My little man, Eggtop, is a Coturnix Quail that I hatched 2 years ago on the 15th of October 2021. He’s my gentle, sweet boy and is always up for a cuddle. He’ll stand on my palm and let me snuggle my face into his soft feathers, all while doing his ‘squint of contentment’ and blessing me with the occasional soft purr. He likes to patrol his domain at night; running up and down the length of the living room to check that all is well and the members of his flock are safe and happy. He’s an excellent guard quail ❤️ He likes to spend his days staring wistfully out the window while wondering when his wife will return from the war (his wife being my other quail, Biscuit, who wants nothing to do with him. Poor guy).
A few months ago, I discovered that Eggtop had a slight limp and was favouring his right leg. He still managed to do his nightly patrols without issue, but, I decided to err on the side of caution and get it checked out, just in case.
At first, the wonderful Avian and Exotics team suspected that he had some kind of muscle injury or even arthritis, however a scan was the only way to really tell. I had the choice of putting him on anti inflammation meds and painkillers or to go ahead and give him a scan just in case. I chose to go with the scan and thank goodness I did.
The scan showed that there was a strange mass in his abdomen that was likely putting pressure on the nerves around his leg. This, and a case of early onset arthritis, was the cause for his lameness. However, after taking a biopsy to determine the exact nature of the mass, we discovered it was cancerous.
Eggtop was diagnosed with a seminoma tumour; a type of testicular cancer. Though it was determined to be benign, without treatment, the tumour would continue to grow and affect his legs; to the point where he could become completely lame. My sweet, gentle, happy boy would no longer be able to enjoy his dust baths or complete his nightly patrols and his lifespan would ultimately be cut short. The thought of such a bleak future for him was devastating. He was so young, just 2 years old.
Thankfully, Dr Melinda Cowan knew a thing or two about treating cancer in birds and was able to give me some options. We talked through hormone implants, at home medication and potential palliative care. Then, the option for chemotherapy came up.
Chemotherapy for quails sounded like the strangest, most bizarre thing I had heard of. Surely their little bodies wouldn’t be able to take the treatment? I was very hesitant to try it, but Dr Melinda reassured me that she had successfully treated her own bird with chemotherapy, and, while not very common, it had been done before in a few other patients, and, in some cases, the chemotherapy shrunk their tumour enough that it was safe to remove it entirely. The treatment wouldn’t be anywhere near as harsh as it is for humans, and no, his feathers would not fall out. We decided to throw everything we had at it, hoping for the best case scenario.
Currently, my little Eggman is on a hormone implant and a daily dose of an at-home chemotherapy drug (a drug used to treat breast cancer in humans) and is coming up to his third, and hopefully final, dose of chemotherapy. He’s a bit quieter than usual and no longer crows or paces the living room, but he also no longer limps, and there’s an outwardly noticeable difference in the size of his tumour. He’s still my sweet, kind boy and still loves cuddles and mealworms though!
After his next dose of chemotherapy, Eggtop will be scanned again and the team will assess the status of his tumour. If it has shrunk enough, we may even be able to operate to remove it and Eggtop could become officially cancer free!
The amazing team at SASH North Ryde, from the incredible Avian Vets in the Exotics department (Dr Melinda, Dr Orr, Dr Janet, Dr Olivia), the absolutely beautiful and caring Vet Nurses who shower Eggtop with love and compliments (you’re spoiling him, you guys!), the Chemo team, the incredibly kind Receptionists who are always so happy to see both Eggtop and Biscuit whenever I bring them in (you guys are owed many Eggtop snuggles and Biscuit pats!), to all the other Nurses, Vets and workers who are a part of helping Eggtop along on his chemo journey have all been such wonderful people and have treated my little potato man with the utmost respect and kindness, and I couldn’t thank you all enough.
Eggtop would give you first pick of his mealworms and Biscuit may or may not allow you a cuddle (can’t guarantee it though, she’s a bossy one!). I thank each and every one of you for looking after my beautiful family members.
You’ve given my little boy a chance at a longer life and that means more than I’ll ever be able to properly express.
Long Live Eggtop!