Common Illnesses in Budgies

A handful of illnesses that can be common in budgies

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Scaly face/leg

Scaly face or scaly leg is caused by a type of burrowing mite.
In mild cases of scaly face/leg, the treatment of the bird with medical paraffin (also known as paraffin oil and generally available in pharmacies - please never use the fuel paraffin which is toxic for birds!) is more than enough according to many vets and publications. I have experienced a good success rate with this treatment and no further treatment was needed. If only the beak is affected, the upper mandible and the skin in the corner of the beak should be treated according to this procedure for two - or better four - weeks once or twice a day. You should use a fresh cotton swab every time. Scaly mites only live on the budgie's skin and so you are not required to disinfect their surroundings to.

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Red Mites

The red mite is between 0.7 and 1.1 mm in length. It crawls across the body of the bird on its eight legs and feeds on the bird's blood. During the day, these tiny parasites hide in corners inside the cage or in crevices in perches where they reproduce. The development of the red mite from egg to larvae in temperatures of about 70°F lasts only two days.

Since the red mite is active during the night, it cannot be traced on the bird during the day. A budgie suffering from these mites is extremely restless at night, does not get any sleep and scratches itself often. During the day, the bird sleeps often and appears to be exhausted and depressed. If the bird sleeps little during the night, this can be seen by the distribution of the droppings inside the cage. In order to trace these mites, a white piece of cloth should be draped over the cage which should be checked during the night for any suspicious small red dots walking across the cloth.

The red mite can be fatal for your budgie as they will stop eating and lose a lot of weight if not treated. You can use a preventative such as Harkers drops on the back of the neck to help keep these mites away. Also if you have an aviary, I do suggest using Mil-Ban (or something similar) which you then paste over any cracks or gaps which kills the mites when they touch the surface. 

Please be aware that Red Mites can cause irritation to human skin as well as your birds.

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Airsac Mites

In the early stages of an infection, the birds subtly stop chirping. They then whistle less often and finally sound hoarse. In the further course of an infection, serious breathing difficulties occur that involve tail bobbing due to the enormous strain of breathing. Especially at night and during exertion (for example whilst flying), the clicking and groaning breathing sounds occur that can sometimes turn into an asthmatic whistle.
Diseased animals occasionally cough for minutes since they can hardly breathe. In addition, they sometimes try to get rid of the agonizing parasites by choking strenuously. Immediately after the choking movements, the animals shake their heads, which gives the appearance of them suffering from a crop infection (sour crop). An infestation of air sac mites, however, does not produce any phlegm. In the final stage of this disease, the bird is too weak to breathe and perishes in agony for it virtually suffocates.
Months can pass between infection and emergence of first symptoms! However, if you have a solitary bird that has been kept on its own for a couple of years, the possibility that it is suffering from an infection with air sac mites is small - even if it shows similar symptoms. In any case, the bird should be taken to a vet.
Treatment of an infection with air sac mites on your own is not possible; the diseased bird will die if it is not taken to a vet.
In order to kill the mites, the vet will dribble a drug onto the neck or between the shoulder blades of the sick bird which will enter its body and acts as a contact poison for the mites. This treatment should be performed three times; on the first, fifth and ninth day of therapy. There is usually an improvement within 24 hours after the first course of treatment. In most cases, a substance called Ivomec is used here in Europe.

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Diarrhoea

Sometimes birds are suffering from diarrhoea diseases that can be caused by different pathogenic germs or other things. In several cases, the diarrhoea is a sign for a wrong diet. Birds aren't able to digest all sorts of food, especially human food. If a bird for example eats from his owner's plate and gets some food that is indigestive for birds, it may be harming the digestive tract. Depending on the seriousness of the damage to the digestive tract, in particular cases a malnutrition can cause persistent diarrhoea. Only an immediate treatment by an avian vet can prevent the bird from secondary diseases, dehydration, and the loss of electrolytes.

