Getting a bird for your house can be a great beginning to an amazing relationship. However, you must be well informed about the various parrot diseases and health conditions that might occur to your pet. This way, you will be able to detect the early signs of an illness and seek adequate treatment. This article summarizes the various parrot diseases you should be aware of.
Don’t forget to check out the summary table in the next section, which mentions whether the respective diseases are transmissible from bird to bird (horizontal transmission), bird to human (zoonotic), or hen to egg (also known as vertical transmission)!
Jump To Section:
- Summary of Parrot Diseases and Transmissibility
- Viral Parrot Diseases
- Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) / Macaw Wasting Disease / Avian Bornavirus
- Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)
- Avian Polyomavirus
- Avian Flu / Bird Flu
- Fungal Parrot Diseases
- Bacterial Parrot Diseases
- Psittacosis / Chlamydophilosis / Chlamydiosis / Parrot Fever
- Avian Mycobacteriosis / Avian Tuberculosis
- Parasitic Parrot Conditions
- Air sac mites
- Feather mites
- Scaly Face Mites / Scaly Leg Mites
- Deficiencies or excess
- Other or unknown conditions
- Final Note
Owning a parrot or any bird is a great way to form a brilliant connection. Once you start communicating and building a relationship with your parrot, you will be able to discover many things about it. It is truly an exciting and rewarding journey.
However, being a bird owner is not an easy task. You have to bear in mind that you are responsible for a living being that is completely dependent on you. This includes taking care of their health (sometimes with hefty vet bills) and being aware of possible diseases they are susceptible to. Detecting symptoms of illness is one of the most critical steps in delivering the right care to your winged friend.
It helps also to know which parrot diseases might implicate human beings. Although the likelihood of catching a disease from pet birds is not high, extra care must be taken if your bird is suspected or diagnosed with a transmissible disease. Immunocompromised family members should also avoid coming into contact with birds infected with transmissible diseases.
Summary of Parrot Diseases and Transmissibility
(bird to bird)
(bird to egg)
(bird to human)
|Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) / Macaw Wasting Disease / Avian Bornavirus
|Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)
|Avian Flu / Bird Flu
|Candidiasis / Candida
|Avian Gastric Yeast / Megabacteriosis
|Psittacosis / Chlamydophilosis / Chlamydiosis / Parrot Fever
|Avian Mycobacteriosis / Avian Tuberculosis
|Air sac mites
|Might bite humans but may not survive long on humans
|Might bite humans but may not survive long on humans
|Scaly Face Mites / Scaly Leg Mites
|Might bite humans but may not survive long on humans
|Might bite humans but may not survive long on humans
|Deficiencies or excess
|Deficiencies or excess
|Deficiencies or excess
|Fatty tumors (including lipoma and xanthomata)
|Deficiencies or excess
|Fatty liver disease
Viral Parrot Diseases
Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) / Macaw Wasting Disease / Avian Bornavirus
Proventricular dilatation disease takes place when the nerves supplying the gastrointestinal tract are affected in birds. The nerve that supplies the proventriculus or the actual stomach is damaged in this disease. In fact, other nerves supplying the brain or other organs may also be affected. This disease is found in African grey parrots, macaws, cockatoos, Amazon parrots, and conures. While this disease is generally linked to a virus called Avian Bornavirus, the exact cause of this parrot disease still remains a mystery.
This disease has been often termed Macaw Wasting Disease or parrot wasting disease, as it perfectly describes the symptoms. Symptoms include regurgitation, loss of appetite, passing undigested seeds in fecal matter, and progressive weight loss. At the same time, since this disease also targets the nervous system, various neurological symptoms also arise. The symptoms include head tremors, ataxia, weakness, and depression. PDD is difficult to diagnose in live birds and many symptoms appear to be similar to other diseases.
While exposure to an infected bird does not necessarily cause transmission, the infected bird should still be isolated from other birds. It is not known to affect humans but may be transmitted vertically (hen to eggs).
