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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 )