Also infections can be responsible for the occurrence of diarrhoea in birds. Such infections are often caused by bacteria, fungi or parasites. They can easily affect birds when their immune system has been weakened before. Typical examples for stress having a bad influence on the immune system are change of the environment or a strong moult. Most of these pathogenic germs can be found in the natural environment and they're not able to harm a bird with an intact immune system. That's the reason why sometimes individuals who belong to a flock suddenly become ill even though their fellows are fine.

Typical bacteria from the normal environment are for example E. coli (Escherichia coli) and streptococcus. Also fungi like Candida spp. or parasites like Trichomonas gallinae (Trichomoniasis) can cause diarrhoea.

If you think your bird might suffer from any kind of infection, you should meet your avian vet who has to find out which kind of pathogenic germ causes the disease. Regrettably not each drug is suitable due to so-called resistances. That means some special pathogenic germs won't be harmed by the drug. Therefore the vet should take smears from the cloaca or examine a stool sample of the ill bird and get an antibiogram.

Among others, severe mental disorders or hormonal disbalances which mainly occur in larger parrots can also cause diarrhoea. One of the symptoms of heavy metal poisonings is bloody diarrhoea. So if you find bloody stool in your bird's cage, you should take the animal to the vet immediately. Intestinal bleedings can kill birds within a few hours! Other possible reasons for diarrhoea are tumours of the inner organs; especially intestinal and kidney tumours often cause bloody stool.

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Regurgitating

Many parrot birds such as budgies can be affected by a disease which causes vomiting or regurgitating their food. Sometimes the vomit consists of dry seeds and grains, but in most cases the birds throw up a mixture of half-digested food and an acidic liquid. This liquid can show different colours from brownish to yellow or whitish; the smell can also vary from rotten to fishy or sour.


There are several possible reasons why a bird can show the above mentioned symptoms.

Possible reasons for vomiting in birds:


These are some of the most frequent causes for throwing up food in budgies.

More often than not, the budgie is feeding a friend/mirror but if they are sitting there on the perch and regurgitating, it is worth taking your little friend to the vet to be on the safe side.

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Avian Gastric Yeast (AGY)

AGY or Avian Gastric Yeast is a horrible and sadly incurable deadly disease. This disease is fairly frequent among budgies. AGY is highly contagious; if one bird feeds another, the pathogen can be spread. In many birds, the diesease appears in a chronic course without any symptoms interrupted by acute episodes from time to time. Therefore an ill bird can be misjudged and considered to be healthy during the period without any symptoms. A bird who seems to be healthy and who had just become a new flock member can introduce and spread the disease. In the worst case, the whole flock can become infected without showing any symptoms for several weeks or months. That's the reason why this disease is so malicious.

 
During an acute episode of the disease, the bird seems to be weak, it's feeding excessively and despite of this it's loosing so much weight within just a few days. This happens because the disease has a negative influence on the digestion and as a result of this, the nutrients cannot be absorbed properly by the bird.

A lot of affected birds regurgitate indigested seeds together with thick mucus (in some cases it smells very bad). Indigested seeds can also be found in a sick bird's droppings.

Unfortunately, there is currently nothing that can done for an infected bird.

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Cold

Many birds tend to become ill if they are exposed to draught or quick changes in temperature. A bird who suffers from a cold fluffs up the plumage, behaves sluggish and if the bird has caught a cold, the nose may also be running and from time to time the bird may sneeze.
Other kinds of infections affect the lower respiratory tract (lungs, air sacs) and the bird makes sounds that remind of coughing. In fact, coughing is not quite correct since birds are unable to do so. They don't have a diaphragm and due to this difference in anatomy they can just make sounds that are a bit similar to coughing.
Unlike a cold in humans, a similar disease with purulent nasal discharge in birds will not heal by itself. If the cold is not treated with an antibiotic it will become chronic. In the worst case the infection will destroy the nose and cere. The nostrils will be enlarged and the affected bird will suffer from pain and choking fits because of the mucus sticking in his nose.