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)
Psittacine beak and feather disease is a fatal illness that may affect almost all members of the parrot family except the cockatiel. It has been found that most birds who are affected by this disease are generally 2 years of age or younger. However, it can affect birds in any age group. The cause of this reason has been unknown for many years. However, recently it has been discovered that it is caused by a virus known as Circovirus.
Some of the symptoms of this disease include abnormal feather development, loss of feather, absence of dander or powder down, and lesions, abnormalities, or growths in the beak. Due to poor structural development, parrots affected by this disease often do not live long, as they are not able to eat or fly properly. There has been a couple of exceptions where a bird afflicted with PBFD has managed to survive without feathers, but only because its beak was not deformed from the illness! One example is Blondie the Lovebird, which is an absolutely adorable and well-cared for birdie:
Diagnosis of this disease is generally done by performing a skin and beak biopsy. Blood tests using a DNA probe are also a significant way to diagnose this disorder, along with a biopsy. It is important for birds to be screened for viruses with the help of sample blood tests. Birds affected with this disorder generally do not show any clinical signs in the beginning.
Sadly, there is no treatment at present for this disease. However, putting your bird in a stress-free environment along with supportive care is important to extend its life. For example, birds that are affected might lose their feathers or have abnormal feather growth, so such birds need to be kept warm. Since the disease is highly transmittable, healthy birds should be kept away from the affected ones. It can also be transmitted from hens to their eggs. It is not known to cause disease in humans.
Polyomavirus is a strain of virus that belongs to the same family as Papovirus that is known for causing benign skin lesions. Polyomavirus usually affects budgies and various members of the parrot family. Canaries and finches may also be susceptible but to lesser degrees.
The spread of this infection usually takes place through the droppings, eggs, feathers, or crop milk of an asymptomatic yet infected bird. The signs and symptoms of this disease depend on the strain of the virus affecting the bird. Fully-grown adult birds may be able to resist the virus, however, they are carriers and can still spread to young birds. In most cases, the young birds die before showing any clinical symptoms. However, some of the symptoms that have been associated with this disease include anorexia, difficulty breathing, dehydration, wet droppings, regurgitation, delayed crop emptying, depression, weight loss, hemorrhagic areas under the skin, abdominal enlargement, and tremors.
While there is no particular cure for polyomavirus yet, supportive care is generally prescribed. The saddest part of this disease is that it progresses quickly, leaving very little time for treatment. Viral contamination, however, can be prevented if the droppings and feathers are manually cleaned and then the area is sanitized. There is also a vaccine available against this disease for parrots that may come in handy.
The avian polyomavirus might be spread vertically (parent to egg), between birds, and possibly to humans too.
Avian Flu / Bird Flu
Avian flu is what is commonly called bird flu. This is one of the parrot diseases that is transmitted from birds to humans through various means. What is interesting is that there are various classifications of the avian flu.
The most fatal of all these types is the H5N1, which also happens to be the commonest of the lot. While it does also affect humans and animals, it is deadliest for birds. This virus occurs naturally in birds of various species and is known all around the globe because of its fatal nature. Most wild birds carry these viruses in the gastrointestinal system but do not get affected by them. However, once the infection starts, it is extremely contagious in domesticated birds, making them very sick and sometimes causing death.
The infection is spread in birds through the nasal secretions, saliva, and feces of an infected bird. Birds that are already susceptible contract the virus from excretions or surfaces that have been contaminated by the remains of droppings.
The most common symptoms of avian flu include decreased consumption of food, decreased egg production, sneezing, and coughing. For those affected with an even more severe strain of the virus, the symptoms may include lack of energy, misshapen or soft-shelled eggs, swelling, sudden death, lack of coordination, diarrhea, purple discoloration, and nasal discharge. Since this is a disease that can be transmitted to humans, your health must also be monitored. The bird should be kept in isolation after being treated by a vet. There may be some evidence that vertical transmission is also possible.
Fungal Parrot Diseases
Candidiasis / Candida
Candidiasis is one of the most commonly occurring fungal parrot diseases in birds, affecting mostly immunocompromised or young birds. This disease is often a result of poor hygiene. The symptoms of this disease include crop stasis, anorexia, white plaques in the mouth, weight loss, and regurgitation. Various strains of the Candida fungus are responsible for this disease and generally attack the gastrointestinal system.
