Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Parrot Health

All about your parrot's health and wellbeing

Cockatiel

A PARROT WALKING IN CIRCLES IS AN EMERGENCY

If your bird starts walking around and around in circles OR starts star gazing (which if where they tilt head backwards and stare upwards) these are medical emergencies. Walking in circles can be caused by a number of nasty illnesses, neurological issues but one common reason is toxicity or severe reaction to a toxin!

Please if you notice your birds doing this get to your vet IMMEDIATELY!

A PARROTS ABNORMAL DROPPINGS

It is extremely important to check your parrot’s droppings daily for first signs of illness! Parrots droppings can tell a lot about your bird’s health, any change in colour or consistency should be brought to your vet’s attention immediately.

DROPPINGS COLOUR INDICATOR

Urates should always be white –

  • yellow or green urates may indicate liver disease.
  • Bright lime green or yellow urates may indicate Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis)
  • Brown urates may indicate lead poisoning.
  • Red urates may indicate Internal bleeding (low in the digestive track) or Kidney Disease.

Urine should always be clear

  • Yellow urine may indicate a bacterial infection or yeast infection, kidney disease or liver disease.
  • Red urine may indicate Internal bleeding (low in the digestive track) or Lead Poisoning.

Faecal matter can be green for seed eating birds or brown for birds eating pellets -

  • Black or fresh red blood may indicate bleeding from the digestive tract, intestinal infections, tumours, swallowing of a foreign object, egg binding or parasites.
  • Black or Tar-like droppings may indicate internal bleeding (high in the digestive track)
  • Dark droppings can be mossy green (spread on paper and if dark mossy green may indicate excessive amounts of bile produced by the liver).
  • Pea Green droppings may indicate liver Damage.
  • Reddish brown droppings may indicate heavy metal poisoning.
  • White or Clay colour dropping may indicate pancreas or digestive problems.

Bubbles in parrot droppings may indicate gas or an infection.

Undigested seeds in droppings may indicate symptoms of PDD (Proventricular Dilatation Disease) parasites, poor digestion, intestinal infection or pancreatic disease.

A decrease in droppings may indicate that the bird is not eating or they may have swallowed a foreign object.

An increase in droppings or bulkiness of droppings may indicate poor digestion or egg laying.

Decreased urine may indicate that the bird is dehydrated.

 

A PARROTS WATER INTAKE

Always keep an eye on how much your parrots are drinking signs of dehydration are weak appearance and wrinkling around the eyes. To test if your parrot is dehydrated you can gently pinch the skin at the back of the neck and if the parrot is dehydrated it will take a long time for the skin to snap back to normality.

Below are GUIDELINES of how much on average a parrot species may drink. Please remember that exercise, diet and environmental factors play a part on how much a bird may drink.

Finch or Canary – ½ teaspoon

Budgie -1 teaspoon

Cockatiel – 2-3 teaspoons

Amazon parrot – 5-8 teaspoons

Macaw or Cockatoo -10-15 teaspoons

A PARROTS WEIGHT

WHY WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT GAIN IN A BIRD SHOULD NOT BE OVER LOOKED!
Weight loss in a bird is one of the very first signs of illness. Unless under vet (instructions) that your bird should be on a diet, any weight loss of any significance should be checked by a vet ASAP!

Sudden weight gain should never be taken lightly either, especially if you are feeding the same food quantity, often birds will over eat when sick to try gain the energy their bodies desperately need at that time.

Vets recommend that you weigh your bird’s daily or at least weekly for first signs of illness!

A SICK BIRD'S TEMPERATURE

A sick bird should be kept in a room temperature that's 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C) the room should be kept quiet and low lighted until it is taken to your avian veterinarian.

 

AEROSOLISED BIRD POOP

As we all know that unless we keep cages clean our birds will pick up bacterial and fungal infections... so what happens when poop isn’t cleaned regularly?

Poop that isn’t cleaned away daily from cages will grow bacteria and fungi, which when dried become aerosolised. Then when birds flap their wings or when you eventually clean the cage, this then is breathed in by the parrots and (yes by you too) causing respiratory infections.

If large amounts of poop is left and not cleaned it can also release ammonia which can lead to respiratory infections and sinus infections.

It doesn’t take two minutes to disinfect the cage with a good disinfect like F10 and change paper at least once daily. Save yourself thousands on vet bills and prevent your birds getting sick unnecessarily and clean cages daily!

AVIAN DISEASES AND SYMPTOMS

  • Aspergillosis (Respiratory tract disease) – Lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, weakness, depression and lack of coordination.
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD)- Feather loss, beak abnormalities, growths and unusual feather growth and development.
  • Proventricular Dilatation disease (PDD) – Weight loss, vomiting, swollen crop, changes in poop.
  • Candida (Overgrowths of yeasts in birds digestive system) – White lesions around and in mouth and throat, loss of appetite and vomiting.
  • Psittacosis – Lethargic, eye infections, difficulty breathing, diarrhoea.
  • Polyomavirus (unusual development or lack of feathers) – Loss of appetite, enlarged abdomen and diarrhoea.

