Parrots’ Health Issues (Diseases, Prevention & Treatment)

Parrots are generally robust birds that live long and happy lives. There are, however, many ailments that can befall them, most of them being like the common cold – briefly debilitating, but soon gone. The key is to get an accurate diagnosis as early as possible and act accordingly on an avian vet’s advice
  • Aspergillosis. It is aka. brooder pneumonia. The disease is caused by a fungus.
    • Symptoms: Infected chicks lose their appetites but have increased thirst, and they begin gasping or show convulsions.
    • Prevention. Keeping a clean cage, including all bedding, water drinkers and dishes, as well as improving ventilation in the area will help minimize this disease.
  • Avian Encephalomyelitis:
    • Symptoms: The symptoms of this disease include dull eyes, head and neck tremors, appetite loss and eventual paralysis.
    • Mode of Spread: It is spread through fecal contamination of food and water
    • Treatment. No cureis available and infected chicks will need to be killed and disposed of safely. A vaccine is available and can be effective to prevent the disease if it is administered properly
  • Avian Gastric Yeast (AGY) infection (Wasting Disease). Aka. macrorhabdiosis, or megabacteriosis, is highly contagious infection caused by a mixture of yeast infection and secondary bacterial infection. It affects budgies mainly. The first outward sign is weight loss, as AGY impedes digestion. There will be undigested food in the droppings, and birds may vomit food and mucus
  • Avian Pox:
    • Symptoms: White spots on skin; combs turn into scabby sores; white membrane and ulcers in mouth, on trachea; laying stops; all ages affected.
    • Mode of Spread: Viral disease; mosquitoes, other chickens with pox and contaminated surfaces.
    • Treatment: Supportive care, warm dry quarters, soft food; many birds with good care will survive.
    • Vaccine: It is available. Recovered birds are immune and do not carry the disease any further
  • Botulism:
    • Symptoms: Include remors quickly progressing to paralysis of body, including breathing; feathers pull out easily and death in a few hours.
    • Mode of Spread: Caused by a bacterial byproduct and by eating or drinking botulism-infected food or water
    • Treatment: Antitoxin available from vet but expensive. If found early try 1 teaspoon Epsom salts dissolved in 1 ounce warm water dripped into crop several times a day.
    • Vaccine: Not available. Ideally, locate and remove source, usually decaying carcass, meat near water, or insects that fed on the meat or the water the carcass is in.
  • Candida virus (Thrush), or Candidiasis. This is a yeast infection. It blooms in the parrot’s crop or digestive tract, and will not be transmitted to humans via birds unless you allow them to ‘kiss’. Infected birds will be listless and may have loose droppings. Candida is easily treatable
  • Colds, Sneezes. Parrots can catch colds (although the viruses are different to that which infects humans) , and the symptoms are similar – runny noses, swollen eyes, wheezing and sneezing
  • Infectious Bronchitis
    • Symptoms: Its symptoms are like of a cold-like illness such as gasping and other respiratory trouble, sneezing, watery eye or nasal discharge and loss of appetite.
    • Treatment: Raising the temperature in the brooder slightly (3-5 degrees) can help chicks better resist the infection, and offering a warm, moist mash will help them eat properly as they recover
  • Infectious Coryza:
    • Symptoms: Include Swollen heads; eyes swollen shut; sticky discharge from nose and eyes; moist area under wings; laying stops.
    • Mode of Spread: Being bacterial disease it transmits through carrier birds, contaminated surfaces, and drinking water
    • Treatment: Only prevention by destroying the sick birds as they remain carriers for life
    • Vaccine: Not available
  • Marek’s Disease. A type of cancer that infects chicks
    • Symptoms: Include lameness or paralysis as well as blindness or labored breathing.
    • Prevention. Improving ventilation in the coop and brooder can help prevent the disease, as can good cleanliness and the appropriate vaccination
  • Macaw Wasting Syndrome, or Proventricular Dilatation syndrome. This is a viral infection that causes stomach problems, Infected birds will have an increased appetite, but will weight loss and pass undigested food in their droppings. There may be vomiting too, ending in death if not treated. It is not restricted to macaws, but it cannot be transmitted to humans. Prevention via regular and thorough cage cleaning is the best approach, as an infected bird is unlikely to survive
  • Moniliasis (aka.Thrush):
    • Symptoms: Include white cheesy substance in crop; ruffled feathers; droopy looking; poor laying; white crusty vent area; inflamed vent area; increased appetite
    • Mode of Spread: Fungal disease; contracted through moldy feed and water and surfaces contaminated by infected birds. Often occurs after antibiotic treatment for other reasons.
    • Treatment: Yes. Ask a vet for Nystatin or other antifungal medication. Remove moldy feed and disinfect water containers.
    • Vaccine: Not available
  • Mycoplasmosis/CRD/Air Sac Disease:
    • Symptoms: include weakness and poor laying. Problems in breathing, coughing, sneezing, swollen infected joints, death
    • Mode of Spread: Mycoplasma disease; contracted through other birds (wild birds carry it); can transmit through egg to chick from infected hen.
    • Treatment: Antibiotics may save birds — see a vet.
    • Vaccine: Yes
  • Newcastle Disease (N.D.):
    • Symptoms: Include wheezing, breathing difficulty, nasal discharge, cloudy eyes, laying stops, paralysis of legs, wings, twisted heads, necks
    • Mode of Spread: Viral disease; highly contagious; contracted through infected chickens and wild birds and is also carried on shoes, clothes, and surfaces.
    • Treatment: None. Birds under 6 months usually die; older birds can recover. Recovered birds are not carriers.
