Fungus In Parakeets
Aspergillosis is one of your parrot’s worst enemies. This highly infectious respiratory disease is likely to make your parrot less lively and less chatty than usual. A swift visit to your vet at first sign of the disease should ensure a speedy recovery, as successful treatments do exist.
Aspergillus fungus is a common cause of respiratory problems in pet birds. Occasionally wild birds get this disease as well. Unfortunately, parrots are very susceptible to the disease, especially the African grey and Amazon species, according to Michael Campagna at Veterinary Partner. The fungus is in the bird’s surroundings and it shouldn’t cause any problems in a healthy parrot, but if your feathered friend is a bit under the weather or he breathes in large amounts of the fungus spores, then he may well develop aspergillosis. Your bird comes in contact with the spores through damp bedding in his cage, food that’s been stored too long or poor ventilation and humidity.
This disease develops gradually in the lungs, so your parrot may not show any symptoms immediately. Early warning signs to look out for are lethargy and a poor appetite; later you’ll likely see gradual weight loss. When you let him out of his cage for a fly around the room, he is likely to become breathless quicker than usual. Difficulty breathing while still and odd breathing noises are signs that the disease is advanced. It’s very important to get your parrot to the vet for diagnostic tests as soon as you spot any symptoms.
The standard treatment for aspergillosis is an antifungal drug. The most commonly prescribed one is itraconazole, because it has the least side effects. The drug is given by mouth and, according to vet Wendy Brooks, it represents something of a breakthrough in the safe treatment of fungal infections. Treatment lasts for six weeks to six months depending on the severity of the aspergillosis. Amphotericin B is another drug treatment; however, this is known to have toxic side effects and is usually given only to birds who need hospitalization for the disease, and then only for short periods of time to avoid liver damage.
It’s impossible to remove the aspergillus fungus entirely from your parrot’s environment, because every bird has some of the spores in his air passages. You can limit his exposure to more of the fungus: Remove any wet food or bedding from his cage regularly, and make sure plenty of air is circulating around his cage area. Also, a happy and stress-free parrot is much less likely to develop aspergillosis, according to vet Michael Campagna, who also advises regular checkups so your vet can spot any problems early on.
Swollen areas and assorted growths are regularly seen on the otherwise hearty budgerigars (parakeets) and, less commonly, on other parrots, finches and softbills. Ranging from harmless to quite serious, these typically arise from trauma, abscesses, tumors, ruptured air sacs, hernias, cysts or egg-binding, but other -less obvious maladies may also be at work.
The following remarks, while written with budgerigars in mind, are applicable to all types of birds. Please note that they are provided as guidelines, to help you understand what might be happening… only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose your bird’s medical problems.
Even benign growths, if accompanied by shivering, loss of appetite, breathing difficulties or similar symptoms, are cause for concern and necessitate an immediate visit to your veterinarian.
Ruptured Air Sacs
Budgerigars and other birds may rupture air sacs by flying into windows or other obstacles during their time out of the cage. Bird-proofing flight rooms and gradually adjusting your pet to such will go a long way in alleviating this problem. Less commonly, air sacs may be damaged when startled birds crash into cage bars or walls.
A swollen area along the breast, which emits a characteristic “crackling” sound when gently touched, is a sure sign of a ruptured air sac. Unless involving a huge area, air sac damage usually resolves quickly on its own.
Trauma-related injuries that do not involve air sacs may result in hematomas…swollen, blood-filled injuries below the skin (in people, such are often called “black-and-blues”, but skin color change will not usually be evident in a bird).
Resulting from broken blood vessels, the pooled blood typical of hematomas is usually re-absorbed by the bird without incident.
Avian abscesses present as swollen, painful, reddish areas that are warm to the touch. The swollen area, or abscess, is filled with white blood cells and other blood borne compounds produced by the bird to battle infection. The abscess usually also contains dead tissue and living and dead bacteria or other pathogens. Budgerigars often exhibit abscesses below the eye, but they may also occur on the feet, in the mouth and at other locations.
As a defense measure, the abscess has been walled off from the rest of the bird’s body, but the toxins and bacteria contained therein can escape and spread via the blood to vital organs. This can happen very quickly, and usually has fatal results. Therefore, all abscesses should be treated promptly by a veterinarian.
Gout, a disease that takes hold when uric acid is stored in the joints and internal organs, sometimes produces abscess-like growths on the feet of budgerigars. Known as tophi, these growths will bleed extensively if impacted or cut, and should be addressed by a veterinarian.
Tumors are often difficult to identify specifically, and may arise from a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Fatty tumors are usually benign and require monitoring but no other treatment, while others may be malignant.
Any unusual growth or swelling that you notice should be examined by a veterinarian. A biopsy may be used to confirm the doctor’s diagnosis if there is any doubt as to the nature of the problem.
Next time we’ll complete our review of noxious bird bumps with a look at feather cysts and cloacal swellings. Until then, please write in with your questions and comments.
You can access a detailed article concerning the types of tumors that afflict budgerigars here.
