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sick bird symptoms

How can I tell if my bird is sick?

Multiple factors can contribute to illness or poor health in a bird. These can include an improper diet, poor husbandry or hygiene, environmental stressors, genetics, and exposure to contagions, toxins, and irritants. It’s important for a bird owner to know their bird and to be able to recognize even subtle signs that something may be abnormal in their pet.

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What are some of the symptoms to look for in a sick bird?

Some of the general things to look for are abnormalities in physical appearance and behavior. The list is long but can include some of the following, individually or in combination:

Physical changes:

  • Poor or rough-looking feathers
  • Prolonged molt
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Drooping wings
  • Flaky skin
  • Weakness
  • Head tilt
  • Closed eyes
  • Ocular or nasal discharge
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Labored breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Fecal staining around the vent
  • Vomiting
  • Limping
  • Swollen joints or feet
  • Lumps, bumps, or swellings

Behavioral changes:

  • Perching or sitting on the cage floor
  • Tucking head
  • Tail bobbing
  • Depression
  • Change in vocalization or no vocalizations
  • Decreased appetite
  • Agitation
  • Abnormal aggression or biting
  • Increased regurgitation (a normal behavior as opposed to vomiting)

When should I contact a vet?

In some cases, you may see changes in your bird’s environment before you see a problem in your bird. For example, this could include a change in the urates or the feces (different or abnormal color, texture, or consistency), more food left behind than usual, or food on the sides of the caging indicating vomiting. At this point, it’s important to evaluate your bird for any physical or behavioral differences.

Any abnormality in physical appearance or behavior could be an indication your bird is incubating a clinical illness and, as is true for all pets, it’s important to address any medical issues as soon as possible. Like many species with a built-in sense of survival and self-preservation, birds excel at hiding signs of sickness. This can often mean, by the time signs are evident, the disease or clinical illness has progressed to a more critical point where the bird can no longer compensate or hide the symptoms of illness.

If you think your bird might be sick or unwell, contact your avian vet. Until you can get them into the vet, you can keep your bird in a quiet, warm, area, and offer favored food items if they have a decreased appetite.

Signs of clinical illness in your bird can be very general and reflect one or more disease processes. An exam and supporting diagnostics are necessary to determine what the underlying cause(s) is so the appropriate treatment protocol can be initiated. It’s important to remember that your vet can also be a valuable resource regarding the care and welfare of your bird.

Read more:

How to Provide an Enriched Environment for Your Bird

Feather Picking and Self-Mutilating Behaviors

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