Renal Tumor in a Budgie
Among the hundreds of parrot species kept as pets, budgies (also known as budgerigars or parakeets) have a reputation for being extremely prone to cancer. It’s a very sad and unfortunate fact, and due to the perception that they’re not as valuable as some other species, research as to why they develop tumors and what can be done for them is extremely lacking.
I recently saw a budgie who I diagnosed with a renal (kidney) tumor, which is why I wanted to take the opportunity to help inform other bird owners about this condition. The owner brought the bird in because he was not using one of his legs. Naturally, he thought maybe the bird broke his leg or injured it somehow. But there was no fracture palpable–it was just paralyzed.
I took a radiograph (xray) to confirm my suspicion–a renal tumor was pressing on the sciatic nerve, causing paralysis of the one leg. Sadly, there is no suggested treatment. Their small size precludes a surgical option, as these tumors tend to be invasive.
I know of one case report of carboplatin being used for palliative treatment in a budgie with renal adenocarcinoma. The bird was 6 years old and had been showing symptoms of leg weakness for 1 week prior to going to see a veterinarian. Xrays confirmed a tumor, and they elected to try carboplatin, a chemotherapeutic drug that has been used for the treatment of advanced ovarian carcinoma in women (as well as other cancer types). The bird in the case report showed some temporary improvement but passed away 3 months after starting treatment.
When asked how long a budgie with a renal tumor has left, my answer is always, “it depends.” In my experience, they may pass away on their own within a week or a month, sometimes longer. Despite their inability to use their leg or foot, I do not feel it is a painful condition. However, euthanasia is a very appropriate option that should be considered.