Fatty liver disease often referred to FLD that is found in birds is an illness that causes excessive amounts of fat to be deposited into the liver. It is most prevalent in Quaker Parrots, Cockatoos, Cockatiels, Budgies and Amazon Parrots. Unfortunately, this disease happens to be quite serious and could be fatal if the bird is not diagnosed and treated very early on. This disease is quite common among pet birds that have been fed the wrong diet throughout their lifespan.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
Most of the time birds with FLD will be overweight and have a liver which is enlarged due to the extra deposits of fat. Birds with this disease commonly lose their appetite and develop general lethargy. Many times they even appear to be depressed. As a result of the enlarged liver many of the birds sick with this disease will seem to have labored breathing. This is usually because there is a distended abdomen. The bird’s feces will appear to be a greenish color and his feather quality may be a bit poor as well. If there is a major decrease in the function of the liver then there may also be a series of other issues of the central nervous system such as loss of balance, seizures or muscle tremors. Budgies in particular that are suffering from FLD might have soft and overgrown beaks. Sadly, many of the birds that have this disease do not show the first sign before suddenly dropping dead in their cages.
Is Fatty Liver Disease Preventable?
The first thing you want to remember when dealing with your pet bird is that diet means everything. You do not want to allow your bird to get overweight. This of course means feeding your bird only the highest quality foods such as AvianMaintenance, FruitBlend or Zupreem. If you have noticed that your bird is already on the verge of being overweight then you might want to lean toward using something that is a bit lower in fat content such as Roudybush low fat diets. This may help get your bird back on the right track as far as his weight goes. You must also keep in mind that birds need fresh fruits and vegetables and that at least one tenth of everything he eats should be given in the form of extra treats that are healthy. Use a clear water dish so that you can always see the quality of the water you are feeding your bird as well as how much he is actually drinking. It is imperative that he have fresh clean water all of the time and plenty of it. Avoid any human snacks or treats as these are terrible for your bird anyway.
What Does Treatment Involve?
The first step in treating a bird that has FLD is getting him on a low fat diet immediately. This diet must consist of a high quality pellet, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits. Sometimes intubations for feeding will become necessary if your bird refuses to eat which will often be the case with fatty liver disease, at least at the start of treatment. In most cases you will also need to provide care such as extra heat (a heating pad under the cage works well) and fluids. There are some medicines like Lactulose that can be administered to your bird to prevent or even treat any of the symptoms associated with the central nervous system. In addition, part of a good treatment protocol for birds that are suffering from FLD will be an adequate amount of activity and exercise. Many birds become overweight because they are either bored and eat as a result of a lack of anything better to do or because they are confined in too small an area to get enough physical exercise. It is important that your bird be stimulated.
Birds More Prone to Fatty Liver Disease
Young birds that have been hand fed for a longer period than necessary seem to have a much higher incidence of fatty liver disease. This is because the formulas that are fed to baby birds are quite high in calories and fat. Because baby birds do not exercise much the excessive calories are stored as fat. Cockatoos in particular seem to be among the highest group of hand fed birds that are diagnosed with fatty liver disease. This is more than likely because they often continue to beg long after they are full. In addition, female birds make up a larger percentage of the birds diagnosed with fatty liver disease and many doctors believe this has something to do with hormones found in female birds surrounding reproduction.
Fatty liver disease is manageable if caught early enough. The most important thing for pet bird owners to remember is that keeping their birds in great shape physically and making sure that they do not become overweight is a huge step in making sure they do not get fatty liver disease. It is also important to keep track of and pay extra attention to your bird to be sure that you do not miss any of the important signs of FDL. By missing something you could be missing the small window of opportunity to help your bird recover from fatty liver disease.
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What are Cataracts?
There are many causes of cataracts in birds, the most common being age. Some cataracts are genetic and it is impossible to prevent the development of these cataracts. Other causes can include eye infection, trauma and diabetes.
Many times, cataracts cannot be treated or prevented. In some instances, cataract removal surgery is successful, but can be risky depending on your bird’s overall health. Medications can be helpful in reducing inflammation and pain if your bird is experiencing any discomfort. Your veterinarian may decide to refer you to an ophthalmologist for treatment or a second opinion regarding your bird’s cataracts.
Cataracts occur when the density or opacity of the eye lens increases and vision begins to diminish. There is usually a white or grey film that covers the pupil. Cataracts in birds have not been extensively studied but it has been noted that many species of psittacine birds will develop cataracts as they age. These types of birds include macaws, Amazon parrots and cockatiels. Canaries are also prone to developing congenital cataracts.
Symptoms of Cataracts in Birds
You should be doing weekly physical checks of your bird to ensure that they are in good general health; this includes checking their eyes for any changes. If you notice any differences in your bird’s eyes you need to contact your veterinarian for an appointment. Symptoms of cataracts include:
- Bumping into objects signaling reduced vision
- Cloudiness of the eye
- Reluctance to jump onto their perch
- Rubbing the eye or scratching the eye
- Eye discomfort or pain
Causes of Cataracts in Birds
Cataracts will eventually affect both eyes, especially when they are age related. Many times older birds will develop cataracts as a part of the aging process. Nutritional deficiencies can cause your bird to develop cataracts. They can also develop diabetes which can cause cataracts when left unchecked. Other causes of cataracts in birds can include trauma, infections and inflammation problems. Canaries are very prone to developing cataracts. It has been determined that cataracts can be genetic in canaries.