The infection is most commonly found in newborn cockatiels as they are most susceptible to this infection. Infection is generally internal in nature. For most birds, this infection is manifested as a result of yeast overgrowth or an oral inoculation of Candida in large quantities. The oral inoculation may either take place through parental feeding or feeding through utensils that are not cleaned properly.
Candidiasis is a disease that is best diagnosed with the help of cytology or fungal culture. A sample is taken from either the crop or droppings and then specially stained to make a proper diagnosis. This infection generally develops secondary to another disease. Hence, in most cases, it becomes very important to determine whether there are any predisposing problems in the bird. Like in all other cases, early detection helps in faster treatment options. For the most part, Candida can be treated with antifungal medications. Along with providing adequate treatment, it is also important for diagnosing any other predisposing factors or diseases that might have resulted in the infection, in the first place.
Aspergillosis is an opportunistic infection by nature, and immunocompromised birds are more susceptible. It also more easily affects birds that are on a nutritionally low, all-seed diet. The most common symptoms of aspergillosis include respiratory distress, anorexia, depression, dyspnea, voice change, and more. The clinical signs of this disease depend on the area that has been infected.
For most birds, infections generally occur in the upper respiratory tract, lungs, air sacs, trachea, and syrinx. However, this infection can also spread and travel to various internal organs, including kidneys, liver, bone, and brain. In fact, it can also affect the skin and eyes of particular species.
Among the most significant symptoms of respiratory distress, exercise intolerance, tail bobbing, and dyspnea are common. Aspergillosis may also lead to rhinitis or sinusitis if the infection becomes extreme. In the case of infraorbital sinusitis, surgical intervention may be required before starting medication. Further chronic fungal sinusitis can cause permanent malformation in the upper respiratory system as well as osseous changes.
This disease is generally diagnosed on the basis of the particular species of the bird, along with diagnostic imaging and blood tests. While diagnosing this disease may be a little complicated, it is very important to find it at the right time. Speed detection can help in the process of starting treatment at the right time. However, the treatment is quite costly and often long-term. If your pet is presenting with any signs of lower or upper respiratory disease, leukocytosis, monocytosis, or wasting disease, aspergillosis should be considered as a likely diagnosis. Although this disease can be pretty fatal, medications are available to resolve it. Supportive long-term care is also very important in affected birds.
The good thing, though, is that while Aspergillosis is infectious, it is not contagious. Be it bird or human, the main mode of transmission is when Aspergillus spores are inhaled. The spores can also penetrate eggshells resulting in chicks being infected. However, this is not the same as vertical transmission where the illness is transmitted from the parent to the egg. Researchers found that day-old chicks need to inhale about 6 million spores in order to become mortally ill, while adult birds need to inhale 17 million spores.
Avian Gastric Yeast / Megabacteriosis
Macrorhabdus ornithogaster (what a mouthful!), commonly known as avian gastric yeast, is a type of yeast that most commonly affects the ventriculus or proventriculus in birds. It is most likely to affect companion birds like parrotlets, budgerigars, love birds, finches, and cockatiels. Although it was previously understood as a bacterium, widespread research has confirmed that it is, in fact, a fungal infection. This disease is present almost all around the globe in these birds showing various kinds of clinical signs and pathogenicity.
The most common clinical signs of this infection include regurgitation, weight loss, passing undigested food, diarrhea, and lethargy. The interesting aspect of this disorder is that it mimics the symptoms of proventricular dilatation disease. Hence diagnosing this disorder may sometimes be tricky and complicated. While the disease is quite fatal in nature, many birds recover from this with proper care and medication. However, birds that do recover are susceptible to relapses and shedding. This disease commonly appears together with immunosuppression that is associated with circovirus infection and polyomavirus infection.
