Ailments, Diseases and Vermin
This is an examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death or the character and extent of changes produced by disease. For the budgerigar owner you would only go through the expense of an autopsy if you had significant numbers of birds dying from unknown causes.
It is unusual for budgies to have overgrown beaks. However, if their upper and lower beak doesn’t meet properly, the beak will not wear properly and can make eating difficult. Your vet can trim the beak if necessary.
Avian chlamydiosis is a bacterial disease caused by Chlamydia psittaci, which is carried commonly by birds. Humans can catch the disease by breathing in dust containing dried saliva, feathers, mucous and droppings from infected birds. Infection in humans is called psittacosis and causes flu like symptoms.
Bird treatment is usually with oral doxycycline antibiotic. Since the doxycycline only kills the Chlamydia organisms when they are active and dividing, and they may become dormant, or cease being active for a period, the drug must be used for a minimum of 45 days.
Feather cysts are common in budgerigars and although they can appear anywhere, they are more commonly associated with the primary feathers on the wings.
They occur when a growing feather is unable to grow through its natural opening in the skin and curls up within the feather follicle. Feather cysts appear visibly as oval or elongated swellings involving one or more follicles.
The cyst can become very large and may rupture, which can cause pain and blood loss for the bird.
Birds can get diarrhea for several reasons. These include stress, a poor diet, intestinal parasites or an infection. A change in diet can cause diarrhea as well and it can also be a sign of kidney, liver or pancreatic diseases.
Some young pet birds may get diarrhea when they are moved to their new home – this will be caused by stress.
The cloaca is the part of the bird’s body which stores urates, feces, urine and eggs. The vent or cloacal lips are used to control the passage and frequency of droppings etc. In a healthy budgerigar, the feathers around the vent will be dry and the vent itself clean.
A dirty, wet or clagged vent is not a good sign. Suggest you stop feeding anything other than seed and seek veterinary advice.
Make sure your bird is not placed in a draft is often advised, but the draft itself is not the real issue. In the wild, birds are very used to getting natural drafts and it is not these that can adversely affect your budgie. The issue is that your pet is unable to escape the draft to shelter and keep warm and this can cause health issues including stress.
Enteritis is the inflammation of the intestine. This has several causes but mainly are bacterial infections. The most common is Escherichia coli (sometimes referred to as E.coli). Occasional cases are due to other bacteria such as Salmonella and Clostridia; in a book a further 12 different bacterial infections with which can cause diarrhea were listed. If a bacterial cause is suspected or proven, antibiotics are usually prescribed
Birds can contract a bacterial infection in the membrane that surrounds the eyes. They will become swollen and irritated, and the infection can spread to other parts of the eye and upper respiratory system. Conjunctivitis is often a sign of another health problem.
French Moult is a peculiar virus disease infecting budgerigars under three weeks of age. It appears that the virus, Polyomavirus, by itself is relatively harmless and the apparent random nature of French Moult in the breeding cages is explained more by the immune response of the individual birds to the virus rather than the virus being particularly nasty.
French Moult causes the loss of primary feathers (wing and tail) while the young are still in the nest box. Many recover and go on to regrow their lost feathers.
Going light is the term used for weight loss in birds. There are several causes for this although coccidiosis is often named as the cause. It is unlikely that a pet bird will contract coccidiosis as it is usually spread through eating the feces from other infected birds.
Moulting is normal for budgies, and they lose feathers to make room for new ones to grow. The most obvious sign your parakeet is molting is that it looks ragged, with many dropped feathers littering the bottom of the cage.
In the wild, budgerigars will have an annual moult but with the central heating within our homes it is not unusual for budgies to continually lose a few feathers – this is known as a trickle moult.
Having a medicine chest for a pet budgie is not a normal requirement. However, budgie breeders may keep a few essentials to hand in their breeding rooms such as supplements including vitamins and minerals.