Diagnosis of Cataracts in Birds
Your veterinarian will begin your appointment by asking you for your bird’s complete medical history and about the symptoms that you have seen. A full medical examination will be completed to ensure that the possible cataracts are the only health concern. This physical examination may also include routine blood tests.
An ocular examination, or eye exam, will be performed to determine the severity of the cataract. Your veterinarian may not feel comfortable enough performing an in-depth ocular examination. In these instances, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist for diagnosis and treatment. Your bird’s vision will also be assessed to determine how much impairment they are experiencing from the cataract.
Treatment of Cataracts in Birds
In some instances, there is no available medical treatment available that cures or prevents cataracts from forming. Your veterinarian or ophthalmologist will discuss any available treatment options with you regarding your bird’s cataracts.
Surgical removal is an option in some cases, especially in large psittacine birds. Your bird will be thoroughly evaluated prior to any decisions regarding surgery to determine their overall general health as well as how much their quality of life is suffering from the cataracts. Surgery should only be performed when there is a possibility that vision can be restored within the eye.
Your veterinarian may prescribe NSAIDs for your bird if they are experiencing pain from their cataracts. The NSAIDs will be in either ocular drops such as flurbiprofen, or systemic such as celecoxib or meloxicam to reduce pain and inflammation within the eye.
There are some veterinarians who will recommend holistic treatments as well to potentially dissolve the cataract. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian before beginning any holistic treatments for cataracts in your bird.
Recovery of Cataracts in Birds
Surgical removal of cataracts in birds can be risky since your bird will have to be anesthetized during the procedure. Post surgical care will be important to ensure that the surgery is successful.
For cataracts that cannot be surgically removed, it will be necessary to closely monitor the cataracts. You will need to watch for progressive vision impairment and adjust your bird’s environment accordingly to keep them from becoming disoriented or harming themselves. This will include not changing their environment or moving their feeding and watering stations.
Be sure to administer any medications prescribed as directed and do not stop giving medications unless directed by your veterinarian. If you have any questions regarding side effects of any prescribed medications for your bird, contact your veterinarian immediately.
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Giardia is a one-celled protozoal organism that is commonly found in pet and aviary birds. It lives in the small intestines (usually the duodenum) and is shed sporadically in the droppings. It may cause diarrhea, malnutrition and malabsorption in affected animals. In some birds, especially cockatiels, it may induce pruritis (itching), causing a bird to scream and pull feathers or dig at the skin with the beak. The skin of birds infested with giardia may appear dry and flaky. Most often, the underside of the wings, the insides of the thighs and perhaps the chest are plucked.
Giardia is quite common in cockatiels, lovebirds and budgies, however, it can be found in most species of birds, including Amazons, macaws, pionus, Eclectus, lories, parrotlets, parakeets, African grey parrots, Poicephalus and cockatoos. It is also found in canaries, finches, doves and pigeons. Groundbirds are commonly infested. In addition to causing diarrhea, malnutrition, itching, feather picking and weight loss, it may also cause mortality of baby birds in the nest. Often, the babies will be very thin, have poor feathering and will cry excessively to be fed. Many will die before fledging. The droppings may be malodorous. Adults and babies may show staining of fecal material around the vent.
The organism is difficult to diagnose for several reasons. Giardia is not shed in every dropping. It is a very fragile organism in one form, and may disintegrate before it can be diagnosed. Regular fecal parasite exams, performed in a vet’s clinic or by a professional lab, may miss this organism because of its fragility. A new procedure has greatly increased the chance of diagnosing giardia in birds. This involves preserving the feces (and giardia cysts) in 5% formalin (NOT the usual 10% used to preserve normal tissues). The preserved feces are then sent to a special lab that only studies parasites, and a different type of microscope, called a phase contrast scope, is used to diagnose giardia. By your veterinarian going the extra distance, this elusive parasite has been diagnosed in your bird.
You may be surprised that your bird is being diagnosed now with giardia, as it may have been examined by a veterinarian previously, and it may even have had fecal parasite exams performed in the past. A solitary pet bird may harbor giardia for long periods of time before showing signs of illness. New methods of testing have greatly improved the chance of a positive diagnosis.
In the past, treatment was usually administered by using a drug called Flagyl (metronidazole.) This drug only comes in an injectable form, which is not good for birds, and in a tablet that is so bitter that no matter what it is mixed with, it is very unpalatable. Flagyl only is effective in about 40% of giardia-positive birds. Another drug, fenbendazole ( Panacur ) may work well to clear many birds, however, it can cause feather deformities and it may cause liver problems in some birds. Other drugs have been tried, with varying success. Another drug that may be somewhat effective is Humatin (paromomycin). This drug must be administered orally by syringe. Dr. Wissman usually chooses to use a drug that she imports from Germany, that is not available in the U.S. to treat giardia. It is called dimetridazole. It is a drug that can be easily administered in the drinking water. Properly administered, it is safe and effective in clearing a high percentage of birds harboring giardia.
It is probably a good idea to treat all birds directly exposed to an infested bird or its droppings. Testing prior to treatment will identify the degree of infestation of those birds. Retreatment may be necessary periodically. Retesting is an important part of managing giardia, and follow-up examinations are necessary. Be sure to follow your avian veterinarian’s advice.