AVIAN RESPIRATORY DISEASE SYMPTOMS

CLINICAL SIGNS OF UPPER AND LOWER RESPIRATORY DISEASE

UPPER RESPIRATORY DISEASE

  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Change in voice
  • Sneezing
  • Sinus swelling –Rhinorrhea ( Rhinorrhea means runny nose)
  • Nasal granulomas
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Shortness of breath
  • Head-shaking
  • Nasal discharge
  • Inflamed or swollen Cere
  • Stretching the neck
  • Excess yawning
  • Epiphora ( eyes watery )
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Plugged nares

LOWER RESPIRATORY DISEASE

  • Tail-bobbing
  • Loss of voice
  • Change in vocalization
  • Laboured breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing Sounds

BACTERIAL INFECTIONS IN PARROTS

There are many types of bacterial infections, and the ways in which our birds contract these infections is orally. Bacterial infections always come from living in an unclean environment, dirty cages, dirty toys, cage liners only changed weekly, rotting seeds, fruit and vegetables becoming mouldy at the bottom of cages. Unclean food and water bowls, water not being changed daily, the list unfortunately is endless. It’s so sad because it can be avoided so very easily with correct sanitation.

So let’s see what infections our birds can pick up from these filthy situations, I’ll give a few examples of where they can pick up these bacterial infections on each one.

Firstly E.coli comes from contaminated food, old veggies and fruit, wet cages and paper, dirty cages.

Strep infection comes from dusty environment, poor seed quality and stress.

Staph infection comes from dust, mites and contaminated air conditioning.

Diplococcus comes from mice and stress.

Lastly Citrobacter comes from dirty water. These are only a few examples of bacterial infections and how living in a dirty environment affects our bird’s health.

BATHING A SICK BIRD

NEVER bath a bird when it’s sick! When birds are sick they are unable to regulate their body temperature so warmth is crucial! A health bird’s body has to work hard when wet to bring it's temperature back to normal. A bird that is already weak will not be able to bring its body temperature up quickly enough and that puts the bird at great risk of hypothermia.

Only bathe the parrot if instructed to by your vet!

BIRDS AND HUMAN SALIVA

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

All mammalian saliva - cats, dogs, mice, humans - carries vast amounts of bacteria, many of which mammals are immune to. However, birds are not.

Cats carry Pasteurella for example, which can be passed to the bird by being dabbed with a paw, contact with their fur, or saliva landing on feathers. Each of these contacts could lead to a fatality for the bird as the bacteria will be ingested through preening.

One of the many bacteria humans carry is streptococcus. This, along with many other types, can give birds infections throughout their body - internal organs, intestinal tract, air sacs, lungs, sinuses and throat. Many fatalities have resulted.

To avoid passing on these bacteria which your pet bird’s immune system cannot cope with, do not allow your parrot to 'preen' your tongue, teeth or open mouth. If you feel this is a little extreme and really can't be that harmful, here is a fact to ponder: a person with good oral hygiene has 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria on each tooth. A person with average oral hygiene has 100,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 per tooth!

BIRDS SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN HUMAN MEDICINE

Human medication should Never ever be given to animals unless a vet has given approval. It can kill your bird by over dose and some medication can actually cause internal bleeding.

BUMBLEFOOT IN PARROTS

Bumblefoot is a very cute name given to very serious condition if left untreated. Bumblefoot can be cause by various reasons such as unsuitable perches (perches that are cylinder and do not vary in diameters, sandpaper perches) filthy perches, poor diet, poor sanitation, sandpaper cage liners, lack of exercise, obesity and various underling conditions.

Placing unsuitable perches in a parrot’s cage is going to cause pressure point sores to develop on the bird’s feet, which can lead to infection. It is extremely important that natural wooden perches that are of different diameters are used in cages. Cages should be kept spotless, not only for good foot health, but to prevent bacterial and fungal infections.

The bottom of the bird’s feet should be checked regularly as part of your daily health examination of your bird. If you notice that the bottom of the bird’s feet is becoming red and swollen or if you notice calluses appearing, a vet check will be needed ASAP.  

This type of infection can be avoided by giving a balanced diet and sufficient exercise, keeping cages clean and by providing correct perches. (Regular wellness checks with an avian vet are always recommended for the health of a bird)

DEHYDRATION SYMPTOMS AND RECIPE FOR PARROTS

Dehydration is the number one killer of birds often sick birds die first from dehydration not the illness itself!

IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR BIRD IS DEHYDRATED YOU CAN OFFER A BIRD ELECTROLYTE, AND THEN SEEK AN AVIAN VET ASAP!

(Electrolyte for birds)

1 Cup water

2 Teaspoons Sugar

1/8 Teaspoon salt

1/8 Teaspoon Baking Soda

VISIBLE SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION.

  • Sunken and dull eyes
  • Wrinkles around eyes
  • Mucous membranes in mouth dry or sticky
  • Rescued skin elasticity
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Not well formed droppings / dry droppings
  • No droppings

DIARRHOEA IN PARROTS

There is a misconception that fruit and vegetables can give birds diarrhoea, this is not true, fruit and veg can sometimes cause “excess urine” in your parrots poop because of the increased water content. This is different from diarrhoea.

