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Don't wait until it is too late to understand avian illnesses. Be prepared and know what to do in an emergency. An essential resource for evaluating if your bird is sick, being prepared for avian first aid, understanding avian veterinarians and veterinary medicine. Find out about the five most common avian diseases, the top ten bird killers, and what the experts are saying about illnesses, diseases, conditions, and symptoms from A to Z.


Avian Illnesses   Avian Illnesses
  1.   Evaluating If Your Bird is Sick

  2.   Avian First Aid

  3.   Avian Veterinarians (see Veterinary Medicine )

  4.   Avian Veterinary Medicine (see Veterinary Medicine )

  5.   Illnesses / Diseases / Conditions and Symptoms   (in alphabetical order)


    1.   Air Sac Mites

    2.   Allergies

    3.   Amazon Foot Necrosis

    4.   Amazon Tracheitis

    5.   Aspergillosis

    6.   Atherosclerosis

    7.   Avian Influenza (Flu)

    8.   Avian Gastric Yeast

    9.   Baby and Juvenile Bird Diseases

    10.   Bacterial Infections

    11.   Breathing Difficulty (see also Panting, Hyperthermia )

    12.   Bumblefoot

    13.   Bump, Growth, Lump (see - Cancer, Papillomas / Papillomavirus, Neoplasia )

    14.   Calcium Metabolism Disorders

    15.   Cancer (see also - Bump, Growth, Lump, Neoplasia )

    16.   Candidiasis (see - Crop Problems )

    17.   Cataracts

        Acute vs. gradual onset. Gradual onset cataracts are common in older birds of all species, "older" being relative to the species (usually 40's in macaws, 30's in Amazons, etc.) Much like dogs, gradual onset allows adaptation and the owner may not be aware of the development of the cataracts. However, acute onset can mimic a CNS disease, seizure, sudden behavioral changes such as aggression, anorexia, and other clinical presentations. Some birds do not adapt to the rapid development of cataracts and will virtually starve to death, unwilling or unable to resume eating and drinking. Cataract surgery is performed successfully by many veterinary ophthalmologists who equipped with the proper medications for dilation of the striated musculature of the ciliary body in birds. - Teresa L. Lightfoot D.V.M., Diplomate ABVP - Avian


    18.  Chlamydiosis / Psittacosis

    19.   Cloacal Problems

    20.   Cloacal Prolapse

    21.   Congenital Chondrodysplastic Dwarfism

    22.   Coprophagy   (medical term for eating excrement)

    23.   Coughing

    24.   Crop Problems (see - Slow Crop )
        Crop Problems - BirdChannel.com
        Paper Ingestion - BirdChannel.com
        Crop Burn - BirdChannel.com
        Candidiasis - BirdChannel.com

        Stretched Crop - A stretched crop is a condition seen in handfeeding baby parrots. It is caused by trying to give a baby too much food in one feed, and, thereby, overfilling and stretching the muscles of the crop. The crop skin and muscles have a natural elasticity that assist in the digestion of food and retain their shape as the food is digested. When empty, the crop should be flat. If the crop is overfilled to the point of stretching the skin and muscles, it will hang onto the breastbone, and a portion of the food will remain in the part of the crop that is overlapping onto the breastbone. It will appear very much like a deflated balloon. If left uncorrected, the food remaining in the crop will develop bacteria, which will slow the digestive process even more, causing weight loss and possibly eventual death.
        If your baby's crop should become stretched, you can help correct the problem by making a "crop bra" for him. The illustration shows a picture of a crop bra. Depending on the size of the baby, it may be made with a wide gauze bandage, or a strip of towel or rag. The wide area in the middle should be long and wide enough to support his crop, the strips should be long enough too be fastened around him. The upper strips should be fastened, or tied, around the back of his neck, above his wings, and the lower strips should be under his wings and around his back.
        The crop bra should remain on the baby until his crop muscles are strong enough to empty his crop. Until then, the crop should be emptied completely, and cleaned with warm water, every 24 hours.


