Signs of Illness in Birds

When pets are sick, they may not show it in the same way humans do. People tend to seek out help; animals, especially birds, may hide an illness from their owners. Birds are especially good at pretending nothing is wrong! But birds are fragile creatures who may hide symptoms that need veterinary treatment. Even a minor illness can be potentially dangerous.

There are certain signs you can look for if you suspect your bird is not feeling well.

  • Squinty, cloudy, or almond shaped eyes. Healthy birds have clear, round eyes. If your bird is squinting or his eyes are cloudy, you may need your veterinarian! Cloudy eyes can be a sign of respiratory, nervous, or muscular disorder.
  • Your bird may have a respiratory problem if his eyes seem to be swollen or there is discharge from the eyes or cere — the little patch above the beak that holds the nostrils. Redness, inflammation, or discharge from the cere can be a sign of illness.
  • If you catch your bird breathing through his mouth while at rest, he may have a respiratory problem. Respiratory problems are common in birds, and can be dangerous.
  • Watch his tail. Repetitive tail bobbing can indicate a respiratory problem — birds use muscles at the base of the tail to help expand the lungs. If a bird is having trouble breathing, the tail muscles will work harder, making the tail bob up and down.
  • Dirty, ruffled feathers. Healthy birds are clean and neat. Dirty, ruffled feathers may be a sign of a bird who is too sick to take care of himself.
  • Refusal to eat and/or rapid weight loss. Birds have a high metabolism and need a lot of nutrition; if they stop eating, they will lose weight rapidly. Refusing to eat could be a sign of an intestinal issue like blockage or impaction. Ruffled feathers may also conceal dramatic weight loss.
  • Check the droppings. If there is a change in quantity or color, you may need a veterinarian’s assistance. A healthy bird will leave a LOT of droppings. A sick bird may leave fewer droppings. A sick bird may have white, yellow, rust colored, or thick black droppings. Droppings from a healthy bird should not be liquid, or bloody.
  • Refusal to perch. If your bird can’t or won’t leave the bottom of the cage, you should call the vet immediately — this is a serious symptom of something wrong.
  • Listen to your bird. If your bird becomes less talkative, he may not be feeling well.

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