Poop is made up of three components:

· Faecal matter (the green to brown solid spiral)

· Urine (the clear liquid)

· Urates ( the white to cream colour portion)

If your parrot’s faecal matter looks like splattered pea soup with no form your bird has diarrhoea and needs to be seen ASAP by an avian vet!

DO PARROTS GET COLDS

People unfortunately have the misconception that birds get colds like humans do, often dismissing the seriousness of their bird’s illness. Birds do not get colds they get respiratory infections that get worse if not treated ASAP.

Here are some symptoms of respiratory infections:

  • Noises whilst breathing.
  • Cough like sounds.
  • Wheezing.
  • Open beak breathing.
  • Repetitive sneezing.
  • Choking fits and even holding onto bars in stationary position to try to open up airway.

Visible symptoms can include:

  • Changes to the Cere.
  • Raised rings around the nostrils, or nares.
  • Colour changes, texture changes, swelling could be signs of an infection starting. Nares should have a similar coloured flap inside, but not be plugged, running, full of puss, or yellowy gunk.

Ignoring these symptoms could see the infection spread down into the air sacs, the nares become permanently enlarged. The Cere can be completely destroyed and leave bird with permanent breathing problems and pain.

EARLY SIGNS OF ILLNESS IN PARROTS

If your bird exhibits these clinical signs, please be sure to make an appointment with your avian veterinarian as soon as possible!

EARLY SIGNS OF ILLNESS IN PARROTS:

  • Prolonged moult or continual presence of pinfeathers
  • Broken, bent and chewed feathers
  • Abnormality of feathers
  • Stained feathers around the nares, face or vent
  • Redness, swelling, or a loss of feathers around the eyes
  • Flaking skin or beak
  • Baldness
  • Sores on bottom of feet
  • Lameness
  • Shifting of body weight from one leg to the other
  • Overgrown beak or nails
  • Minor changes in vocalisation
  • On set of Biting, which is not caused by a behavioural issue
  • Change in eating and drinking habits
  • Low reproduction in breeding birds
  • Excess regurgitating
  • Passing whole seeds or food in the droppings
  • Lack of powder or dust on the feathers (Cockatoos and African Greys)
  • Foot mutilation
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased water consumption
  • Bare patches
  • Lesions on the skin
  • Yellow urates in the droppings
  • Bulky droppings
  • Blood in the droppings/ EMERGENCY VISIT TO VET!

EXCESS SNEEZING IN BIRDS

It is normal for parrots to sneeze occasionally just like us humans. If you notice that the bird however is sneezing excessively, this is a cause for concern and needs to be addressed.

Below I’ve listed a few reasons why a parrot may sneeze more frequently. If at any time your bird produces mucus from its nostrils, please see your vet immediately, as your bird is most likely very sick. Often the first symptom of a serious systemic disorder is sneezing.

  • Feather dust
  • Smoking around the bird
  • Allergies triggered by use of chemicals in the home
  • Dusty environment
  • Poor ventilation
  • Sinus blockage
  • Rhinoliths
  • Malnutrition (usually caused by vitamin A deficiency)
  • Intranasal tumours
  • Fungal, bacterial and viral infections
  • Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis)  

FEATHER CYSTS IN PARROTS

WHAT ARE FEATHER CYSTS?

A feather cyst is very similar to an in-grown hair in humans. It is simply a feather that is malformed within the follicle under the skin, and it is unable to break through the skin from its natural opening. So, what happens is, the feather continues to grow inside the follicle causing a cheesy material composed of keratin to build up, resulting in an oval or long swelling to appear on the body. One or more feather follicles can be involved.
If you have ever had an in-grown hair you’ll known that they are extremely painful, so the bird will be in pain and discomfort when they have one. They can appear anywhere on the bird’s body, but usually appear on the wings.

WHAT CAN CAUSE FEATHER CYSTS?

·      Viral infections
·      Bacterial infections
·      Trauma (Injury)
·      Malnutrition
·      Feather plucking
·      Self-mutilation
·      Genetic disposition
·      Other illnesses/factors that may affect the growth of a feather.  

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY BIRD?
The most important thing you can do for your bird is to get your bird to the vet as soon as possible. As you can imagine the bird will be in pain, so it will need pain medication. It may also need antibiotics as a feather cyst can become very infected. The cause of why the feather cyst occurred in the first place will also need to be addressed by the avian vet.

CAN I TREAT A FEATHER CYST AT HOME WITHOUT A VETS HELP?
NO, please never try and cut or squeeze a feather cyst. They can bleed profusely. You may not be able to control the bleeding resulting in a fatality. Infection can also set in if you try and remove it yourself. The bird will be in a great deal of pain and can go into shock. ONLY a vet should deal with a feather cyst.  

FEATHER MITE DAMAGE AND SYMPTOMS

When a bird is infested with feather mites there are symptoms you can look out for such as:  

  • Eye inflammation
  • Missing feathers around the eyes
  • Red nostrils
  • Enlarged damaged nostrils
  • Parrot itching
  • Missing feathers or very thin feathering on the face.

Eye inflammation and red nostrils are also signs of infection, if you notice these symptoms or suspect your bird does have feather mites please consult your avian veterinarian ASAP.

