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Recognizing Diseases in Caged Birds | Bird Articles | PetPeoplesPlace.com

Recognizing Diseases in Caged Birds

Sandra Ferguson
by Sandra Ferguson
View Biography
 

Most disease in caged birds is directly or indirectly related to malnutrition and stress. Malnutrition most often stems from what the bird eats, rather than how much it eats. Most caged birds are offered enough food, but they do not receive enough of the proper foods and in the proper proportions. Stress results from any condition that compromises a bird's state of well-being. Examples include poor husbandry, inadequate diet, rapid temperature changes, and trauma.

All owners of caged birds must understand that birds tend to 'hide" signs of illness. Birds can compensate for serious internal disease in such a way that they appear healthy externally. It is theorized that evolution has 'taught' birds to hide signs of illness to avoid being harassed and possibly killed by other birds in the same flock.

Because of this disease-masking tendency, by the time a bird owner recognizes illness in a pet bird, the bird may have been sick for 1-2 weeks. Therefore, one cannot afford to take a "wait and see" approach and hope the bird improves. Be observant and act promptly. Learn to look for subtle signs of illness, and take special note of changes in the routine and habits of your pet bird. Seek veterinary assistance promptly if you suspect illness.

Following is a list of signs of illness easily recognizable by the concerned bird owner. Alone or in combination, they signify potential illness in your bird.

Signs of Illness

  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Change in clarity or color of the eyes
  • Closing of the eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Discharge from the nostrils
  • Obstructed nostrils
  • Soiling feathers on head or around nostrils
  • Sneezing
  • Inability to manipulate food within the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or not eating at all
  • Fluffed-up feathers
  • Inactivity
  • Droopy wings
  • Decreased preening and feather maintenance
  • Break in the bird's routine
  • Changed or no vocalization (may be serious)
  • Weight loss
  • Equilibrium problems (very serious!)
  • Inability to perch (bird on cage bottom)
  • Limping or not bearing weight on 1 leg
  • Swollen feet or joints
  • Change in quality or quantity of droppings
  • Open-mouthed breathing when at rest (very serious!)
  • Tail pumping (rhythmic back and forth motion of the tail when at rest)
  • Lumps or masses anywhere on the body
  • Bleeding (always an emergency situation, regard-less of the origin)

If you suspect illness in your bird, do not delay in making an appointment with your veterinarian. Either transport your bird to the doctor's office within its cage or use some other suitable container (smaller cage, pet carrier, box). Never visit the veterinarian with your bird perched on your shoulder. This method does not provide enough protection for your pet. Whatever container you choose should be covered to help minimize the stress to your sick bird during its visit. If you take your bird the veterinarian in its own cage, do not clean it first. The material you discard could represent valuable information to the veterinarian.

After a sick bird has been initially treated by a veterinarian, home care is very important. Sick birds must be encouraged to eat and must be kept warm. Illness can cause significant weight loss in a matter of days, especially if the bird stops eating. If this happens, the patient must be hospitalized. However, even a sick bird with a "healthy appetite" can lose substantial weight because of the energy drain caused by the illness.

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