Birds have a well-known ability to hide illness, and in the wild this skill may actually save a bird’s life if its illness is mild. That’s because when wild birds are ill, they are more likely to attract predators, so any sign of weakness can get them “thrown out” of their flock.
Because our pet birds are not domesticated, they rely on these same natural instincts. Unfortunately, while hiding sickness my help a wild bird survive, it will only endanger a pet bird’s life.
Along with a healthy diet — in other words, high-quality pellets accompanied by a wide variety of vegetables and fruits — the best way to ensure your bird’s health is to schedule regular check-ups with an avian veterinarian. An annual wellness check-up can uncover illnesses that are not physically apparent.
At our clinic, the annual exam includes:
- Complete physical evaluation
- Comprehensive blood screen to detect hidden abnormalities of the organs, diet problems, and even hidden infections
- Fecal float and smear to detect parasites
- Fecal gram stain to detect overgrowths of yeast or “bad” bacteria
Although wellness checks are extremely important, your pet bird relies on you to notice and identify behavior, appearance, and habit changes that may indicate underlying problems. If you are familiar with your bird’s behaviors when it is healthy, you will quickly notice problematic changes.
Some signs of illness in your pet bird may include:
- Puffed up feathers
- Sleeping more than normal
- Not eating or drinking
- Staying in one part of cage, or even at the bottom of cage
- Discharge or swelling from nostrils or eyes
- Sudden feather loss
- Scaly skin around eyes, beak, legs, or feet
- Gagging or stretching the neck
- Letting wings droop
- Not preening or taking care of feathers
- Not vocalizing like normal
- Weight loss
- Equilibrium problems
- Limping or not using one leg
- Change in quality or quantity of droppings
- Tail bobbing (rhythmic up and down motion of tail when resting)
- Bleeding (always an emergency)
When it comes to your bird’s health, even the slightest sign of illness is a huge red flag. Remember: Birds hide sickness well, so the first sign of illness can indicate serious issues.
Most illnessess can be treated with consistent care or even a simple change in husbandry. The important thing is to recognize the signs of illness, and get a sick bird to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.