Please never buy over the counter mite sprays, these should only be on prescription from a vet, many birds have had bad reactions to over the counter mite sprays.

Additionally over the counter sprays and medicine don’t work well or quickly and can mask other underlying symptoms your vet may miss which can lead to misdiagnosis.

GIVING A PARROT A PHYSICAL EXAM AT HOME

So when we talk about physical examination of a parrot we automatically think of a vet, which is true only a vet can give a complete examination, but what can we do at home? As you all know birds hide their illness very well so by the time they look sick or we notice a change in their behaviour, they are actually extremely unwell and most will need emergency medical attention.

So by noticing any changes early means getting treatment early which in turn can get them back to health sooner.

Check their poop daily, as any change in a parrots poop is one early symptom of declining health!

Here are some additional checks that should be done daily and some can be done weekly.

DAILY CHECKS:

  • Check poop Check nares, eyes, ear, oral cavity are clear, appear clean, with no exudate, masses, or swellings?
  • Check weight - daily before breakfast?
  • Check they are not tail bopping?
  • Check their stance and breathing patterns, are they standing on one leg when relaxed or two, are the siting normally and not crouching?
  • Is their respiratory rate normal? resting respiratory rate for birds varies with size and species, with the rate ranging in smaller birds from 30−60 beats/min and in larger birds from 15–30 beats/min, (check with your vet what's the correct respiratory rate for your bird species)
  • Is the bird alert?
  • Are wings dropping?
  • Are feathers fluffed up or sleek?
  • Are your parrots eating / drinking normally?
  • Has your parrot got polyuria ( excess water in poop )
  • Is your parrot coughing or sneezing?
  • Is your parrot playing, exercising wing?
  • Any change in your parrot’s voice?
  • Conditions of feathers are they looking sleek and healthy?
  • Is beak and nails in good condition?
  • Choana on the roof of the oral cavity should have intact sharp papilla, without any discharge?
  • Is your parrot free from lumps, bumps or swellings on feet, legs, wings and tummy etc.?
  • Is the vent clean?
  • Is there any sign or vomiting or excess regurgitation?

WEEKLY CHECKS:

  • Check the bottom of your parrot’s feet for wearing down of the skin, sores or calluses.
  • Is your parrot’s leg bands on comfortably?

GIVING PARROTS HOME REMEDIES

CAN I TREAT MY BIRD WITH HOME REMEDIES?

While home remedies may help in certain non-emergency situations and add value to your bird’s health, unless you know exactly what illnesses your bird has, you could be making the situation much worse. Some herbal remedies interfere with blood tests and other tests and can actually worsen your parrot’s condition. Grapefruit for example can interfere with the absorption of antibiotics. So again please don’t waste time and get your bird the correct medical help it needs.

 

 

GIVING YOUR BIRD MEDICATION IN FOOD

Some people find it easier to give their birds medication in food, rather than orally (directly via beak). They may be fearful of being bitten or choking their bird.

There are a few things to take into consideration before placing a bird’s medication in food such as:

  • Firstly, ask your avian vet if the medication can be mixed in food.
    Secondly, if the medication is in fact allowed to be given in food, make sure that you place it in a favourite food, that you know your parrot will devour.
  • Thirdly, only give the medication in enough food that your bird will finish completely in one sitting.
  • Remember that the best way to give an oral medication is in fact orally, straight in the beak. That way you can be sure the bird has received the full dose of medication.
  • You can ask your vet to teach you how to administer the medication correctly, so that you don’t choke your bird. (In the first aid section of this website, I have given a detailed description on how to medicate a bird, so please read the article entitled ‘HOW TO MEDICATE A BIRD’) However, a vet will be able to accurately demonstrate how to medicate your bird, so please do not replace a vets advice with the advice given on this website.
    Medication is best given at the same times daily.
    A course of medication needs to be completed in its entirety, unless otherwise stated by your avian vet.

HOW A HEALTHY BIRD RESTS

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

A healthy parrot will rest/nap on one foot, its constitution and muscles strong enough to do so. It will be slightly fluffed and it will often choose to tuck its head under its wing. Naps would be normally several throughout the day, and of short duration. There are also species-specific activities whilst in this pose, for example a budgie will gently and quietly chatter to itself, rehearsing and embedding any new language it has learned that day.

Over fluffed, changing to stand on both legs, legs splayed and leaning forward and looking skinny. Long silent naps may be signs a vet check is needed.

EDITORS NOTE: Sick birds may still stand on one leg, and healthy birds on two while resting, so please never let this one behaviour discourage you from seeking medical advice.

HOW TO QUARANTINE NEW BIRDS

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

SHOULD I QUARANTINE MY BIRDS?

What is it, and what does it mean in practice?

·WHAT-The dictionary definition of quarantine is “a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere … are placed.” So, it is placing your new parrot in isolation, away from your other parrot/s.

·IN PRACTICE- This means your new parrot/s needs to be in a separate cage, in a separate room, in a completely different part of the house from your current flock. Before attending to the new birds, you need to wash your hands. Always attend to the current flock first, and then the new birds. Be infection/contagion aware. This is regardless of their having been given a clean bill of health by your vet in the first week you have them. The recommended quarantine period is SIX WEEKS, as this gives time for any illnesses to become apparent. Should your new birds show any signs of illness in this time, another vet visit is required, and the quarantine period will need to continue for another six weeks, once the illness has been treated.