    25.   Cystic Ova

    26.   Depression

    27.   Dermatophytosis (fungal infection of the skin)

    28.   Diabetes

    29.   Diet (see Vitamin A Deficiency, Malnutrition, Eating & Appetite Issues, Genetic and Nutritional Conditions, Fatty Liver Disease )

    30.   Droppings (see Care)

    31.   Eating & Appetite Issues

    32.   Egg Binding (Dystocia) / Excessive Egg Laying (see also - Sexual/Breeding Behaviors in Parrots & The "EGG")

      1.   Egg Binding (Dystocia)

      2.   Egg Production

      3.   Triggers and Hormonal Changes

      4.   Chronic Egg-Laying

      5.   Lupron

    33.   Egg Yolk Peritonitis

    34.   Exotic Newcastle Disease (END)

    35.   Fatty Liver Disease / Hepatic Lipidosis

    36.   Feather Cysts (see - Skin & Feather Disorders )

    37.   Feather Picking/Feather Plucking (see Behavior )

    38.   Female Reproductive Anatomic Abnormalities (see Female Sexual/Breeding Behavior )

    39.   Fungal Infections

    40.   Genetic and Nutritional Conditions

    41.   Geriatrics

    42.   Giardia

    43.   Goiter (Thyroid Hyperplasia or Dysplasia)

    44.   Gout

    45.   Haemosporozoan (blood parasite)

    46.   Heavy Metal Poisoning (see Care )

    47.   Hemochromotosis (Iron Storage Disease)

    48.   Hepatic Lipidosis / Fatty Liver Disease

    49.   Hiccup

    50.   Hyperthermia - Unusually high body temperature

    51.   Hypocalcemia / Calcium Metabolic Disorders (low calcium)

    52.   Hypovitaminosis A / Vitamin A Deficiency

    53.   Infectious Diseases

    54.   Lymphoma

    55.   Malnutrition (see also Vitamin A Deficiency )

    56.   Masturbating (see also Sexual/Breeding Behaviors in Parrots )

    57.   Metabolic Bone Disease - Metabolic bone diseases such as osteomalacia (thinning of cortices and demineralization of bone) - Michael Jones, DVM, DABVP

    58.   Metritis

    59.   Microsporidiosis

    60.   Mites & Lice

    61.   Nasal Discharge

    62.   Neoplasia (see also - Bump, Growth, Lump, Cancer )

    63.   Nutritional Diseases

    64.   Orthopedics

    65.   Osteomalacia  - a form of metabolic bone disease which consists of thinning of cortices and demineralization of bone - Michael Jones, DVM, DABVP


    66.   Ovarian Neoplasia (see neoplasia )

    67.   Oviduct Impaction

    68.   Pacheco's

    69.   Panting (see also Hyperthermia )

    70.  Papillomas / Papillomavirus (see - Bump, Growth, Lump )

    71.  Pasturella
        Pasturella - Gillian Willis Vancouver, B.C. willis@dpic.bc.ca

    72.   Pediatrics

    73.   Peritonitis (see Egg Yolk Peritonitis )

    74.   Pigeon Circovirus

    75.   Polyoma

    76.   Polyostotic Hyperostosis
        The disease is characterized by numerous bony deposits especially affecting the spine, sternum and skull. Quote Source - Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.
        Impaired liver function may be the cause of overly calcified bones (polyostotic hyperostosis) in hens. The liver is responsible for inactivating estrogen. Excess circulating estrogen creates this chronic bone problem. - The Reproductive Female (PDF file) - Susan Horton, DVM

    77.   Poxvirus
        Poxvirus - BirdChannel.com
        Avian Pox in Lories: A Case Report - Helga Gerlach, Antonio J. Ramis, Frank Enders, Miguel Casares, and Uwe Truyen

    78.   Prolapse (see Cloacal Prolapse )

    79.   Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)

    80.   Pruritis

    81.   Pseudomonas

    82.   Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

    83.   Psittacosis

    84.   Pulmonary Hypersensitivity Syndrome

    85.   Regurgitation

    86.   Respiratory Problems

    87.   Rickets

        Rickets (inadequate calcification of osteoid in growing birds) are the result of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3 deficiencies or an improper calcium:phosphorus in the diet.- Michael Jones, DVM, DABVP