It must be noted that some birds will never be completely cured of giardia, and it may occasionally flare up. Providing your bird with a secure environment, feeding a balanced, nutritious diet and using a water bottle will help prevent reoccurrence of problems. Excellent sanitation and husbandry practices must be employed, as well. Exposure to droppings should be minimized. A grate at the bottom of the cage should be used. Spraying the grate with non-stick cooking spray (PAM) will allow droppings to slide off the grate and into the bottom of the cage.
Water bottles may be purchased at most pet stores and feed stores, and are useful in preventing contamination of drinking water with fecal material. Water bottles also prevent high levels of bacteria from growing in water bowls. One of the best preventative medical things that you can do for you bird is to buy it a water bottle today and begin using it. Birds are so smart that almost all birds will discover how to use a water bottle immediately after it is placed in the cage. Plastic bottles may be used for the smaller birds, but for large birds, a glass bottle with a stainless steel drinking tube, which is almost indestructible, should be purchased. The tube should be checked daily to ensure that the system is not plugged up and is delivering water. Some birds will stuff a seed, piece of toy or shell into the tube, effectively plugging it up. Other birds may learn how to stick a toenail into the tube to take a shower under it, thus emptying the whole bottle in short order. If your bird loves to take a bath, provide a large bowl of water several times per week for this activity, or try taking it in the shower with you.
Your bird’s giardia should not be contagious to humans or other types of pets in the home. It is contagious between birds, however. It is not thought to be transmitted through tap water (unless it is contaminated with bird droppings!) The giardia that infests humans is a separate organism, according to latest research, and is not contagious to birds.
Giardiasis is a very frustrating disease, as it may be difficult to cure, but can be controlled, by following your avian veterinarian’s advice, giving medication as directed and practicing excellent hygiene. Don’t forget how important a water bottle is to prevent reinfestation. Feather picking associated with giardia may resolve after treatment, however, it may return from time to time. This can be very aggravating, and other methods may need to be employed to control feather picking, in addition to treating the giardia itself.
While it’s true that some birds are able to “talk,” they aren’t able to tell their owners if they are sick or in pain. Birds are notoriously good at hiding signs of illness or injury because any signs of weakness can mean trouble in the wild if predators take note. Look for subtle hints to help clue you in if your bird is experiencing physical discomfort. These common signs mean that your bird is in pain or sick; contact your avian veterinarian as soon as possible if you note any of these behaviors.
Favoring Certain Body Parts
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If you notice that your bird is spending the majority of its time on one leg or that the bird seems to avoid using a certain wing or moving in a certain way, then you should suspect that something is causing the bird pain in these areas. While it is normal for birds to try to hide any signs of illness, birds who are experiencing pain are often unable to completely mask their discomfort.
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While we do our best to keep our feathered friends’ safety in mind, accidents and injuries can occur at any place and time. Pet birds can even hurt themselves within the safety of their own cages. If you notice that your bird seems to be squinting, it is smart to take it as a sign that your bird is in discomfort, and it may not necessarily be related to an eye injury.
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Birds are normally highly active, so any sign of lethargy, depression, or fatigue should be taken as potentially serious. Birds that are found lying on the bottom of the cage or who refuse to leave their nests or perches are often very sick and in need of immediate veterinary care.
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Tame, hand-fed pet birds can still be moody at times, and this is completely normal. However, excessive irritability or lashing out that seems out of character for your particular bird can be a sign that something is wrong. While it’s true that aggression and irritability go along with normal symptoms of hormonal behavior in parrots, it’s better to be safe than sorry if you aren’t 100 percent sure that hormones are the cause of the way your bird is acting.
Loss of Appetite
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Parrots and other birds have extremely high metabolisms, making it necessary for them to have adequate food intake at all times. It’s normal for some parrots and parakeets to be pickier than others, and certainly normal for any bird to have specific preferences when it comes to meals, but a bird that outright refuses to eat anything at all is usually a bird that is in dire need of veterinary attention. If you suspect that your bird isn’t eating as much food as it normally consumes, try offering a favorite treat such as millet or another type of fresh, bird-safe snack. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if your bird is interested in eating it or not.
Are you pulling your hair out due to your pet parrot’s feather pulling habits? There are many causes and cures for feather plucking in pet birds, and while a natural treatment for feather pulling is recommended, in order to fully resolve this behavioral problem it is essential to treat the cause.
Treat the Cause Not the Symptom
Feather pulling is a common behavioral problem among captive pet birds and can be brought on by a number of factors. Some common causes of feather plucking in parrots include incorrect diet, allergies, parasites, boredom, loneliness, stress and anxiety. While there are potions on the market, such as Bitter Beak, that have an unpleasant taste and discourage a bird from self-mutilating, and physical restraints such as collars and feather protectors that prevent a bird from pulling out its feathers, these only offer a temporary solution and are useful while getting to the root of the problem. In order to treat the symptom (feather pulling) one needs to ultimately treat the cause. For a pet owner to do this, he or she will first need to determine the underlying cause of the problem. Does this behavior stem from a physiological or health issue, such as malnutrition, allergies or external parasites? Or is it a result of a psychological issue such as boredom or loneliness?