· WHY -This protects your current flock from any illness the new birds are carriers of, but also works in reverse. Your current flock will have built resistance to certain illnesses which the new birds could become ill with, particularly if they are fighting another immune suppressing illness. Whilst it can be very inconvenient to quarantine new flock members, particularly once they hear each other in the house, it can save a great deal of stress and heartache in the longer term, as well as veterinary costs.

 

 

INFECTIONS IN BIRDS FROM DRINKING DIRTY WATER

Pseudomonas is one of the most common bacterial infection birds can get from drinking dirty water. Changing a bird’s water once or twice a day is better than nothing, but did you know unless you changing it every 3 hours bacteria is building up!! When you wash out a water bowl and feel its slimy that’s called Biofilm, it’s a bed of bacteria that doubles every three hours. So unless changed frequently your bird is drinking in bacteria!

There are many causes of respiratory infection in birds but one common one is Pseudomonas. If one cannot change water as frequently as every few hours, then do try your best to change it as often as you can throughout the day and wash the bowl well.

LACK OF APPETITE IN PARROTS

Firstly may I just point out that birds “don’t choose not to eat”, they don’t wake up in the morning and think,” I may lay off the seeds today, getting a bit of a fat tummy”. If the parrot has a lack of appetite, there is a reason!

Owners should get into the habit of weighing their birds daily or at least weekly, for first signs of illness. If your bird is lacking in appetite, a vet appointment should be made straight away.

To tempt your bird to eat something when it is recovering from an illness, or while waiting for your vet appointment, you can offer the birds all its favourite treats. Parrots are more inclined too, to eat food if it is served warm. Lovely sweet potato mashes or other safe veggie mashes will be often welcomed.

LACK OF VOCALISATION IN PARROTS

A first sign of illness is a birds change in behaviour and 9/10 you’ll notice your bird may stop being vocal! Sick birds often remain quiet if you notice the bird has been quiet in over 24 hours please see your vet ASAP. Another bad sign is change of voice this is a symptom in many illnesses so again vet ASAP!

AUTHORS NOTE: When you bring home a new bird it is normal for them not to be vocal for a few days, the stress of moving into new surroundings can cause this until they feel more secure and settled. Please remember all new birds need a vet check within the first week you bring them home.

MISSED SIGNS OF ILLNESS IN PARROTS

Parrots hide their illnesses very well, they do this naturally so they won't be picked off by predators, many owners know the usual symptoms of illness e.g. fluffed up, diarrhoea, lack of appetite etc. But there are some symptoms that can be missed by the owner or very hard to detect!

Knowing your parrot well is the key to detect early symptoms so that vets can diagnose and treat your birds effectively when symptoms first show. Some illnesses like avian heart conditions are very hard to detect but there are subtle signs that you can look out for which are , the bird being lethargic after short bursts of exercise, change of colour in the beak or skin , change in colour around the eyes (cyanosis ) , change in vocalisation, change in neurological symptoms for example your bird always eats with the left foot but then changes to the right , nervous signs such as paresis ( muscular weakness) and collapses, swollen abdomen etc.

Parrots are known for their routines and consistency in their behaviour, they are not like humans where we choose to do something completely differently in our behaviour. Any new symptoms or change in behaviour however insignificant in parrots should be checked by an avian vet!

The list below I've compiled are symptoms that are sometimes over looked:

  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Increase in urination
  • Increased drinking
  • Feather or skin changes
  • Discharge from the eyes or nostrils
  • Vomiting/regurgitating
  • Sneezing or wheezing
  • Limping
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Tail bobbing while breathing
  • Sudden behaviour changes including biting or screaming
  • Decrease in activity level
  • Voice change
  • Change in flight ability
  • Spending more time on the bottom of the cage
  • Weakness or inability to perch
  • Overgrown or discoloured beak
  • Change in droppings: colour or consistency
  • Straining to poop
  • Wing or wings drooping
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Blood on the bird or in the cage/on perches
  • Normally active with toys or other birds, then wants time alone or wants no interaction.
  • Itching or over preening
  • Sudden onset of feather plucking
  • Starts sleeping on both feet
  • Sudden aggression
  • Lame in one or both legs
  • Distended abdomen

MONITORING AVIARY BIRDS

Companion birds living indoors are often handled frequently and owners will notice behaviour changes quicker than they would do in aviary birds. Aviary birds are never or hardly ever handled, so signs of illness often go unnoticed for a lot longer than in companion birds. It is extremely important for owners to pay close attention to their aviary birds daily. Many good breeders have a check list handy in their aviary that they tick off each day. They tick off that their birds have had a visual check and their poop has been checked, food and water changed and no sign of rodents etc.

 

PARROTS AND ANTIBIOTICS

CAN I GIVE MY BIRD AN ANITIBIOTIC PRESCRIBED FOR MY OTHER BIRD?