The fact that we feed our bird extensively on a seed diet could attract rodents and vermin in and around our birdrooms. At worst rats can kill your birds and both mice and rats will cause havoc in the breeding cage.
You will be aware of them by longish brown pelleted droppings, and you must take action at once or the problem will just get worse. The best way to do this is to call in pest control specialists, as they will have the expertise to deal with them without putting your birds at risk.
Mice can quickly become a serious problem, as where there is food freely available, they will breed and multiply rapidly. They will destroy your aviary in no time, as they can get in-between the lining materials in the walls and nest there. If they find a place in the floor to nest, it will be very difficult to get rid of them with poison or traps.
Mites are a very small insect that ingest blood, skin and/or feather material from the bird. For budgerigars there are three main culprits. They are scaly face mites that live within the skin, red mites that bite the bird through the skin and live on the feathers and air sac mites that live within the respiratory system.
Mites are not usually an issue for pet birds.
It is generally accepted that each budgerigar requires a minimum of 8 inches of perch space each. Overcrowding presents a stressful situation for our birds and fighting is likely to occur. Birds must fight for the right to use perches. If there are not sufficient perches, they end up sleeping on the wire which is not a good situation. Additional stress is caused because of pressure on the feeding dishes and with the extra droppings, this can cause sickness as bacteria multiplies.
In the wild, predators are on the lookout for the weakest as they make for an easy meal. To help overcome this, birds hide the signs of illness so that they look well even when they are quite sick. A sick budgie will go downhill very quickly and so if you spot any of the following, speak to your vet straight away:
- Watery droppings
- Fluffed up feathers
- Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
- Roosting during the day with both feet on the perch
- Laboured breathing and a pumping tail
- Loss of appetite
- Drinking much more or less than normal
- Unusual swellings
- Limping or holding one leg up
- Unusual bleeding
- Watery eyes or nostrils
However, during the year your bird will discard feathers (called moulting) and this will depend on temperatures, heating or lack of it and other factors. Some birds may seem to be in a permanent moult while for others this may just happen once a year. As long as the bird looks healthy there is nothing to worry about if the bird is moulting.
Some budgies suffer from overgrown nails. Your vet can trim them for you. If your budgie needs a regular nail trim, your vet can show you how to do it safely. It may be that the breeder you purchased your budgie from will provide this service – please just ask.
Trichomoniasis is a disease caused by a microscopic protozoa called trichomonas and they are usually found in the crop, mouth, pharynx or trachea and sometimes in the lungs and liver. It is transmitted by direct mouth to mouth contact between two birds or in contaminated water and food and is most common in budgerigars as well as pigeons.
The clinical signs of Trichomoniasis are:
- Vomiting and regurgitation
- Weight loss with increased appetite – birds often crush and powder the seed as they are unable to swallow.
- White plaques and/or cheesy material in the crop and trachea
- Being “fluffed up”
- Green diarrhoea
- Laboured breathing
- Poor growth in young birds
Birds become severely emaciated and even if treated may still die. To make matters worse, some birds can be carriers and show no signs even after several years of infection.
Birds can be treated with Ronidazole (Ronnivet-S) in the water for seven days. It has a wide safety margin. The cage should also be cleaned thoroughly daily and then disinfected. Quarantine all new birds is best practice.
Breeders often routinely treat against Trichomoniasis.
An undershot beak is where the bottom part of the beak grows over the upper part of the beak.
A veterinarian (vet), also known as a veterinary surgeon or veterinary physician, is a medical professional who practices veterinary medicine by treating diseases, disorders, and injuries in non-human animals.
See Enteritis / Dirty Vent
It is almost unheard of for pet budgerigars to get worms. In the aviary, under some conditions, it is possible, and they can become infected with Ascaris roundworm. These creatures live and breed in animals’ guts, and their eggs are passed on via droppings. The adult worms can grow 3.5cm long, which in a budgie is a major problem. Once confirmed, a vet will prescribe a suitable wormer.