        Osteomalacia and Rickets - Michael Jones, DVM, DABVP

    88.   Ruptured Air Sac

        When this happens, it can take from a few days to a couple of weeks for the air sac to heal, depending on the age of the bird. For this baby, it was a matter of about 3 days. Until the air sac heals, the air must be allowed to escape from under the skin so that the crop and other organs can function normally. To do this, an incision must be make in the skin, and a tube inserted and secured to allow drainage of the air. The tube is necessary because the opening in the skin will begin to heal in a matter of a couple of hours requiring it to be reopened. The picture to the right shows the baby with a tube insert into the slit made for drainage(indicated with an arrow). The tube is taped to hold it in place. In this picture, the baby's crop has been filled with food, but as you can see the skin is no longer transparent. After the air sac was healed (about 3 days), the tube was removed, and the incision healed. After less than a week, the scab from the incision fell off without even leaving a scar. The baby recovered beautifully, and very quickly caught up to his clutchmates in size and development.

        In an older bird, the drainage would have to be done in a way that the bird could not remove it. It may be necessary to make two incisions in order to make a loop of either string or a tube that is folded and taped on the ends to keep the drainage holes open. This procedure, whether for a baby or an older bird, should be done by an avian vet to reduce risk of complications and infection.


    89.   Salpingitis

    90.   Sarcocystosis

    91.   Scissors Beak / Crooked Beak / Lateral Beak Deviation

    92.   Seizures

    93.   Skin & Feather Disorders (see - Feather Cysts )

    94.   Slipped Tendon

        This problem most often develops in very young babies that are still growing and developing. The tendon that normally fits into the groove at the heal of the foot slips to the side of the heal. As the tendon contracts it will cause the foot to turn to the side and the toes to clench. It will look as though the baby is walking on the side of his foot.

        At less than 2 weeks, I have been able to correct this problem by securing the baby's feet on a piece of tape, much like standing him on a mouse sticky trap. As he gets a little older, the tendon may be surgically pinned in the correct position until it enlarges the groove in the heal to retain placement on its own. If the condition is not recognized early enough in the babies development, the tendon may shorten so that the baby's foot is permanently turned to the side. If the condition is corrected, there will be no residual side effects, and no evidence that the problem ever existed.


    95.   Slow Crop (see - Sour Crop, Crop Problems )

    96.   Sneezing

    97.   Sour Crop (see - Slow Crop, Crop Problems )

    98.   Splay or Spraddle Leg
        Splay or Spraddle Leg - BirdChannel.com
        Fixing Splay Legs in Baby Birds - ParrotParrot.com
        Correcting Spraddle or Splay Leg in Birds - Ron Hines DVM PhD
        Splayed Leg - Wanda Barras

        Limb Deformities - Baby birds may develop spraddle or splay leg. This may occur as a result of parents sitting too tightly on the babies, from inadequate substrate in the nestbox or brooder or as a result of genetic or nutritional problems. As soon as a problem is discovered, correction should be attempted. Small, heavy bodied babies, such as rose-breasted cockatoos, tend to develop spraddle leg, and should be placed in a small, deep container that will keep the legs underneath the baby. Hobbles, foam saddles, braces, splints and other methods of support may be employed to correct splay legs. Placing the baby in a deep cup with a rough surface that allows a foot hold is important. In some cases, the digital flexor tendons may be displaced, and correction of these cases is more challenging. Osteotomies may be used in some cases to correct angular bone deformities. (www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/orthopedic.html) - Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, Dipl. ABVP


    99.   Split Sternum

        Split Sternum is a term used to describe the splitting of the skin on the breast by the breastbone. This injury is normally caused when a parrot falls from a t-stand or cage to a hard floor, such a ceramic tile. A clipped parrot, especially one that has been severely clipped, cannot break a fall with lift from his wings. If he falls from the height of a cage top or a t-stand to a hard floor, and hits his breastbone, it may sever the skin on his chest causing it to spit open. If this happens, the skin on the bird's chest must be sutured. Your parrot should be immediately taken to an avian vet.

        To prevent this injury, never allow a clipped, or very young parrot to be on a cage top or t-stand that is on a hard surfaced floor.


    100.   Strokes

        Parrots can have strokes just like any other species of animal. Sadly my board certified avian vet, Dr. Zantop passed away before he could see this parrot who had a stroke.