Here’s why giving your bird another bird’s medication is so bad ... take antibiotics for example , there are hundreds of types of antibiotics that are used for DIFFERENT infections in the body , for example, some kill what are called gram-positive bacteria, some kill what are called gram-negative bacteria. If you give the wrong antibiotic for the wrong specific bacteria, either nothing will happen and your bird will remain sick or you can create a WORSE INFECTION!

A vet will find exactly what bacteria your bird is fighting and give you the appropriate antibiotic. He will tell you too exactly how long your bird should remain on this course of medication, not because he’s just guessing , but because he knows how long that particular antibiotic takes to kill that particular infection. If you do not Finnish the course you’ll risk leaving resistant bacteria behind, and in turn this can create a more virulent infection soon after. So always complete the course, even if your bird looks like it’s better.

PARROTS AND SMOKE INHALATION

Smoking I’m sure is a no brainer of how extremely bad it is to smoke around birds , it can cause pneumonia , conjunctivitis , secondary infections, not to mention all the other toxic chemicals being ingested by your bird and can cause death.

Vaping on the other hand people may ASSUME its ok because its vapour not smoke ... thinks again! Vaping actually has a far more concentrated mixture of nicotine than cigarettes! Vaping is just as dangerous as smoking is around birds and can actually cause death in birds.

AUTHORS NOTE: One would not smoke around a toddler for known reasons a birds respiratory system is extremely more sensitive than a child’s so one can do the math as to why it’s so extremely dangerous for these creatures!

PARROTS LEFT IN DRAFTS GET SICK

Why are drafts so bad for our parrot's health?

A draft is moving air that can cause parts of the room or cage to be much cooler than other parts , as parrots can’t withstand sudden drops of temperature it can cause them to become very sick!

The best way to check if your parrots cage is in a draft is by holding a lit match in the area, if the flame flickers then you know that there is a draft. It’s then advisable to relocate the cage to a draft free area.

Please NEVER put your parrot near an open door or open window or anywhere there can be a draft!

 

PET SHOP MEDICATION GIVEN TO PARROTS

CAN I GIVE MY BIRD MEDICATION BOUGHT FROM A PET SHOP?

Over the counter medications ... a lot of vets refer to these as witch’s brews. Numerous shop bought medications are NOT FDA APPROVED and come from countries around the world that have NO animal safety regulations. With over the counter antibiotics these are more often than not very broad spectrum and water based, often not effective in treating the infection!

Unfortunately what they can do is mask the infection so when you eventually do take your bird to the vet as he’s not getting any better, your vet may give a false diagnosis because he’s unable to see exactly what symptoms are occurring. These types of medications can affect blood tests and other diagnostic testing too. You would have wasted not only your money but valuable time getting the correct help your bird needs.

POLYURIA SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES IN PARROTS

Excess amount of urine in a birds dropping is called polyuria. Polyuria can be caused by stress, the bird that has taken a bath and drunk too much water while bathing or it can be caused by a bird eating an excess of fruit and veggies. Chronic polyuria on the other hand can be a symptom of diabetes, kidney disease or an infection, (bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic)

If your bird has had polyuria for more than 24-48 hours this is considered chronic and you should make an appointment with your vet straight away. It is very important to monitor your bird’s droppings daily for first signs of illness.

 

 

REASONS WHY YOUR PARROT IS FLUFFED UP

It is common for a bird to fluff up its body when it is feeling cold, so always check the room temperature is not too chilly for your bird. If you notice that your bird is constantly fluffed up, this means that your bird is not well and you need to see your vet ASAP.

 

REASONS WHY YOUR PARROT MAY DIE SUDDENLY

It is a very traumatic experience to have a bird pass away unexpectedly especially if you have no idea why it has happened. I have compiled a list of possibilities, but please remember it is extremely important for parrot owners to learn the first signs of illness as birds do hide their illness very well.

Firstly check your home for any signs of poisoning such as gas leaks, has Teflon cookware been used in the home? Has the bird been left unattended to eat anything toxic?

Here is a list of possibilities that can cause death:

  • Teflon cookware
  • Self-cleaning ovens
  • Food cooked in plastic bags (the fumes from cook in the bag foods are toxic)
  • Plug-in air fresheners
  • Scented candles
  • Oil-based paints
  • Chewing on lead paint
  • Chewing on solder used in stained glass and mirrors
  • Swallowed mercury from back of mirrors
  • Chewing on electric cables
  • Eaten toxic foods such as avocados
  • Has any kind of household chemicals been used in the home
  • Has any kind of bug sprays been used in the home

If the death is still unexplained then you can take the bird to the vet and have a Necropsy as soon as possible. If you can’t take the bird to the vet the same day then you can wrap the bird in a towel and put the bird in the fridge (NOT THE FREEZER) if taken in longer than 48 hours or frozen the tissue will become degraded and not able to be used for testing.

Vets do recommend that if the owner does not know the cause of death even if they opt not to have the Necropsy for the sake of the rest of the flock they will all need to be examined by the vet for signs of illness and tested for any infectious diseases.

If the cause of death is unknown or indeed infectious all cages, toys and all accessories need to be thoroughly disinfected. If possible all toys and cage furnishings need to be shown to the veterinary staff so they can advise what can be completely disinfected and what should be discarded and replaced.