    • Vaccine: It is available as name of Lasota etc. U.S.A  is working to eradicate the disease permanently
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: A lack of calcium will lead to Hypocalcaemia. This causes particular problems in female birds if they are laying eggs. An affected bird may become infertile. In order to absorb calcium, the parrot needs a good vitamin supply too – a healthy diet and mineral block should provide all the bird needs
  • Omphalitis (aka. Mushy Chick):
    • Symptoms: For Newly hatched chicks — enlarged, bluish, inflamed naval area, bad smell, drowsy, weak chicks
    • Mode of Spread: Bacterial infection of naval. Can spread from chick to chick on contaminated surfaces.
    • Treatment: Antibiotics and clean housing sometimes help, but most chicks will die. Remove healthy chicks immediately to clean quarters.
    • Vaccine: Not available. Staph and strep that cause this disease may infect humans
  • Parrot Fever: This is the worst thing that can strike your aviary. It spreads very quickly, and most of the affected birds will die. The organism responsible is Chlamydophia psittaci, In birds the disease is called ornithosis, and in parrots has the specific name psittacosis. One of the chief problems is that it can survive in the environment in soil or droppings, Keeping a clean cage or bird house is therefore essential, and the best preventative treatment. If infection strikes, disinfecting the environment is necessary – suitable treatments are readily available from vets. An infected bird will have infected droppings up to two weeks before showing signs of illness. Quarantine of any new bird is therefore vital, for at least 45 days
  • Parrot or Avian Cholera:
    • Symptoms: Usually birds over 4 months — greenish yellow diarrhea; breathing difficulty; swollen joints; darkened heads; often quick death. Does not infect humans.
    • Mode of Spread: Bacterial disease; wild birds, raccoons, opossums, rats, can carry. Also transmitted bird to bird and on contaminated soil, equipment, shoes, clothing contaminated water and food.
    • Treatment: Not available. Destroy all infected birds if recovery occurs the bird will be a carrier
    • Vaccine available: Yes
  • Polyoma. This virus is a major cause for concern in baby parrots, causing a high percentage of deaths. In older birds the virus is treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms in adult birds are intestinal – loose droppings and vomiting. Younger birds will have swollen stomachs, shakiness and feather problems. Polyoma is not transmittable to humans. Birds can be vaccinated against it – far and away the surest prevention
  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). This is an incurable condition caused by Psittacine circovirus. It attacks feathers and cause them to become stunted and deformed. Over time they will drop out. The disease is not life threatening in itself, but can cause the immune system to become depressed, making the bird susceptible to secondary infection. Cockatoos and cockatiels are particularly susceptible. Unfortunately there is still no cure
  • Pullorum:
    • Symptoms: Chicks are inactive, may have white diarrhea with pasted rear ends, breathing difficulty, or die without symptoms. Older birds — coughing, sneezing, poor laying.
    • Mode of Spread: Viral disease; contracted through carrier birds and contaminated surfaces, clothing, and shoes.
    • Treatment: Destroy all infected birds — birds that recover are carriers. Most chicks infected will die.
    • Vaccine: Not available but there is a blood test to find carriers
  • Rot Gut
    • Symptoms: This is a bacterial infection which causes rotten-smelling diarrhea and signs of listlessness or depression in infected chicks.
    • Mode of Spread. The infection spreads largely through overcrowding
    • Prevention. Keeping chicks in a properly-sized brooder will help reduce the risk of infection. Regular cleaning is essential to minimize the disease, and antibiotics administered in the water can help cure infected chicks
  • Sour Crop. The crop is part of a bird’s digestive system, and it can become infected by bacteria or candida yeasts. The symptoms will be a swollen crop area, regurgitation and listlessness
  • Medicines. There are many different types of drugs available that can be added to parrots feed to prevent and treat illnesses and parasites.
  • Antibiotics. Acceptable antibiotics strains which are recommended for  avian use include the following:
    • Bacitracin
    • Chlortetracycline
    • Lincomycin
    • Oxytetracycline
    • Penicillin
    • Tylosin
    • Virginiamycin
    • Ionophores
  • Coccidiostats
  • Coccidiosis is a common parasitic disease of parrots. It is the result of an infestation of coccidia in the intestines. A number of different drugs, called coccidiostats, are available for use in conventional diets to control coccidiosis in parrots. Coccidiostats that can be used in avian use include the following:
    • Amprolium Bambermycin
    • Decoquinate
    • Diclazuril
    • Halofuginone hydrobromide
    • Lasalocid
    • Monensin
    • Narasin
    • Nicarbazin
    • Salinomycin
    • Semduramicin
    • Sulfadimethoxine and ormetoprim
  • Medications for Controlling Intestinal Worms. Many types of parasitic worm that can infest parrots, including roundworm, tapeworm, cecal worms, and capillary worms. There are only a few products that can be added to conventional parrots feed to control internal parasites. No products are approved for use with egg-laying hens. Acceptable medicinal salts  for worm control include the following:
    • Albendazole
    • Hygromycin B
  • Medications for Controlling External Parasites. Many types of external parasite can infest a parrots flock. Typical pesticides (salt only) used for control of external parasites include:
    • Permethrin-based medications
    • Tetrachlorvinphos-based medications
    • Carbaryl-based
  • Medications for Controlling Beetles. Beetles are a common problem in parrots facilities. The adults are black with hardened front wings and antennae that start under a ridge near the eyes. The larvae are worm-like and slightly hardened for burrowing. Both the larvae and beetles eat decaying leaves, sticks, grass, dead insects, feces, and grains. Brand-name products that can be used to control darkling beetles include the following:
    • Credo
    • Tempo
  • Medications for Fly Control. Compounds that can be added to conventional feed to aid in fly control in parrots houses include the use of Cyromazine
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