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Vet FAQ – Bird Diseases

VET FAQ Advice

Frequently asked questions about Bird Diseases

My budgie spits his food back out after eating. What is the cause of this?

Question:
I am really worried about my budgie Max (6 years old). He has been behaving strangely for about six months. He eats all day long. After he has eaten, he spits the whole lot back out again. He spits it at his bowl, the cage etc. If I take the bowl out to fill it, Max immediately sits on my hand and spits all his reserves on it. He also bites more than usual. I only have to show him my finger and he starts “feeding” on it. I have no mirror and also no plastic bird in the cage. Does it make sense to give him anti-urge pearls? I also asked in a pet shop. I was told there to buy a second budgie. But I don’t want that. I hope that you can help me. I am very afraid that Max could choke one day.

Answer:
Budgies are swarm birds which should not be kept on their own. They have very strong social needs and this also includes “feeding each other”. Birds, which are kept alone, develop such a strong frustration after a while and also boredom that they feed everything in sight. This extreme regurgitation of food can lead to crop infections which can result in the budgie’s death in the end. If you really like your bird then you should get a second budgie as a partner for your bird as soon as possible. If you do not want this, you could give your bird alternatively to somebody who can also keep two birds. Urge pearls are aimed at a very strong sexual urge or excessive laying of eggs, they cannot level out “inappropriate conditions for keeping the species”!

My budgie raises its feathers up and scratches a lot. Can this be a mite infection?

Question:
The female budgie has been raising her head feathers up permanently since Sunday and keeps scratching. The other budgies have nothing wrong with them. The female is still active (sleeps a bit more now), eats and drinks. I first thought that she had difficulties with a possible moult and gave her and the other birds vitamins by Vitakraft for two days, Vitacombex V. But no improvement has occurred and I am at my wits end now! I have her and her male in an extra cage out of the voliere today. But I could not look properly as she is very shy but could not see any mite attacks. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I don’t want to transport her to the vet as she is not used to being handled. What can I do? If I have to go to the vet, should I take the male along to calm her?

Answer:
You can try to collect some of the bird’s feathers as a first step and have your vet send them to a lab for examination. With a bit of luck, one can see from these feathers what the cause of the loss of feathers is. If no diagnosis can be made with the feathers, you have to bring the animal to a vet. Make an appointment with your vet when possible. Wrap the cage with the two birds in a warm blanket and transport it carefully, well protected from wind and weather, to a vet (remove the drinking bowl before transport so that it doesn’t spill). The two will cope with the transport best if they are dark and warm. The cage should not be cleaned before the appointment as the droppings and the plucked feathers could give indications to the illness. If the budgie has to be handled by the vet or if one can examine her from afar, the vet can decide according to the symptoms. But you should tell the vet that the budgie is not tame as such animals have to be caught and held carefully.

Can you use an iodine tincture to disinfect wounds? Can a layperson cut the claws themselves?

Question:
I have a question in relation to first aid for budgies. You should take an iodine tincture to disinfect wounds but now I read that you shouldn’t as it stings. What else can I use? What is the difference between glucose and salt solution? Can a layperson cut the claws themselves? Many thanks!

Answer:
Birds, in contrast to mammals, very rarely have infected wounds. You therefore do not have to disinfect smaller wounds at all. Always remember that everything applied to the skin is taken up by this small organism via the skin. One drop can already be harmful to the body as the budgie has such little body mass. If the bird has more serious injuries, you should visit a vet who then can treat the bird with antibiotics compatible with birds. Stopping the blood flow always has to be the main priority in first aid. This is something which can be very dangerous to the bird. When cutting claws the danger is also there that insufficient knowledge in relation to the blood vessels can lead to a vessel being damaged. As the budgie only has a few ml of blood, a few lost drops can also be dangerous. If you are not sure where the blood vessels are positioned, you should have a vet cut the claws. Glucose solution is a solution made with sugar and salt solution is NaCl dissolved in water.

My cockatiel has increasingly plucked out feathers for some time, can this be an allergy?

Question:
My cockatiel is pulling out feathers which the vet describes as self-cannibalism. Vitamins by the vet + bitter spray from the pet shop have not helped. Otherwise, the animal is totally happy and according to the vet also totally healthy. But the plucking has increased recently and I have no idea what to do. Can this be an allergy?

Answer:
Unfortunately, pulling out feathers is very common in cockatiels and can have different causes. Boredom, changes in the environment, deficiencies, obesity, injuries or an increased blood urine level can cause feather plucking. Bacteria and fungi infections of the feathers or an intestinal giardiasis infection are more frequently found. Unfortunately, the plucking is soon a habit and even if you remove the original cause, an improvement cannot be expected. You should have the bird checked thoroughly to be sure that there is no illness behind this. Have a clinic specialising in birds do this. The blood as well as the faeces, the feathers and the skin have to be examined. If everything is fine here, you can try to stop the bird from plucking by distracting him. Often, it helps to have another person look after the bird for a time, to put branches and interesting climbing options into the cage or to give the bird a partner. But as said above, it is not possible to heal the bird completely if the plucking is chronic.

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