If you are considering getting a new bird, vets recommend that you wait at least three months before adding another member to your flock this is extremely important because some infectious diseases only show symptoms much later on so quarantine is needed.

REGURGITATION AND ILLNESS

Parrots when hormonal will often regurgitate for a mate, an object they regard as a mate or the owner themselves this is very normal behaviour. When a parrot regurgitates and it is non-behavioural regurgitation this is a sign of illness and the bird needs to see a vet as soon as possible. Please don’t mistake regurgitation with vomiting. For information on the difference between them, read my article entitled ‘Vomiting or regurgitation

 

 

SIGNS OF ILLNESS IN PARROTS

Birds hide their illness incredibly well, this is because they are prey animals and they do not want to bring attention to themselves to be picked off by predators. Often by the time the owner has noticed that their bird is sick, their bird has an already been poorly for a considerable amount of time and now it is an emergency situation. Below is a list of clinical signs birds show when sick.

Please become familiar with your birds behaviours whilst they are healthy so you can then notice signs quickly when they are sick.

  • Huddled
  • Red nares
  • Sitting low on the perch
  • Sitting on the bottom of the cage
  • Holding onto cage bars with beak to assist breathing instead of sitting on a perch.
  • Head tucked under wing
  • Standing on two feet
  • Ruffled feathers (consistently)
  • Weakness
  • Losing balance, teetering, or falling off of perch
  • Lumps or swelling of any portion of the body
  • Picking at his feathers or body
  • Trembling
  • Not preening
  • Harassed by other birds
  • Eyes dull, sunken
  • Abnormal colour
  • Walking in circles
  • Odour to the bird
  • Odour to droppings
  • Drooped or elevated wing(s)

BEHAVOUAL CHANGES CAN BE A SIGN OF ILLNESS:

  • Inactivity
  • Decreased or changes in vocalization
  • Stopped singing
  • Drooping wings
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Increased sleeping or eyes closed
  • Poor response to stimuli
  • Changes in personality, e.g.( more submissive, more aggressive)
  • Displaying juvenile behaviour, e.g.( begging for food)
  • Crying noises
  • Changes in colour, volume, consistency, and number of droppings indicating illness in birds:
  • Change in colour of the urates (the normally white portion of the droppings), urine (the    normally clear portion), or poop(normal varies with species)
  • Change in consistency: watery (increased urine), loose droppings (diarrhoea), hard droppings(constipation)
  • Blood in droppings
  • Undigested food in droppings

SIGNS OF ILLNESS BY THE CHANGES IN A BIRDS HEAD APPEARANCE

  • Discharge around the eyes and/or nares
  • Squinting or half-closed eyes
  • Overgrown or flaky beak
  • Shiny black beak in a cockatoo (symptom of PBFD)
  • Loss of symmetry (one area seems swollen or smaller compared to the other side)
  • Redness or loss of feathers around the eye
  • Discoloration of the beak
  • Flicking or twitching of the head

SIGNS OF ILLNESS IN FEATHER APPEARANCE

  • Ruffled or fluffed feathers
  • Lost, misshaped, or broken feathers
  • Decreased preening
  • Wet, stained, or matted feathers on the head, vent, or other area
  • Dull feathers
  • Long or excessive moult
  • Bald spots
  • Pulling or picking at feathers
  • Abnormal colour or barring
  • Changes in legs or feet associated with disease:
  • Lameness or favouring a leg
  • Flakiness, crusting, or discoloration of feet
  • Abnormal nail growth
  • Shifting feet
  • Swollen feet or joints

SIGNS OF ILLNESS BY CHANGES OF BREATHING

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Breathing with an open beak
  • Tail bobbing when taking a breath
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge or crusts around the nares
  • Wheezing or clicking sound
  • Exercise intolerance (heavy breathing after exercise, or inability to exercise)
  • Change in sound of voice

CHANGES OFAPPETITE CAN INDICATE ILLNESS

  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Increased or decreased drinking
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Straining to defecate or pass an egg
  • Diarrhoea
  • Swelling in the crop area
  • Weight loss (use a scale) and/or prominent keel (breast bone)
  • Discharge from mouth
  • Inability to pick up food or manipulate it
  • Protrusion from the vent

INJURIES

  • Burns
  • Bite wounds
  • Injury from flying into a window or other object
  • Bleeding

SIGNS OF INFECTION IN PARROTS

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Discharge  
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

Please seek vet attention ASAP is you think your parrot is showing any signs of infection, if left too long your parrot can develop systematic infection meaning (an infection that affects the whole body ) if it goes into the bloodstream.

 

SYMPTOMS OF EGG BINDING

  • Bird sitting on the bottom of the cage floor
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Sitting on her tail feathers with her legs spread apart
  • Tail wagging or bobbing
  • Abdominal distention
  • Straining as if trying to lay an egg
  • Laboured breathing
  • Lack of droppings
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Bluish white limbs
  • The hen may make crying sounds

An X-ray or ultrasound may be needed for a diagnosis of egg binding because the egg is not externally visible.