Natural remedies are becoming an increasingly popular method for treating this condition. Herbal extracts such as aloe vera are used in treatments such as AviVera Aloe Spray , which moisturizes and conditions the bird’s skin, providing a soothing affect to the skin and thus especially useful for treating birds that show signs of skin irritation and allergy related discomfort.
Other homeopathic remedies include Bach Flower Essences, which are reported to have a calming effect on birds and are thus useful for treating birds suffering from stress induced feather plucking. Passion Flower, Kava Kava, and St John’s Wort all have a sedative and tranquilizing effect and are used extensively in the natural treatment of feather plucking. Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE), is a potent extract that has antimicrobial, antibiotic, and anti-parasitic properties, useful for treating feather plucking related to skin infections and parasites.
Natural powdered supplements, such as AviTech Featheriffic , offer a natural dietary supplement packed with the necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins essential for maintaining healthy plumage. Natural supplements administered together with a healthy balanced diet will improve feather condition and reduce feather pulling in parrots where dietary deficiencies are the cause. These supplements will also assist with feather regrowth following plucking from other causes.
Other Methods of Preventing Feather Plucking
Depending on what is triggering the feather plucking behavior, a pet owner can take a number of steps to both prevent and cure feather pulling in parrots without the use of medication and drugs. These include the following:
- Feed your parrot a healthy, balanced diet to ensure healthy feather development.
- Ensure that your parrot is housed in a healthy environment, free from toxic fumes such as tobacco smoke, and aerosol sprays.
- Ensure that the environmental conditions such as humidity, sunlight and room temperature where your bird is housed meet your parrots requirements for optimal health.
- Make sure that your bird gets at least eight hours of undisturbed sleep every night.
- Ensure that your parrot is kept stimulated by providing lots of toys to reduce boredom.
- Allow your parrot out of cage time for social interaction.
- If you have to leave you bird alone for long periods of time, ensure that you leave a radio or TV on, or consider getting him an avian companion to interact with in your absence.
Consider All Aspects of the Bird’s Actions
To alleviate feather pulling behavior in birds, it is essential to tackle the root of the feather plucking problem, rather than just treating the symptoms. By doing this you will solve the problem in the long term rather than just the short term. Various natural remedies can help you achieve this goal, but very often it requires nothing more than making a few adjustments to your parrots living conditions, or changing your birds diet by offering a healthy alternative to a staple diet of sunflower seeds.
December 5, 2016 By Aspen 1 Comment
Let me begin by congratulating you for having interest in caring for your parrot with natural remedies. Learn how to use essential oils for parrots so that you can boost their immunity, improve their health and keep them happy, without having to take frequent visits to the vet.
Can You Use Essential Oils for Parrots?
Parrot are exotic pets that people proudly love to own because of their beautiful plumage, the sounds they make and even the way they can learn to repeat what we say (they’re so smart!). Some also keep parrots for the status quo they bring of owning an exotic pet.
There are many types of parrots that are kept as pets including the African gray parrot, parakeets and macaws.
As with any pets, parrots may also suffer from health conditions such as flu, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, stress and others. This is where natural remedies such as essential oils can come in to help ease the symptoms faced. Essential oils can also be used for cage cleaning, air freshening and more.
Top 10 Essential Oils for Parrots
Here are the top 10 essential oils for parrots that you can use safely, as long as you use them carefully, by diluting the appropriately and never getting them into your parrots eyes or mucus membranes:
1. Cedarwood (where to get it)
2. Roman Chamomile (where to get it)
3. Frankincense (where to get it)
4. Eucalyptus (where to get it)
5. Lavender (where to get it)
6. Clary sage (where to get it)
7. Oregano (where to get it)
8. Lemon (where to get it)
9. Grapefruit (where to get it)
10. Geranium (where to get it)
Warning: Do not use essential oils that are not safe for parrots such as tea tree oil! Some essential oils are toxic to parrots.
How to Use Essential Oils for Parrots
Here are some of the best ways to use essential oils for parrots in your daily life:
Using a cold air diffuser, you can add the healing molecules of essential oils into the air so that they can be breathed in and absorbed by your parrots’ lungs and into the blood stream.
Diffusion can help calm your birds, reduce anxiety, decrease stress levels and help a new bird get accustomed to the new environment. Diffusion can also help destroy harmful bacteria, fungi and mold from lurking in the air.
Some essential oils to diffuse around parrots include geranium, lemon and lavender.
Please note: Never diffuse more than 3 – 4 drops of essential oil at a time. Never diffuse essential oils in a closed, non aerated room. Always diffuse oils in large, well-aerated room with windows and ventilators. Do not diffuse essential oils for more than 1 hour at a time.
Please never add essential oils to water based on the simple fact that essential oils are oils; and oils and water do not mix. The oil may float to the top and the concentrated compounds in that one drop may accidentally harm your parrot.
Instead use a tooth pick to moist parrot food. Some essential oils that may be used for such purposes are oregano oil. Dip the tooth pick once into the oregano oil and moist the bird food with it. Oregano boosts the immune system, contains regenerative anti-oxidants and heals respiratory ailments.
