Bird Pet Warning Signs
Birds are particularly talented at hiding illness. It is very important for bird owners to know what signs to look for and be able to recognize subtle changes in their pet so that illness may be addressed early in the disease process. The sooner illness is found; the more likely treatment will result in a positive outcome. If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment to have your bird seen immediately. DO NOT WAIT!
In the wild, a bird that behaves differently from the other birds in the flock, such as acting lethargic or not eating, will be the first to be preyed upon. Thus, birds go to great efforts to appear normal when they do not feel well.
- Is behaving abnormally-sitting on the floor constantly ruffling or wobbling on the perch?
- Is it lethargic?
- Has it gone off feed (check the cage floor for scraps or seeds)?
- Are its talons or nails overgrown?
- Are eyes dull-not bright and clear as normal?
- Are its feathers puffed and dull, or are it bare of feathers in certain spots?
- Are the wings out of proper position or asymmetrical?
- Is there discharge in the eye or nasal area?
- Is beak overgrown or asymmetrical?
- Is there an accumulation of droppings on feathers or feet?
- Is breathing heavily or with difficult-any wheezing, coughing or abnormal sneezing?
- Has developed any growths or enlargements?
Weight loss– One of the first signs of illness may be weight loss. This is not usually detectable by looking at your bird until weight loss is severe due to their feathering. The best way to detect early weight loss is to weigh your bird on a gram scale 2-3 times per week. This must be done at the same time of day, preferably before feeding. Frequent weighing will help you to determine what your bird’s normal weight range is and will allow you to recognize an abnormal drop.
Decreased appetite-This may be difficult to recognize because a sick bird may even go to the extent of pretending to eat. Look at food droppings in the bowl and cage. Have pellets been consumed or are they crumbled and scattered in the bowl and cage? Have seeds and nuts been shelled, or are they still present in the shell? If your bird will tolerate it, you may also palpate (feel) its crop to see if there is food present after it has been foraging in its food. It lies on the right side of the neck, just above the chest. When full, you should be able to feel pieces of food. Do not squeeze too hard to avoid regurgitation.
Regurgitation-Some birds may have behavioral regurgitation, which is not indicative of a disease process. If your bird suddenly begins regurgitating, or if there is a change in frequency or circumstances when this occurs, this may be associated with illness and you should bring your bird in for evaluation.
Fluffed feathers-Birds that do not feel well may sit on their perch with their feathers fluffed and partially closed eyes. If you disturb them or they notice you watching they may discontinue this behavior in an effort to appear normal.
Voice change-If your bird stops talking or making its normal vocalizations, this may be an indication of respiratory illness. If the quality of your bird’s vocalizations change this may also be significant. If you notice any of these things, minimize your bird’s activity and excitement to decrease oxygen demand until its appointment.
Change in appearance or quantity of droppings-You should observe your bird’s droppings daily. If they drastically change in color or volume, if you notice blood, undigested food or seeds, or if they develop a foul odor, these may be an indication of disease. Please bring a fresh sample of the abnormal droppings when you bring your bird in for its appointment. Please note that some colored pellets may color your bird’s droppings and is not abnormal.
It is not unusual for recently purchased or relocated birds to go off feed for as long as 24 hours. But when longer than this there is danger of starvation and force-feeding may be necessary. Check with your veterinarian.
Check with your veterinarian if you notice any of the preceding warning signs.