THE OPERCULUM INSIDE A PARROT'S NARES

Inside the nares of most parrots is the operculum, this is small and brownish in colour. Many inexperienced owners mistake this as an obstruction, dirt or foreign body such as a seed and try to get it out. Doing so can cause serious injury and can cause heavy bleeding. If you see any obstruction in there or notice nasal discharge see your vet ASAP. Please don’t attempt to remove anything yourself or you could end up seriously hurting your bird!

THE REASON WHY PARROTS PREEN THEIR FEATHERS

A healthy bird will preen itself daily to keep all its feathers in good condition, clean and in the correct aliment, this is important for flight. If you notice that your bird is not showing any interest in grooming itself or stops all together, this is a sign of illness and the bird needs to be examined by a vet as soon as possible.

THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM OF A PARROT EXPLAINED

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

The breathing process of birds is very different to that of mammals. Their lungs are relatively half the size of mammals and, whilst their respiratory systems are slower than mammals, their breathing is much more efficient. We will try to explain as clearly as possible.

Birds’ lungs do not expand and contract during breathing and they do not have a diaphragm. Instead, the chest muscles force the sternum out and a vacuum effect occurs in the air sacs, pulling air into the lungs. More muscles are then used to put greater pressure on the air sacs to force the air out of the lungs. However, this happens in 2 stages or 2 breaths in and out.

 With only two lungs this would be impossible – to be breathing air out whilst breathing in – but the exhaled breath is pulled into a set of air sacs, so the new breath can be pulled in via different air sacs.

It means the bird can manage altitudes, with higher oxygen levels and constantly inflated lungs. By doing this, the lungs are never deflated, and each breath remains longer in the body.

Depending on the species, the bird can have 7 or 9 air sacs. When fully inflated, these air sacs expand into cavities in the bones. If a bird is flighted, this happens to a much greater degree. The air sacs extend into the humorous, the skull, the femur and the vertebrae. When the bird takes flight, more of the air sacs are inflated into the bone cavities, helped by the wing muscles being engaged. The greater the inflation of the air sacs, the lighter the bird becomes to remain airborne. As the air passes over the blood capillaries on the walls of the lungs, carbon dioxide is removed, and oxygen replaces it. The area of blood capillaries doing this job in avian lungs is much greater than in mammals, making avian breathing much more efficient with higher concentrations of oxygen absorbed with each breath.

Singing is accomplished by forcing air through the vocal organs or Syrinx. The bird can do this whilst breathing in and breathing out and therefore, whilst in flight

JUST AN INTERESTING READ: In the home environment, anything toxic remains in the bird’s respiratory system much longer and in much higher concentrations than it would for mammals. Therefore, toxins that do not affect cats, dogs and humans can be fatal to birds.

The sternum MUST be able to move when a bird is held or restrained and its body not be constricted (pressurising air sacs), or it will be oxygen deprived and could suffocate.

Because the air sacs are within the bones, respiratory infections must be quickly acted upon as they can enter the bones.

 

 

VOMITING OR REGURGITATION

Many people confuse vomiting and regurgitation, so here is the difference between the two:

VOMITING:

When a bird vomits it will shake and flick its head quiet violently. DIGESTED food from its stomach will be flicked everywhere, often including on your birds own head and the contents will be mattered around its mouth.

REGURGITATION:

When a bird regurgitates it will use a pumping movement in its neck and bring up UN-DIGESTED food from its crop. The food will then be brought up in one neat pile on either a favourite toy, person or fed to chicks.

 

WHAT THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR BIRD'S FEET MEAN

A bird having warm feet is a sign that your bird is healthy, but if your bird's feet become very hot this is a cause for concern and you need to have your bird examined by your vet. Cold feet may mean that your bird is becoming poorly and you need to have your bird vet checked. Cold feet can also mean that your bird is very fightened or upset.

Get used to the temperature of your birds feet by paying close attention to the temperature while they are sitting on your hand. Once you familiarise yourself with the temperature of your bird's feet, you will then be able to tell when something is not quite right very quickly.

 

WHY COCKATIELS EAT THEIR OWN POOP

Cockatiels are one of the few species of parrots that will eat their own poop, and one of the main reasons is because they are lacking in B vitamins, choline, and vitamin C. Other causes of eating their own poop maybe stress, stress of being weaned, change of diet, and environmental changes.

If you find that your bird is eating its own droppings it is recommended to have your bird examined by an avian vet and they will be able to do an examination of your bird and prescribe a good vitamin supplement, if vitamin depletion is the cause.

 

WHY NOT TO ADD VITAMINS IN A BIRD'S WATER

SHOULD I ADD VITAMINS TO MY BIRDS WATER?
Please don’t add vitamins to your parrot’s water unless instructed to by your avian vet. The over the counter vitamins you can buy to add to water, lose their potency fast and increase the growth of bacteria in the water. This can make your bird sick. Parrots will often not drink their water if they can taste anything foreign in it, often leaving the parrot very dehydrated.

 WHY PARROTS SHOULD NOT USE OINTMENTS

Don't ever use ointments, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), salves or any oily creams etc on your bird without the recommendation of your vet. Using these products will cause the birds feathers to become matted and prevent the parrot from insulating itself.

 

A cockatiel

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