For birds, essential oils can only be applied on the feet, where there are no feathers. Essential oils, being so potent, have to be diluted before being applied on to birds’ feet. To dilute, mix 1 drop of essential oil in 1 teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil or olive oil. When you apply diluted essential oils to feathers it is dangerous because it can make the feathers oily, heavy and cause your parrot distress.
Some ways to use essential oils topically are when your parrot is stressed, on nail clipping days and on wing clipping days.
Also when you are expecting a lot of visitors, you can apply diluted essential oils topically.
Some great essential oils to use for this purpose are cedarwood, lavender roman chamomile and frankincense.
Misting is particularly helpful for freshening up your parrots’ room. You may want to freshen up the room if you have visitors in short notice, for example.
Instead of spraying conventional air fresheners which contain harmful toxic ingredients, use a DIY essential oil mist instead.
All you need is ¼ cup of water or flower hydrosol like lavender hydrosol or neroli hydrosol, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol and 10 drops of parrot-safe essential oil. Store in a fine mist spray bottle. Spritz up to 4 – 6 times, around the room but away from your parrot, especially your parrot’s eyes.
» Cage Cleaning
When cleaning your parrots cage, instead of using harsh chemical cleaners that can have toxic chemicals like SLS and synthetic fragrances, use an essential oil based cleaner instead.
You will need ¼ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of water, 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap and 10 drops of parrot-friendly essential oils like geranium or lavender. Pour the cleaning solution into a spray bottle.
Clean the surfaces of the cage by spraying on the cleaning solution and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Then wipe off with a microfiber cloth.
» Wound Care
If unfortunately your parrot has got a wound, not to worry; you can nurse it back to health by caring for the wound with essential oils.
The main thing to make sure with wounds is that they do not get infected and that they heal fast. By using an essential oil salve, you can help keep the wound moist so that it heals faster, to disinfect the wound and to fight off harmful bacteria that can cause infections.
To make a salve, you will need ¼ cup of shea butter and 4 drops of lavender oil. Store it in a 2 oz container and apply a small amount on the wound using a clean popsicle stick. Apply 2 times a day until the wound heals.
Do you use natural remedies and essential oils for parrots? Share your experience in the comments below.
All members of the parrot family can fall victim to internal or external parasites. Ticks, are easy to spot when you handle the bird. Others, like mites, might only be noticed when the host bird has started to show symptoms such as feather loss. With internal parasites, the accompanying symptoms are your only clue.
If birds, like this Meyer’s parrot, are kept outside they will need checking for parasites
An infestation of red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) causes birds great discomfort. The blood-sucking creatures are difficult to spot with the naked eye, at just 1mm max. They are also nocturnal, attacking your pets at night. If unchecked the mites will soon reach plague proportions, and the resulting blood loss may weaken your parrot’s immune system and lead to secondary infections.
One way of verifying the presence of the tiny mites is to put double-sided sticky tape in the nooks, crannies and corners of the aviary where the creatures gather in the daytime. The mites will get stuck on its surface. Once you know they’re there, you need to clean everything in the cage thoroughly with hot water and a scrubbing brush, and keep checking and cleaning over the next few days until they’ve gone.
Scaly Face Mites
Scaly face is caused by the tiny skin-burrowing mite Knemidokoptes pilae. It mainly affects the bird’s cere and beak, but can also cause problems in the legs and the vent area. The first sign of the problem will be prolonged scratching and rubbing. A crusty growth will eventually appear on the cere, and the beak will become misshapen as the mites burrow inside. Some facial feathers may be lost. If untreated, the affected body parts will drop off, leading to severe handicap.
You need to intervene long before the problem reaches this extreme stage. A visit to the vet is necessary, where the bird will be prescribed a suitable swab for treating the infestation.
An Orange-Winged Amazon: infested birds soon recover after treatment
Scaly Legs Mites
This is caused by Knemidokoptes mutans, a cousin of the scaly face mite. The bird’s legs swell and flake painfully. A medical paraffin is the usual treatment, but you should speak with a vet first before administering it.
These blood-sucking beasts can cause anaemia, and even death. They are often hard to spot, lurking beneath the feathers, but once they’ve fed they will become blood-filled sacks, the size of a large pinhead. The ticks’ favourite spots are on head, neck or between the nape and back.
They can be a problem if your aviary is close to woodland or scrubland frequented by deer. Ticks find a safe, cosy home in aviaries, and if you have an outbreak you might have to resort to a power hose wash-down, an insecticide, and new sand and gravel (if that’s what your aviary floor is made from). The parrots will have to be removed while the aviary cleaning takes place.
These feather-eating pests (Mallophaga) are uncommon in parrots, but aviary birds may catch them from wild birds. The lice grow up to 3mm long, but they can still conceal themselves easily in a bird’s feathers. The symptoms of infestation are violent scratching, frequent shaking of the feathers, and, eventually, a moth-eaten appearance, as the lice nibble away at their host’s coat.
A vet will be able to treat the lice with a contact chemical. Unfortunately, if one of your birds has them, the whole flock is probably infected.