This disease is generally diagnosed by examining fresh dropping. Most birds who possess this fungus generally remain asymptomatic and share very low numbers of this organism. However, birds that are symptomatic and sick usually shed organisms intermittently. Keeping this in mind, it has to be understood that a negative fecal examination does not necessarily prove the absence of this infection. There are various treatment options available for this disease. Antifungal medications are generally prescribed and have to be administered from time to time. However, the most important part of controlling this disease is to regularly screen your parrot and keep the environment stable and clean.
While avian gastric yeast is highly contagious among birds, especially those with low immunity or nutritionally deficient, vertical transmission from parent to egg is not known to occur, and it is also not known to infect humans.
Bacterial Parrot Diseases
Psittacosis / Chlamydophilosis / Chlamydiosis / Parrot Fever
Chlamydia psittaci is one of the most common parrot diseases that affect companion birds. While it is very common in almost all species of companion birds, incidences are highest in budgerigars, cockatiels, and small parrots. The incubation period for this bacterium varies from three days to many weeks. The organism is likely to be found excreted in feces or even in the ocular and nasal discharge when the bird becomes infected.
While many birds remain asymptomatic carriers of the disease, symptoms include greenish diarrhea, anorexia, and dyspnea. The diagnosis of this disease is sometimes challenging; however, the condition is treatable. Some other symptoms of this disease include dehydration, conjunctival discharge, polyuria (larger urine component in the feces than usual), conjunctival irritation, monocytosis, and biliverdinuria (greenish or yellowish urates).
Diagnosing this infection in a bird can be complicated and challenging. It is most difficult for those birds that remain asymptomatic or without displaying any clinical symptoms. While there are various antigen and antibody tests available, they come with significant limitations. Various error logic tests are more reliable in providing a more appropriate diagnosis. However, the most useful means of diagnosing this disorder is through PCR assay testing. Not only is this test more readily accomplished, but it also takes into account other infections that need to be considered.
Like avian flu, this infection can also be transmitted to humans from birds. It can also be spread from hen to egg. Hence careful strategy building is required when planning a therapeutic and diagnostic plan. In most cases, it is required to keep the bird in isolation while providing the right medication. With proper medication and support, infected birds can get better.
Avian Mycobacteriosis / Avian Tuberculosis
Avian mycobacteriosis generally affects companion, domesticated or exotic birds. It generally causes lesions in the gastrointestinal tract and liver, while other organ systems may also be affected. The symptoms of this disease are more or less non-specific and depend on the duration of the infection. Naturally, birds that are immunocompromised are more susceptible to this bacterium. It also often occurs in Amazon parrots and grey-cheeked parakeets. It can be spread between birds and also to eggs.
The problem with this disorder is that since the bacteria (Mycobacterium avium or Mycbacterium genavense) are slow-growing in nature, the disease becomes chronic, generally affecting older birds. Clinical signs and symptoms of this disease include depression, anorexia, diarrhea, and weight loss. Most birds with early infections show very little clinical science, which makes detection more difficult.
The diagnosis of this disorder can take various routes, including biopsy, PCR assay, cytology, or histopathology. However, the most reliable method is through acid-fast staining, DNA probe, culture, and biopsy. For the biopsy, samples are generally taken from the intestine, spleen, liver, or suspected mass. Most birds also show an elevated level of leukocytosis, especially with monocytosis.
Most research concludes that this disease generally cannot be transmitted from birds to humans. However, there is some evidence that suggests that the zoonotic transmission potential cannot be ignored, especially in those humans who are immunocompromised. If infected birds are in the company of other birds, it is important to determine whether they are infected as well. Birds with a high risk of infection should be isolated and monitored from time to time. Treatment is available for this disease; however, it may take six months or even longer.
Parasitic Parrot Conditions
Parasites are technically not really diseases but are included here as they can often be spread easily among birds.
Giardiasis is caused when Giardia, a protozoan parasite, is transmitted through drinking or bathing water to your bird. It can show up as intense itching and very dry skin when the bird is stressed, but may otherwise be asymptomatic or shows very mild symptoms in healthy birds. This parasite infects most types of birds, but has been particularly found in cockatiels, lovebirds, and budgies. As it is often spread through contaminated water, it is important to keep drinking and bathing waters clean and sanitary for your birds.
