Common Health Problems in Birds

And How to Recognize Them

Budgies, parrots, macaws and cockatiels are just some of the most loved birds we’ve adopted into our homes. In fact, so great is our love for pet birds, that Americans own more than 20 million, making them the fourth most popular type of household pet in the country.

However, as with any pet, birds are not without medical issues. Keep in mind that some birds are more prone to ailments than others. Therefore, it’s best to research your preferred breed of bird to understand their personal needs before committing to owning one. And if you’re concerned about your pet, call 844-711-0204 to make an appointment with a vet near you.

But first, we look at some of the common health problems that our feathered friends face.

Common Health Problems in Birds

Parrot wasting syndrome

Also going by the name of proventricular dilatation disease or macaw wasting syndrome, this is a viral disorder with serious implications. It manifests through vomiting, weight loss and a swollen crop. In some cases, seizures and depression may even be noticed.

It is often contracted through a contaminated environment, so it’s of upmost importance to ensure your pets cage is kept clean. If left untreated it can develop into paralysis or potential blockage of part of the digestive tract.

It is often characterized by an increase in appetite paired with continual weight loss, or regurgitation of food. Sometimes, undigested food is apparent in droppings.

A special diet and medical treatment may be recommended in less severe cases.

Parrot fever

Parrot fever is the result of a bacterial infection and is highly contagious among birds. Symptoms include labored breathing, fatigue and eye infections, diarrhea and weight loss. If you suspect your parrot is suffering from this, separating them from other birds is a good idea.

It’s thought to be rare due to low reports of the disease, however this might also be because it shares similar symptoms to other illness. In any case, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed to remedy the infection.

Candidiasis (or thrush)

Similar to the human variant, the yeast infection known as thrush can show up as white spots on the digestive tract of the bird, notably the mouth and throat. It can also lead to lethargy, possibly due to a low intake of food. And, in some instances, it can result in vomiting too. Your bird will have problems swallowing resulting in a loss of appetite. Your veterinarian will prescribe a course of antifungal medicine to help return them to previous health.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease

Parrots of all breeds are susceptible to this disease, which includes feather loss, lesions and abnormal beak growth. It tends to be more common in younger birds (under two years old).
Diagnosis is made from a skin biopsy; however popular science is yet to find a cure for the problem, so pain relief may be prescribed.

Polyomavirus

Affecting caged birds, especially parrots, polyomavirus is similar to the above. This virus can affect a bird’s plumage; however, it can cause overgrowth or lack of feathers as a result. Lack of appetite, diarrhoea and paralysis are all common symptoms.

Sadly no treatment is yet available, and it can progress quickly with a high mortality rate.

Cysts

Canaries are especially prone to feather cysts which is a genetic based condition. It requires surgical removal to rid of it and is a common problem in this breed.

Egg binding

Small birds, including lovebirds and canaries are known to suffer with egg binding. This is a common reproductive disorder where the bird retains the egg in the reproductive tract, unable to move it naturally. It is mostly seen in obese birds.

This is often characterized with a swollen abdomen and requires an x-ray for diagnosis. Do not be tempted to remove the egg, as it could lead to a number of complications – it requires professional medical intervention.

Goiter

If you notice a swollen thyroid on your pet bird, they may have an goiter. This ‘lump’ is the result of iodine deficiency and can be noticeable in problems with swallowing or their voice changing. Luckily, iodine supplements are readily available and may remedy the issue. 

Feather plucking

All birds are prone to plucking their plumage as part of their grooming technique. However, some birds have a tendency to over pluck, also known as self-mutilation. This is thought to be a result of being bored or a symptom of anxiety. This may be due to lack of fresh air, light or general environment. Keeping a close eye on your bird and reviewing any changes to its lifestyle might help provide clues as to why they are indulging in this stress-related activity. It has even been reported that macaws can be so infatuated with their owner, that their feather plucking is borne out of their frustration for not mating with them!

Birds are prone to a number of conditions that often affect their beaks and feathers. This is often seen in their lack of diet and diminishing plumage. If you suspect that your pet bird is unwell, call 844-711-0204 to make an appointment with a vet near you.

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