The dark form of the Masked Lovebird
Cage birds can become infected with Ascaris roundworm. These creatures live and breed in animals’ guts, and their eggs are passed on via droppings. The adult worms grow up to 3.5cm long, and several of these in a bird’s gut can leach all the nutrients from its food, causing severe malnutrition. In extreme cases there can be paralysis, but more often the symptoms will be weight loss and listlessness. A vet will prescribe a medicine that flushes the worms out. The adult creatures will be visible in the bird’s droppings. The treatment will need repeating a few weeks later to catch the worms that survived as larvae in the parrot’s gut.
Roundworm is a particular problem in outdoor aviaries, where droppings fall to the earth – a perfect habitat for the worm eggs. Humans can be become infested with the worms too, so swift treatment via vet-supplied medication is important.
Mealy Amazon close up
Air Sac Mites
Parrots, along with many other birds, have an internal organ called an air sac, part of their respiratory system. This is sometimes invaded by a tiny creature called the air sac mite. It also colonises the bird’s trachea (the breathing pipe between the throat and the lungs). An infestation will affect the bird’s voice – his voice will sound croaky, his whistles will sound hoarse, and he will start to make a clicking, wheezing sound when he breathes. If left untreated the bird will eventually suffocate.
A vet will be able to treat the ill bird, along with the rest of your flock – the air sac mite can spread very quickly, and you have to assume that all the birds are infected. This may not be obvious, as it can take several weeks before the wheezing kicks in.
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For some people, noise is a major consideration when bringing a parrot into the home. If you live in an apartment, you don’t want to alienate your neighbors with a Moluccan cockatoo screaming his lungs out at 7 am. You also have to think about their ability to learn sounds. I’ve heard funny, and not-so-funny, stories about African greys who learned to cry like the newborn baby in the house, imitate the construction going on next door, and let out embarrassing sounds that an owner might be reluctant to explain to visitors.
Noise levels can really vary from parrot to parrot within a species, so these are general guidelines. If you are someone who relishes quiet and tends to get irritated by noise, stick with the 1s and 2s.
If volume is a consideration for you, this is basically a primer on the noise level for certain species of parrot. I’m rating the noise on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being not offensive at all, to 5 being pretty capable of infuriating your neighbors.
Amazons: have a tendency to call the flock early in the morning and in the late afternoon. I’m lucky because my amazon only does it in the afternoon when most people are at work or not likely to complain. She usually goes off for about an hour with various calls, screeching, laughing, and babbling. It can be pretty funny. Fortunately, the screaming is short-lived. However, if I lived in an apartment, I don’t think she’d have many fans.
Amazon noise level: 3-4
Cockatoos: probably have the worst reputation for real crazy screaming. They get bored, they screech. They need a pretty good amount of attention to be content. Here’s a video of some awesome Moluccan screeching.
Smaller cockatoos will obviously have smaller lungs, but they can still get going. Rose-breasted cockatoos are probably a lot easier on the ears than Umbrella Cockatoos.
Cockatoo noise level: 3-5, depending on species
Conures: Their really high-pitched shreeeeek makes a lot of species of conure hard to take by many people. The sun conures, cherry heads, jendays and similar species can deafen you with one loud screech in the ear. The smaller species, such as the greencheeks, are really relative quiet and are definitely better apartment birds. People are often attracted to the gorgeous orange and yellow sun conures, then end up hating themselves when they realize what that screech is like.
Conure noise level: 2, Pyrrhura species like the greencheek; 4-5, Aratinga species like sun conures, jendays, cherry heads (half moon considered quieter than sun conures though).
Senegal Parrots: If well-trained they can be pretty low on the noise scale along with their cousins the Meyer’s. My senegal developed a nasty habit of screeching as loud as he could when a friend walked by him. I had to work on that diligently, and he rarely does it now.
Senegal noise level: 2-4, depending on whether you let them develop bad habits.
Budgies/Parakeets: probably the least problematic in the noise department. Pleasant chirps and rarely a problem for neighbors.
Budgie noise level: 1
Lovebirds: Have one, no problem; get a couple of them or more, they can really get going. Compared to larger parrots, they really are pretty quiet, with brief periods of high noise activity in the morning and late afternoon.
Lovebird noise level: 2
Macaws: These are big birds, so they have a big voice. These are definitely not apartment birds. Generally, training can help with excessive vocalization. Often, noise problems are due to boredom, lack of exercise, and other issues that probably mean you shouldn’t have one in the first place.
A happy, well-adjusted macaw will normally vocalize to call the flock a couple of times a day, and that can be a bit much for some people.
Macaw noise level: 4-5
Cockatiels: Great apartment birds and really not a noise problem. They have pleasant sounds and rarely screech unless agitated or excited.
Cockatiel noise level: 1-2
Parrotlets: Really tiny amazons is how I would describe these dynamos. They have one of the most pleasant little chirps that is evocative of the rain forest. No noise issues really.
What is parrot fever?
Parrot fever is a rare infection caused by Chlamydia psittaci, a specific type of bacteria. The infection is also known as parrot disease and psittacosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has seen fewer than 10 human cases of parrot fever each year since 2010. However, many cases may be undiagnosed or unreported because the symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses.
As the name suggests, the disease is acquired from birds. Parrots are not the only possible culprits, however. Other wild and pet birds may also carry the infection and pass it to humans.
