Symptoms of a Sick Bird

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your bird, we strongly recommend that you contact your avian veterinarian immediately.

  • Closed or swollen eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing, difficulty breathing, wheezing or clicking sounds
  • Diarrhea, non-solid feces (not including liquid urine or urates)
  • Anorexia, Weight Loss
  • Weakness, limping, wing droop
  • Sitting in one place for an extended period with feathers “all puffed up”
  • Scaling or crusting around the face
  • Lethargy
  • Regurgitation
  • Sitting at bottom of cage
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Seizures
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty flying

Generally speaking, once you notice the above symptoms, you have very little time to seek veterinary help. This is because birds are very good at masking illness symptoms until it’s too late. This becomes an issue as pets may seem healthy even if sick, and won’t show symptoms until the illness has become severe and needs immediate attention.

I cannot overstate how urgent vet care is once these symptoms are noticed! Waiting until ‘tomorrow’ is usually too late. If an avian veterinarian isn’t available right away, we recommend starting supportive home care and then get into the vet as soon as they are available.

Supportive Care

Sick birds need supportive treatment, such as warmth and fluids. You also need to watch the bird carefully because if it stops eating and drinking then force-feeding may be necessary.

  • Keep in a clean cage – this is especially important as sick birds are more susceptible to germs and bacteria
  • Temperature control – A chilled bird will be fluffed up. An overheated bird will raise its wings away from its body and potentially pant. A chilled bird needs to be kept at an environmental temperature of about 90 degrees for warmth. You can use heating pads, hot water bottles or heat lamps as long as you ensure your bird does not overheat or get burned. If overheated, remove them from any heat sources. It’s also possible they have a fever and should be kept in a cage with normal air flow at room temperature, but avoid cold air breezes.
  • Dehydration – ensure fresh water is available and replace with Pedialyte or electrolyte supplement. This is the greatest risk to sick birds. Farm supply stores also have poultry electrolyte powder that can be added to your bird’s water as an alternative.
  • Easy access to food and water – ensure your bird has easy access to food and water near the bottom of the cage. Your bird may not be able or willing to access it’s normal feeding areas. We often use reptile dishes for this, but any dish that is not easily knocked over will work.
  • Reduce stress – minimize handling of sick birds and isolate them from other birds and pets. Sick birds need at least 12 hours of undisturbed rest (without heat lamps to keep them awake).
  • Keep perches low – when sick a bird tends to stay low in their cage if perching at all. You want to prevent them from falling as much as possible, as they could loose balance if symptoms get worse.
  • Supplements – Sick birds may benefit from avian probiotics that reduce the proliferation of infectious, pathogenic gut bacteria, and boost the immune system. Birds that have undergone an antibiotic treatment in particular need to replace beneficial bacteria that were destroyed during the treatment. Do not provide calcium during antibiotic treatment as it will inhibit the effectiveness of the antibiotic. We recommend Morning Bird’s Thrive and Vitalize as supplements highly effective for sick and stressed bird support.

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