Birds may sometimes pick at feathers on the chest, the underside of wings, inside of thighs, shoulders, and sometimes lower back regions if they are infected with Giardia. Their stools sometimes show up as diarrhea-like, with a lot of mucus. Giardia is believed to interfere with metabolism and nutrient absorption in the gut of the birds. Giardiasis might be transmitted to humans as well. Tests for giardiasis might include fecal stains, fecal trichome, and ELISA tests. As the tests may only show as positive whenever the parasite is shed from the body, an infected or recovering bird might need to be tested over a long period of time to determine if it has fully recovered or not.
Avian coccidiosis is a parasitic disease affecting birds, caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Eimeria. In parrots, this disease can lead to significant health issues, affecting their digestive systems and overall well-being. Symptoms of avian coccidiosis in parrots often include weight loss, dehydration, ruffled feathers, reduced appetite, and in severe cases, diarrhea which may contain blood. The severity of the disease can vary, with younger birds often being more susceptible and showing more severe symptoms compared to adult birds, which might carry the parasites but exhibit less severe or no symptoms at all.
The disease spreads through the fecal-oral route, where birds ingest the parasite's oocysts (eggs) that have been shed in another bird's feces. This can happen through contaminated food, water, or contact with infected fecal matter within the environment. High-density housing and poor sanitation are significant risk factors for the spread of coccidiosis. To prevent avian coccidiosis, it's crucial to maintain good hygiene practices in the birds' environment. Regular cleaning and disinfection of cages, feeders, and waterers can help minimize the risk of infection. Providing a balanced diet to support the birds' immune systems and avoiding overcrowding can also reduce the disease's incidence. In some cases, veterinarians might recommend the use of prophylactic anticoccidial medications, especially in commercial or breeding operations where the risk of infection is high.
Air sac mites
Air sac mites infestation is a significant parrot disease that affects not only parrots but also many other birds. Birds have an internal organ named the air sac, which is a very important part of the respiratory system. This structure is sometimes invaded by parasites called air sac mites. These air sac mites can also invade the trachea of the bird.
The most common symptom of this infestation is a change in the bird’s voice. The voice may suddenly appear croaky, and whistles may start sounding hoarse. Along with this, you will be able to hear a clicking and wheezing sound when the bird breathes. This is a fatal condition, which, if left untreated, eventually causes suffocation in the bird.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about this infection is that it can spread very quickly among other birds as well. Hence it is vital to isolate an affected bird immediately after diagnosis. If you have had other birds in the company of the affected bird, they also need to be checked immediately for air sac mites. This disease is, however, treatable and you must visit an avian vet if you can spot the symptoms. Spotting the various symptoms of this disease can be a little tricky as the wheezing occurs after many weeks of infestation, which means that early signs might not be noticeable.
Feather mites, also known as red mites, are blood-sucking mites that live in the feather follicles and on the skin of an affected Bird. Red mites are not easy to spot with the naked eye alone. If you suspect that your pet might be suffering from feather mites, it is best to leave a white sheet in the cage at night as red mites are nocturnal creatures. If in the morning you can spot red or brown spots on the sheet, it is a substantial indication that your bird has mites.
The mites usually hang around the vent, neck, and wing areas of the bird since these are easier to hold on to. As already mentioned, these are blood-sucking mites that often hide in cages and nest boxes after feeding on your bird. They are very dangerous for adult birds, and also extremely fatal for chicks. Besides, if left untreated, not only can the red mites ultimately lead to your bird’s demise but can also be passed on to other birds.
Some of the most common symptoms of feather mite attack include restlessness during the day, which intensifies at night. This happens because red mites are more active at night time. Repeated preening or even causing feather destruction is common in birds trying to get rid of the mites. Although it is hard to detect without a microscope, mite eggs can be found in the feathers of the bird.
