Identifying a Potentially Sick Bird / Do-It-Yourself Disease Testing
Index of Bird Diseases ... Symptoms & Potential Causes ... Bird Species & Diseases They are Most Susceptible to ... Bird Health Care ... Glossary of Avian Medical Terms ... Medications Used in Avian & Exotic Medicine and Pharmaceutical Terms ... How to administer oral medications to a bird
The First Signs of Illness in the Aviary Bird ... Why quarantine? ... Vet Exam ... Disease Testing & Sexing ... Bacterial Testing / Microbiology (Do-It-Yourself Instructions)
Changes in Bird Weight: Weight gain or weight loss - the primary indicator of health or disease
The below Information has kindly been provided by Dr. Rob Marshall, Avian Vet - http://www.birdhealth.com.au
Careful observation and an understanding of the normal behaviour of your bird is by far the best method of detecting and managing potential illnesses. At the first signs of illness, the observant owner will notice changes in the condition and behaviour of their bird. Important changes to look for include:
- Abnormal droppings - Please refer to "Poopology
- Less talkative
- Out of character
- Fluffed up
- Cold feet
The droppings reveal a wealth of information for the observant owner and are a good indicator as to the health of the bird. With experience, you can easily monitor the health of your bird by observing for any dropping changes. The early recognition of a dropping change allows you to implement an immediate recovery plan that protects the health of the pet bird. A Water Cleanser or Megamix is used as the first line of defence against illness and works well at the first sign of a change in the droppings. The below are signs of a health problem.
- Increased size.
- Discolored to a shade of green. Any color from khaki to forest green.
- Are often wet.
- Carry a smell.
Healthy Bird Droppings:
- Small with a white cap.
- Usually have a down feather attached to it.
- Have no sign of wetness surrounding it.
- Have no smell.
The above characteristics are good indicators of a dropping of top health. These droppings should be seen in the bottom of the cage first thing in the morning. The character of the droppings may change from day to day dependent upon many factors, including the food given and the humidity of the air.
A change in the color, consistency or smell of the droppings should be viewed with caution. The discoloration of the dropping is abnormal in pet birds fed a dry seed mix. Birds fed on soft foods and greens may produce a larger, green colored and watery dropping for a short time.
Birds suffering from dehydration may have crinkly skin around theirs eyes and produce small, dry droppings.
For more in-depth information on bird droppings and its indicator of good or poor health, please visit this website.
The following indicate a health problem.
1. Being lethargic, prolonged periods of being fluffed up, excessive sleepiness, change in personality (quieter, less vocal), etc.
2. Signs of drowsiness, or even bad breath can be an indicator that something is wrong. Being lethargic, prolonged periods of being fluffed up, excessive sleepiness, change in personality (quieter, less vocal), etc.
3. Weightloss / poor weight gain / prominent breastbone.
4. Changes in feather condition or failure to replace old feathers. (Note that broken feathers are not a sign of disease. Feathers do break at times, especially in clumsy youngsters / chicks. The feather condition of baby birds / recently weaned birds is also usually not as good as the adults'. Anybody who handfed baby birds knows how easily they get themselves 'into trouble' and how often they dirty themselves. However, there is a difference between 'deformed feathers' and 'broken/soiled' feathers that you should take note of. And of course, a 'not so perfect' chick should mold to show a good plumage. If it doesn't, there may be a problem.)
5. Sneezing, coughing (clicking sound), difficulty in breathing, discharge from nostrils.
6. Eye discharge, crusty or swollen eyelids. Eyes appear cloudy or bulge.
7. Loose droppings, or droppings that contain undigested seeds. Also change in color of droppings (please refer to this webpage for details).
8. Neurological symptoms, such as seizures, circling, paralysis.
9. Growth/tracks/white crust around beak.
10. Swollen joints, deformities of wings, toes, legs. Favoring one leg over the other. Not holding wings the same way.
Please check out this AvianWeb page:
NEW / WELL-BIRD TESTING for valuable information on this topic. This website also describes the different tests a vet may recommend and the reason for them. I value the new bird exam as an important tool to ensure as much as I can that any incoming bird won't be "the death of all my other birds." If you have no other birds, you risk far less than a multi-bird household. Still, it has happened on several occasions that birds were returned or a discount was given by the seller for birds that had health problems. If I hadn't tested those birds and had put them with my other birds, it could have had grave consequences. For multi-bird households ESPECIALLY I suggest testing for Psittacosis, Polyoma, Beak and Feather, and as soon as it is available a PDD test (coming soon!). I also have a CBC (blood chemistry) done, which can show internal problems (such as liver disease, etc.).
It may also be wise to have the vet check for bacteria and parasites - especially for birds that spend a lot of time on the grounds (i.e., grass keets) and/or are known to be kept in crowded accommodations (i.e., the gentle finches, canaries and budgies). Your vet may suggest other / additional tests, but these are the tests that I have run - and just as well, I have discovered several problems in newly purchased birds that if I had NOT tested could have had the potential of causing great harm to my birds and a lot of heartache to me.
If money is an issue, disease testing involving Polyoma, Psittacosis and Beak & Feather can be done without a vet. Check under the heading "Do-It-Yourself Disease Testing" below. For inexperienced bird owners/handlers, however, I recommend using the services of an experienced avian vet.
Do-It-Yourself Bacterial Testing - Microbiology for the Aviculturist ... Gram Stains ... Gram Stain Techniques
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Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.
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