Educational Articles

Birds + Medical Conditions

  • Feather loss occurs either because the bird is truly losing feathers or because the bird, or its cage-mate, is picking out its feathers. Feather-picking is often a behavioral problem, especially in the larger species of birds (such as cockatoos, macaws, and African gray parrots). However, feather loss and feather-picking can also be caused by diseases that result in irritation or pain for the bird, or damage to, or inappropriate growth of feathers. Your veterinarian may have to many perform several diagnostic tests to rule out potential causes. Treatment of feather loss depends on the cause. Feather loss and feather-picking are complicated problems; for specific advice, your bird should have a thorough work-up by a veterinarian familiar with birds.

  • Kidney disease is relatively common in birds, especially budgies, and may present as an acute or chronic problem. Some of the clinical signs are very characteristic of kidney disease but many others are non-specific. This handout explains these signs, as well as how kidney disorders in birds can be diagnosed and treated.

  • Liver disease can occur in any avian species but is most common in cockatiels, budgies, Amazon parrots, lories, and mynah birds. Because the typical clinical signs are non-specific and descriptive of many different diseases, diagnostic tests are highly recommended. Treatment options depend on the diagnosis and can range from diet modification to hospitalization.

  • Obesity is a major problem in older birds on seed-based diets and can contribute to diseases such as atherosclerosis (fat deposits in major arteries) and fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). Unlike their wild counterparts, pet birds are not given as much opportunity for daily exercise. Pet birds often burn off very few calories in their daily lives. Many bird owners incorrectly feed their pet birds by offering a diet consisting mostly, or totally of high-fat seeds. Obese birds are extremely susceptible to heart attacks and strokes and have a higher anesthetic risk than normal-weight birds. Switching birds from all-seed diets to a more suitable diet consisting mainly of pellets, with smaller amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit, will decrease its overall daily intake of calories.

  • Polyfolliculosis is a condition where several feathers grow out of one feather follicle. These feathers may be irritating, causing the bird to pick at them or pluck them out. There is no specific treatment for this condition.

  • Avian polyomavirus infection (APV) of pet birds belongs to the family Polyomaviridae. APV can cause benign feather lesions in budgies, slow crop emptying in weanling parrots, hemorrhages on the skin, or acute death. Species particularly susceptible to APV infection include budgies, Eclectus parrots, Caiques, and hawk-head parrots. Clinical signs, diagnostic testing, and preventive measures are explained in this handout.

  • Poxviruses can infect many species of birds, and each species of bird may have its own unique species of poxvirus. This handout explains three forms of the virus: cutaneous, diphtheroid, and septicaemic. Each of these forms has distinct clinical signs. Diagnosis, treatment, and ways to minimize the risk of infection in your bird are explained.

  • Telemedicine is the act of practicing medicine from a distance and your appointment will be conducted by a licensed veterinarian. Before your appointment, gather information on your pet’s history and your current concern. Look at a calendar and write down a timeline of your pet’s problems. Be prepared to answer questions that you would normally be asked at an in-person appointment. Write notes to help you remember everything. Most telemedicine appointments involve the use of some type of video chat. Conduct your visit in a quiet area with good lighting and have your pet with you before the call starts. Not all concerns can be addressed through telemedicine. If your veterinarian is unable to arrive at a diagnosis via telemedicine, he or she can help you determine the next step for your pet to ensure that he or she receives optimal care.

  • Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) is a very serious and often deadly disease affecting a wide variety of parrot species. Symptoms often involve one of the following conditions; vomiting, weight loss, passing undigested seeds in the stool or show neurologic signs. Avian Bornavirus infection has been linked in some cases to PDD.

  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a serious condition in parrot species for which there is no cure. The highly contagious virus attacks fast-growing epithelial cells, commonly causing visibly abnormal formations of the beak and/or feather follicles. The clinical signs vary depending on the species of bird and the age at which it was infected. Diagnostic testing is available and precautions must be taken when purchasing a new bird.