Parrot fever has been reported in countries including Argentina, Australia, and England. It may be found anywhere birds are kept as pets or in large confined populations (such as poultry farms). It’s more common in tropical environments.
In most cases, humans catch parrot fever from birds, including:
You can catch parrot fever by handling an infected bird or breathing in fine particles of its urine, feces, or other bodily excretions. You may also become infected if the bird bites you or “kisses” you by touching its beak to your mouth.
Catching the disease from an infected person is also possible, but very rare. This may occur when you inhale the fine droplets that are sprayed into the air when the sick person coughs.
Infected birds don’t necessarily show symptoms. They can also carry the bacteria for months before any outward signs appear. Just because a bird does not look or act sick does not mean that it’s not infected.
Infected birds may shiver or have difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include:
- discharge from the eyes or nose
- discolored droppings (urine or feces) in various shades of green
- weight loss
- lethargy and sleepiness
The sick bird may eat less or even stop eating completely.
In people, this disease typically resembles the flu or pneumonia. Symptoms usually begin approximately 10 days after exposure, but they may take as few as four days or as many as 19 days to show up.
Parrot fever has many of the symptoms that you might associate with the flu, including:
- fever and chills
- nausea and vomiting
- muscle and joint pain
- cough (typically dry)
Other possible symptoms, which may not seem flu-like, include chest pain, shortness of breath, and sensitivity to light.
In rare cases, the disease may cause inflammation of various internal organs. These include the brain, liver, and parts of the heart. It can also lead to decreased lung function and pneumonia.
Diseases that have symptoms similar to parrot fever include:
- brucellosis, a bacterial infection that is normally found in livestock but can be transmitted to humans
- tularemia, a rare disease (typically found in rabbits and rodents) that can be transmitted to humans via a tick bite, an infected fly, or contact with the infected small mammal itself
- infective endocarditis
- Q fever, another type of bacterial infection
Since parrot fever is such a rare condition, your doctor may not suspect this disease at first. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have recently been exposed to any potentially sick birds or if you work in a pet shop, veterinarian’s office, poultry-processing plant, or any other workplace that puts you in contact with birds.
To diagnose parrot fever, your doctor will generally perform several tests. Blood and sputum cultures can reveal whether you have the type of bacteria that causes this infection. A chest X-ray can show the pneumonia that is sometimes caused by the disease.
Your doctor will order an antibody titer test to see if you have antibodies to the bacteria that causes parrot fever. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces when it detects a foreign, harmful substance (antigen) such as bacteria or a parasite. Changes in the level of antibodies can indicate that you have been infected with the bacteria that causes parrot fever.
Parrot fever is treated with antibiotics. Tetracycline and doxycycline are two antibiotics that are effective against this disease. However, your doctor may sometimes choose to treat you with other types or classes of antibiotics. Very young children may be treated with azithromycin.
After diagnosis, antibiotic treatment typically continues for 10 to 14 days after the fever resolves.
Most people who are treated for parrot fever make a full recovery. However, recovery may be slow in people who are older, very young, or who have other health issues. Still, parrot fever rarely causes death in humans who have received proper treatment.
If you have pet birds, you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting parrot fever. These include cleaning your birdcages every day and taking good care of your birds to help prevent them from getting sick. Feed your birds properly and give them enough space so they’re not crowded together in the cage. If you have more than one cage, make sure the cages are far apart so that feces and other matter can’t be transferred between them.
The following are other steps you can take to prevent parrot fever.
- Buy pet birds from reputable pet shops.
- Wash your hands regularly after handling birds or bird supplies.
- Avoid touching a bird’s beak to your mouth or nose.
- Take birds that look sick to the veterinarian.
- Keep birds in a well-ventilated area.
If you acquire a new bird, have it looked at by a veterinarian. It’s good to then isolate the bird and monitor it for sickness for at least 30 days before you allow it to contact other birds.
If you see a sick or dead bird (whether it’s wild or a pet), you should not touch it. Contact your city’s animal control service to remove a dead wild bird. If it’s a pet, you should use caution when touching or moving it. Use gloves and a mask to avoid breathing in any bacteria, feather dust, or other debris. You should also disinfect the cage and all equipment the bird has used to prevent infection or reinfection.
Late in the year of 1929, Simon S. Martin of Baltimore purchased a parrot for his wife as a Christmas gift. He asked relatives to care for it until Christmas day. The parrot looked increasingly ill as time passed. By Christmas day, the bird was dead. Soon after, two relatives who cared for the birds became ill. Lillian, Martin’s wife, also became ill. Their doctor had recently read about parrot fever and suspected it was the cause. When the doctor asked the U.S. Public Health service for medication to treat it, he was told that there was no known treatment.
The case was featured in a newspaper, and the fear of parrot fever spread rapidly. The overall number of cases also increased dramatically. This is because doctors began to look for pet birds in the homes and businesses of people with symptoms resembling flu or pneumonia. The American media created a panic about this new mysterious illness, and inaccurate reports of the number of related fatalities only increased this panic. However, the heightened awareness of parrot fever also presented scientists with enough subjects to eventually isolate the germ and find a treatment for it.