Educational Articles

Birds + Medical Conditions

  • Kidneys are paired organs in the abdomen that filter the waste products of metabolism from the blood for excretion from the body. They are also important in maintaining water and electrolyte balance in the body.

  • The liver is an important organ that is involved with digesting food, storing and filtering the blood, and with many other metabolic functions. Because it has so many functions, a healthy liver is extremely important.

  • 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.

  • As with hair, each feather normally emerges from one follicle. Polyfolliculosis (sometimes called Pruritic Polyfolliculosis or Polyfolliculitis) is a malformation of the follicle in which multiple feathers (2-6) grow within one follicle (12 feathers in one follicle has been reported). The word "pruritic" means "itchy".

  • The polyomavirus of pet birds belongs to the family Papovavirus, the same group of viruses that causes benign skin tumors (papillomas or warts) in birds. Polyomavirus can cause benign feather lesions in budgies (the so-called French molt or Budgerigar Fledgling disease) or acute death.

  • Poxviruses can infect many species of birds, and each species of bird may have its own unique species of pox virus (mynah bird pox, canary pox, parrot pox, etc.). Poxviruses can cause several different clinical syndromes, depending upon what part of the body is infected.

  • First recognized in the early 1970's, proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) was originally called "Macaw Wasting Disease", as the disease caused a gradual wasting of macaws. Since that time, the disease has been found to affect more than 50 different species of pet birds.

  • In the wild, a bird will endeavor to uphold a strong appearance when sick. This is called, survival of the fittest. By the time a pet bird actually shows an owner that it is unwell, it has likely been sick for some time. Many things contribute to ill health. This handout provides bird owners a categorized list of signs that should alert them that their bird is sick.

  • Respiratory disease is common in birds and can affect the upper respiratory tract or lower respiratory tract. Respiratory tract problems in birds can be caused by infection with bacteria, fungus, or parasites, from exposure to aerosolized toxins or environmental irritants, or from pressure on the respiratory tract from enlarged organs or tumors. Birds can have varying signs with respiratory disease, such as coughing, sneezing, ocular or nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing depending on where in the respiratory tract the problem lies. Teflon, when heated, emits an odorless and colorless gas that is fatal to birds if breathed in. Any bird showing respiratory tract signs should be examined and tested by a veterinarian as soon as possible so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Administration of over-the-counter medications purchased at pet stores is not recommended for treating sick birds.

  • Seizures are reasonably common in birds and often observed in Amazon parrots, African grey parrots, budgies, canaries, finches and lovebirds. A seizure may result from any disorder in the brain that causes spontaneous electrical discharge in the nervous system.