A common condition in pet birds fed seed only diets is hypovitaminosis. Birds will often feed selectively (pick out and eat only the seeds they like to eat rather than those that are good for them). This can lead to pets not eating enough Vitamin A, an important vitamin that’s necessary for the growth and repair of body tissue and the function of sight and hearing. Symptoms range from white plaque in the mouth, nasal and eye discharge, poor feather colour and depression to loss of appetite, diarrhoea and sneezing. If you think your bird has hypovitaminosis, take him to the vet immediately. It’s also advisable to speak to your vet, pet shop or breeder about diet recommendations to help prevent hypovitaminosis.
Red Mites (Dermanyssus gallinae)
Red mites, also known as feather mites, are only active at night. A bird with an infestation will be restless at night and sleep during the day, when the mites hide in crevices in the cage, equipment and the surrounding area. Treatment for red mites involves the cage and its environment and not the bird.
Air Sac Mites (Sternostoma tracheacolum)
Air sac mites affect the whole of the respiratory system. Mild infections may not show any symptoms, but heavy infestation will result in sneezing, tail bobbing (a bird’s way of catching their breath) and rasping, open mouthed breathing.
Scaly Face / Leg Mites (Cnemidocoptes pilae)
Leg mites have different symptoms in different birds. In the budgie, symptoms include white porous crusts on the mouth, beak and eyelids. Other birds will suffer from a long smooth crust on the surfaces of their toes.
If you think your bird is suffering from mite infestation, take him to the vet immediately.
Polytetrafluoroethlyene (PTFE) poisoning
Polytetrafluoroethlyene (PTFE) poisoning is more commonly known as Teflon poisoning, which occurs when non-stick cookware overheats and releases a gas toxic to birds. This causes edematous pneumonia and is extremely serious. If you think your bird has been exposed, then place them in the fresh air immediately and consult your vet.
Chocolate poisoning is caused by excessive intake of methylxanthine alkaloids. At first the symptoms will be vomiting and diarrhoea with the central nervous system becoming affected causing seizures.
Salt poisoning is caused by too much salt in your bird’s diet. This can lead to the brain swelling and in some cases can be fatal.
Heavy metal poisoning
Heavy metal poisoning can show up in a variety of guises depending on which metal has poisoned the bird. Common symptoms are diarrhoea, a stumbling or drunk appearance, paralysis, blindness, vomiting, depression, convulsions and seizures. It is important to make sure that your home is bird proof and that your bird is not allowed near anything that could poison him.
Not only can smoking near your bird irritate their respiratory system, but if they manage to get hold of your cigarettes they can be poisoned by eating them as nicotine is toxic.
If you think your bird has been poisoned, take him to the vet immediately.
Round worms (Ascaris spp.)
Round worms are common in birds kept in aviaries and cages. Infected birds will shed eggs in their droppings and birds picking food up off the floor will ingest these eggs. A roundworm infection will cause emaciation and occasional diarrhoea. You may even be able to feel the swollen loops of the intestine through their skin. A mild infection can cause problems due to the worms releasing substances toxic to the bird and a heavy infestation can lead to further problems with the intestine.
Tapeworms (Raillientina spp.)
A tapeworm infestation can lead to weight loss because of the nutrients the parasite steals from its host’s food. A heavy infestation can lead to intestinal blockages and death.
Gape worms (Syngamus trachea)
Gape worms are extremely rare in caged birds. They are a small redworms that attach themselves to the trachea. You will notice that your bird is gaping and gasping for breath, hence the name! Consult your vet immediately if you think your bird has worms.