These blood-sucking mites drain blood from your bird leading to anemia which leads to the ultimate death. The best way to diagnose feather mites is by careful observation of bird behavior. Providing instant treatment is important, and you must visit the Avian vet immediately after you spot any abnormality in their behavior. Treatment is available that will help your bird to get rid of the mites if spotted early.
I had managed to get a clip-on microscope for my mobile phone camera and took a video of feather mites on Kiyo's feather:
Scaly Face Mites / Scaly Leg Mites
A scaly face is generally caused by a very small skin burrowing mite in birds called Knemidokoptespilae. These mites generally affect the cere and beak of the bird but can also migrate down to the legs and vent areas.
The most obvious sign of this problem is prolonged rubbing and scratching. You will soon be able to spot a crusty growth that slowly starts appearing on the cere. The bird’s beak may also start to become misshapen as the mites start burrowing deep inside the beak. Along with this, you might also notice the loss of some facial feathers. In the most severe cases, affected body parts start dropping off, causing severe handicaps in the bird.
There are also scaly leg mites, called Knemidokoptesmutans, which are very closely related to scaly face mites. The most common symptom of leg mite infection is severe swelling of the bird’s leg as well as painful flaking. Immediate intervention is needed in the case of both these diseases. As soon as you start noticing the first few symptoms, it is important to speak with your vet. You must never allow the disease to reach the extreme stage as it may become irreversible at this point. The infestation can be treated with suitable swabs but has to be intervened early on.
Ticks are blood-sucking mites that initially cause anemia and can eventually lead to the death of a bird. The most difficult thing about a tick infestation in your bird is that ticks are often very difficult to spot and hence diagnosis becomes very difficult. They are generally found just beneath the feathers of birds. However, once they finish feeding on the bird, they become the biggest large pinhead having blood-filled sacs. The most common spots where ticks can be found include the neck or head between the nape and back.
Ticks are actually very problematic because they can travel from one bird to another very easily. In fact, it can also affect other pets like cats, and even humans. In case of a tick infection not only will you have to take care of all the affected birds but also clean the cages as well as the sand in the play area. Undoubtedly if you find ticks in your bird, they need to be isolated from other birds or pets in general. Besides, it is also required to thoroughly sanitize the area. Ticks can be prevented and are treatable.
Parrot lice are called Mallophaga and can be described as feather-eating pests. While these are generally uncommon in domesticated birds, they can catch them from other birds, if they come in contact with them. Parrot lice are generally more common in wild birds and hardly affect domestic birds. These lice can grow up to 3 mm in length. Even though they are pretty big, they are still very difficult to spot as they are very good at concealing themselves. They generally live under the bird’s feather, where it is naturally difficult to find them.
Birds that are affected with lice generally scratch themselves violently and shake their feathers rampantly. The final symptom of a lice infestation in your bird might be a moth-eaten appearance as the lice start eating away the feather coating in the bird’s body. With early detection, it is possible to find the perfect cure for your bird. However, if one bird is affected with lice, it can be easily assumed that other birds in its vicinity are infected as well and needs treatment. Vets usually use a contact chemical to get rid of the lice from the bird’s body. Lice might not survive long on humans, but it is possible that they sometimes bite humans, leaving rashes.
Domesticated cage birds are often infected with Ascaris roundworm. These microorganisms generally breed and live in the guts of various animals and birds. The eggs of these microorganisms are passed on through droppings. The adult worm can grow up to 3.5 cm long. These are extremely harmful parasites as they completely suck the nutrients from the birds’ food in their gut, causing extreme malnutrition. In the presence of multiple worms, the bird can even suffer from paralysis.
Similar to human beings, birds can also be infected with Cestoda tapeworms. These are white, stringy worms that have a similar effect on birds as roundworms. Here is a picture of an Amazon parrot passing out a tapeworm (left) and tapeworm in feces (right), courtesy of Ian H.:
The most common symptoms of worms include listlessness and weight loss. This disease is treatable and requires the administration of medicine that completely flushes the worms out. In fact, you will be able to detect the creatures in the bird’s feces. This treatment needs to be repeated for a few weeks so that even the worm eggs can be eradicated from the parrot’s gut.