        A stroke is a condition in which the brain cells suddenly die because of a lack of oxygen. This can be caused by an obstruction in the blood flow, or the rupture of an artery that feeds the brain. The patient may suddenly lose the ability to speak, there may be memory problems, or one side of the body can become paralyzed.

        The two main types of stroke include ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.?Ischemic stroke accounts for about three-quarters of all strokes and occurs when a blood clot, or thrombus, forms that blocks blood flow to part of the brain. If a blood clot forms somewhere in the body and breaks off to become free-floating, it is called an embolus. This wandering clot may be carried through the bloodstream to the brain where it can cause ischemic stroke.

        ?A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel on the brain's surface ruptures and fills the space between the brain and skull with blood (subarachnoid hemorrhage) or when a defective artery in the brain bursts and fills the surrounding tissue with blood (cerebral hemorrhage). Both types of stroke result in a lack of blood flow to the brain and a buildup of blood that puts too much pressure on the brain.

        The outcome after a stroke depends on where the stroke occurs and how much of the brain is affected. Smaller strokes may result in minor problems, such as weakness in an arm or leg. Larger strokes may lead to paralysis or death.

        I've created an online diary of my parrot's progression after his stroke and it can be viewed on his facebook page


    101.   Tail Bobbing

    102.   Thyroid

    103.   Thyroid Enlargement / Hyperplasia (see Goiter )

    104.   Toxic Exposure (Toxins)

        Toxic conditions in birds are always a concern in the captive environment. Numerous reports of toxic reactions to aerosolized substances in addition to the well-known over-heated non-stick cookware have been documented. African Gray sp. seem to be especially susceptible to some aerosols. (see Toxins )

        Zinc toxicity has become a prevalent problem in aviary medicine. Since most wire is galvanized, many cages are constructed with wire that has a coating with a high component of Zn. Ingestion of this galvanized wire coating may cause the more severe signs of heavy metal toxicity, which generally consist of depression, diarrhea, polydypsia and polyuria, regurgitation (often passive reflux of water from the crop upon handling). Rarely there will be CNS signs other than weakness. Low-grade zinc toxicity is thought to be responsible for conditions such as feather picking. Treatment initially is CaEDTA injectably. Once the bird is stable, dl-penicillamine can be used orally (see formulary). Lead poisoning still occurs, but the increase in awareness of the danger to humans has decreased the availability of Pb. Also, bird owners are more aware of sources of lead than they are of zinc. Lead toxicity can present with the same clinical signs as zinc, but there will be a more frequent occurrence of neurologic signs (seizures, hyper-excitability) and in some species such as Amazons, hemaglobinuria may be noted. Luckily, radiographic evidence of metal in the ventriculus and clinical signs of heavy metal toxicity are sufficient to warrant the initiation of therapy, and both Zn and Pb respond to Ca EDTA. Note that it is common to have an elevated WBC with heavy metal toxicity. Whether or not this is a true infection is questionable. Fluid therapy should be used to ensure that no renal damage occurs with the Ca EDTA treatment. - Teresa L. Lightfoot D.V.M., Diplomate ABVP - Avian


    105.   Trichomonas

    106.   Tuberculosis

    107.   Tyzzer's disease

    108.   Uropygial Gland (Preen Gland)  - infection or neoplasia? Note - Amazons do not possess a preen gland. The psittacine species most commonly affected with uropygial gland problems seem to be cockatiels and cockatoos. - Teresa L. Lightfoot D.V.M., Diplomate ABVP - Avian


    109.   Vent/Cloaca Problems (see Cloacal Prolapse )

    110.   Viral Infections

    111.   Vitamin A Deficiency / Hypovitaminosis A (see also Malnutrition )

    112.   Vomiting

    113.   Weight Issues

    114.   West Nile Virus

    115.   Wheezing

    Please note: If you think your bird is sick - please see a qualified avian veterinarian immediately. Birds can hide illness very well and by the time they are showing signs of illness, the illness may already be fairly advanced.

    This information has been provided for your education, but does not substitute the advice of a qualified avian veterinarian that knows your species of bird and your bird's history. Please develop a good relationship with a qualified avian veterinarian.