics behind the program you're talking about, but is it done just with mutilators, or also with pluckers? Do they try environment changes first and add drugs only if necessary, or are drugs a first solution?


Environmental change is the first thing they do The Chloe Sanctuary. I do not have access to the extensive records they keep. My understanding comes from watching the videos. When I have some time, I will make notes from the video series on how many birds were at what stage of FDB/Mutilation and how many birds were/are on the drug. Some birds were given the drug then discontinued.

The sanctuary was originally had a re-homing program, however they are now a permanent sanctuary organization. I think they now have only cockatoos in the sanctuary. They now have M2, U2 and GSC2.

#258204 - 03/22/15 02:03 AM Re: Psychoactive drugs for feather plucking [Re: Specialist Elbru]  
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This is a matter best left to the caretakers and their vets. I really could care less what individuals and rescues think. Drugs are to save lives not stop feather destruction.


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