These worms are particularly risky because they can be passed on to humans as well. They can affect humans and need to be treated immediately. Hence it is very important to build a treatment plan immediately with your vet.
Deficiencies or excess
Vitamin A and calcium are very important in birds and must be provided sufficiently. However, they are not found substantially in the seed mixes available in the market for parrots. Hence it is important for you to supply them externally along with a seed-based diet.
If vitamin A is not provided to the bird sufficiently, they develop Hypovitaminosis-A. This disease can cause extremely deterring effects on the inner lining of the mouth, throat, and nose. It can even reach the kidneys. Over time the membranes become thickened and infected, appearing as blocked thickened nostrils, facial sinuses, and abscesses in the tongue. Ultimately it can also lead to kidney failure. To tackle this problem, the feed needs to be improved and supplemented with vitamin A.
Hypovitaminosis-A is a deficiency and not a microbial or parasitic issue, it does not spread between living things. However, if other diseases arise due to lower immunity that resulted from hypovitaminosis, those diseases might be contagious.
Calcium is an extremely important mineral that is important not only in birds but also in every animal. Calcium serves different purposes in building the various body parts of a bird. Hence just like the lack of vitamin A, unsubstantial supplementation of calcium may also have a severe effect on a bird. This is called hypocalcemia, and it can have very severe effects depending on the stage of life of the bird.
For parrots that are breeding, hypocalcemia may lead to producing no eggs or soft-shelled eggs. Even birds that can produce eggs may suddenly become egg-bound with weakening muscles. For growing chicks, bones may become soft and deformed, which is also described as rickets. For adult birds, weakness, muscle tremors, and muscle deterioration are also common.
Birds who are very severely affected may have epileptic attacks that last for up to 3 minutes. The bird may suddenly fall on the floor, flapping and squawking repeatedly and aggressively. This gradually becomes more relaxed, and the bird calms down but still remains motionless and limp. It may take some time before the bird starts regaining consciousness. This process may lead to the dismantling of claws and feathers.
The most commonly affected breeds include Eclectus parrots and African Grey parrots. Hypocalcemia can be treated by providing a calcium-rich diet to the parrot after visiting your vet. Like hypovitaminosis, it is not known to spread to humans, other birds, or eggs.
Fatty tumors (including lipoma and xanthomata)
Tumors of various kinds are found in almost all bird species. However, budgerigars are the most susceptible to developing tumors due to poor nutrition. The tumors may grow in the ovary, testes, liver, or any other internal organs.
A bird with a tumor in the gonads may show lameness and also a swollen abdomen. Tumors can also be external in nature. External tumors are generally found in the feathers, skin, or preen gland.
Tumors in birds are usually a benign accumulation of either fat or cholesterol. Accumulation of fat is called lipomata, and that of cholesterol is called xanthomata. However, some tumors may also be aggressive and cancerous. Such cancers include fibrous tumors or localized nodular tumors that are fatal.
Fatty liver disease
Just like in humans, the liver is a vital organ in birds as well. It is responsible for digestion, storage of vitamins and minerals, detoxification, metabolism, and the maintenance of the immune system. While liver disease in parrots is very common, fatty liver is one of the most significant ones. Fatty liver is most common in bird species like cockatoos, cockatiels, love birds, budgies, Quaker parrots, and Amazon parrots.
Fatty liver is a severe condition and can be fatal if not treated properly. Detection of symptoms early on is very important and your bird has to be taken to the avian vet as soon as possible. This condition is caused when there are large fat deposits are present. Accumulation of fat in various organs of the bird can prevent the liver from functioning optimally.
The most common symptoms of fatty liver in birds include lethargy, loss of appetite, being overweight, depression, swollen abdomen, diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, deterioration in feather quality, bright green droppings, behavioral changes, and discoloration in feathers. Those birds in the end stage of fatty liver condition experience muscle tremors, loss of balance, and misshapen beaks. In lovebirds, the “red suffusion” coloration is suspected to be caused by nutritional issues including liver disease, although this has not been scientifically confirmed.
Fatty liver disease is generally caused when a bird is exclusively on a seed diet which is essentially high fat in nature. Along with this, nutritional deficiencies, overeating, and lack of exercise are also to be blamed. The treatment for this disease includes a low-fat diet consisting of low-sugar fruits and vegetables and other nutrients.
Other or unknown conditions
Stargazing or twirling is most common in finches but may also appear in other bigger birds. You will find the affected bird constantly throwing the head back, sleeping with the head between the legs, going around in circles, or turning the head around in a process while looking up at the ceiling. Stargazing may be caused by various triggers such as infections or can even be hereditary in nature. If you observe this pattern of behavior in your bird, you must take it to an avian vet as it may be indicative of a bigger problem.
While there is no definite cause identified yet, it may be a result of various possibilities, such as avian flu, incorrect positioning of the egg before the bird hatched, or even inherited from parents genetically. In some cases, stargazing resolves itself after the bird gets older. However, it is always wise to seek advice from a vet if you find your parrot showing signs of stargazing.
Other than hereditary possibilities, this condition is not known to be contagious. However, if it is a result of other ailments such as avian flu, then that ailment might be contagious.
Rhinoliths are caused by an obstruction in breathing. This is actually not a parakeet respiratory infection, but a case of nose stone. It is generally caused by an accumulation of debris like nasal discharge, blood, or dust within the nostrils. Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, along with a deficiency in vitamin A can also lead to rhinoliths.
Although they begin as a small obstruction, eventually they become very big as time passes by. Treatment is necessary because if it becomes extremely big, it can cause necrosis in the surrounding tissues of the nostril. Birds suffering from rhinoliths may display normal body temperature along with good activity and appetite. A bird suffering from such a nose stone has to undergo an operation where the stone is carefully removed from the nostril. However, the bird is left with a hole in that area.
Along with this, antibacterial medicines are also prescribed. To prevent the growth of stones, you must always keep the cage clean and avoid any exposure to perfume, smoke, or dust. Cleanliness is the most critical prevention against rhinoliths. It is not known that rhinoliths spread to other birds, to eggs, or to humans.
Seizures are more or less common in various kinds of birds. Some birds that are most likely to get seizures include African grey parrots, Amazon parrots, canaries, budgies, love birds, and finches. An episode generally arises from a disorder in the brain that leads to spontaneous electrical discharge throughout the nervous system. These electrical discharges cause a number of involuntary body responses or even alterations in behavior. The exact triggers are not known. However, researchers suggest various infections, tumors, and secondary disorders as the cause behind these seizures.
Seizures are easily observable and generally consist of three phases. The first is called the aura phase, where the bird may experience altered behavior. The second phase, or the ictus, is characterized by disorientation and an inability to coordinate the various muscles in the body. The bird may become stiff, jerk involuntarily or fall to the bottom of the cage. The third final stage is called the post-ictal phase, where the bird shows exhaustion, confusion, lethargy, restlessness, agitation, and disorientation. Seizures require immediate medical attention and the bird should be taken to the vet.
Seizures as a medical symptom cannot be spread between birds, to eggs, or to humans, but the underlying health issue that causes seizures might be transmissible.
These are the various diseases, infections, and health conditions you must be aware of as a bird owner. Remember, it is always important to stay vigilant and observant about any physiological or behavioral changes in your bird. Here are some of the most important points to keep in mind:
- Bird diseases are of various types, and each one of them has unique symptoms differentiating one from the other. Even though home diagnosis is not always possible, it is important to keep a note of the various symptoms that might be indicative of a bigger problem.
- Under all circumstances, you must always take your bird to an avian veterinarian if you spot any discrepancies. Follow their advice regarding diagnosis and treatment carefully for the best results.
- Not everyone has access to avian vets. If you don’t know of any near you, consider consulting online vets.
- While this article is informational in nature, for building a careful treatment strategy, you must always fall back on a professional avian veterinarian.
Birds are excellent creatures that are not only intuitive but extremely interesting. They can become a great company to you and your family with some love and attention. Be careful of treating your birds right, and always provide them with the right care!
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