Common Health Problems Found In Parrots

Large number of individual species originating from Central and South America.
Large size variation depending on specie; 150 to 600 grams
Not unusual for owners to have amazons live for greater than 50 years, (passed down from relative).
Many species tend to be strong willed and aggressive. Some are good talkers.
Once mature, mating season aggression is quite common. Will tend to bond to one member of the household and then be aggressive to all others.
Feather picking tends to be less frequently seen in amazons; tend to be easily amused and more independent than other groups.

Medical Problems
Upper Respiratory Tract infections are common in Mexican Red-Headed Amazons, Lilac-crowned, and Red-lored amazons. These are most commonly bacterial infections, yet nutritional and viral factors are also frequently involved.

Pox-virus infections; very common in Blue-fronted amazons, yet also seen in Double Yellow-headed, and Yellow-naped amazons. Infections most commonly seen in recently imported birds, yet can also lie dormant for years prior to active infection. Highly contagious. Less of a problem in the now commonly domestically bred and raised amazons.

Dietary deficiencies are quite common in amazons as they become seed junkies. Their stubborn nature makes it more difficult to correct their diet. Vitamin A deficiencies are quite common and can be detected by the blunting of the choanal papilla, oral abscesses, or sub-mandibular swelling.

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Obesity is commonly seen in Mealy and Blue-crowned amazons, most likely due to high fat diets and lack of exercise; hypothyroidism may be a factor in some overweight amazons.

Fatty liver syndrome is also seen on occasion in amazons; seed-based diets with their high fat content may lead to fat deposits in the liver which eventually damage the liver and result in liver failure. Diagnosis is made by liver biopsy.

Chlamydiosis/Psittacosis; frequently occurs as classic disease with liver and respiratory involvement.

Lead poisoning that frequently demonstrates itself with hematuria (red urine), and acute depression. Treatment is normally successful if started promptly. Household exposure is normally responsible.

Cloacal papillomas are seen in amazons as well as macaws. Thought to be transmissible, (possibly sexually), yet exact cause is not known. Clinical signs may be straining to defecate or blood in the stool. Some owners will actually see a reddish growth protruding from the vent. Condition can normally be controlled, however it probably cannot be cured, and these birds should not be used for breeding.

Red-lored amazons have a tendency to develop a condition similar to epilepsy that may require treatment to control the seizures.

Tracheitis due to a herpes infection is also seen in amazons. This disease can be potentially fatal due to the severity of the inflammation in the trachea. Demonstrated by respiratory distress. Contagious to other Amazons.

Cancer is common in older amazons. Liver cancer is particularly common.


AUSTRALIAN PARAKEETS (Rosellas, neophemas, etc.)
Relatively small and fragile birds, (25-100 gms). Can be very colorful.
Tend to be high strung and nervous. Must handle with caution or panic attacks can lead to collapse or even death with routine procedures.
Intraspecific aggression or fighting is common and can be serious. Compatibility must be confirmed.
Wall crashing by young fledglings can lead to serious injury.

Medical Problems
Bacterial infections are common. These species are difficult to treat due to their fragility.

Chlamydiosis is quite common and may be endemic in some flocks. All newly purchased birds should be tested and a strict quarantine protocol should be used with these species. Respiratory clinical signs are common.

Intestinal and proventricular worms are seen frequently and fecal examinations should be done to test for them. Intestinal obstruction secondary to the worms can occur.

Fatty liver syndrome may present in this group in obese birds with overgrown beaks. Sudden death while trimming the beak may occur, and the underlying disease detected at necropsy.

Originated in Australia, yet decades of captive breeding has given rise to numerous variations of this species.
Body weight can vary form 30 gms to 85 gms.
Frequently the 1st pet bird someone has.
Can be a good talker or mimicker and can be very affectionate.
Due to extensive in-breeding there are numerous health problems that occur and it is rare for the bird to live to its full potential life span.

Medical Problems
Malignancies of the gonads or kidneys are frequently seen in birds of 5-8 years of age. They commonly present with a complaint of unilateral lameness that is slowly progressive to paralysis. No effective treatment is available. Other tumors are also quite common, such a lipomas or fatty tumors which are relatively benign and probably related to a seed based diet.

Gout can also occur in budgies and may be due to kidney disease or an underlying metabolic problem. It may show up as a lameness or an acute illness. In the most serious form it can be rapidly fatal, and only rarely do patients respond well to medication.

Diabetes is another metabolic disease which is not unusual in budgies. It can be treated with insulin.

Fatty liver disease in birds that are on a seed diet is common. Distended abdomen or difficulty breathing is the reason most owners present these cases. Treatment is a change of diet, though the condition is very difficult to reverse.

The bands placed on budgies frequently lead to problems and should be removed routinely. Broken legs and various constrictive injuries are not unusual. Broken legs in budgies are fortunately easy to repair in most cases.

Common viral infections include Psittacine Beak And Feather disease & polyoma virus.

Reproductive problems are not unusual and include: egg-binding, egg peritonitis, excessive production of eggs and abdominal wall herniation.

Giardial infections are frequently seen in budgies in California. Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea are noted. Due to the difficulty in isolating the parasitic organism causing these disease, sometimes treatment may be done just to rule it out.

Psittacosis can be seen in a chronic low-grade form which may just result in birds that are poor-doers. Test treatment with the tetracyclines is appropriate.

Probably the most common pet bird. Good beginner bird. While not very good at talking, their whistles can be quite endearing and expressive.
Small bird ( 75-125 gms)
Numerous color variations, although the natural grey with less inbreeding is probably the most robust and longest lived. Lutino cockatiels are noted to be uncoordinated and frequently prone to stupid behavior patterns; wing trauma and falling off their perches is common.

Medical Problems
Excessive egg-laying, egg-binding, egg-peritonitis, and other reproductive problems are very frequent in the female cockatiel. The presence of a male, a suitable nest, or other conditions may not be necessary for egg laying to occur. Proper diet with particular attention to calcium balance may minimize the problems, yet they can still occur in some birds. Various medical therapies can be used to treat and prevent the problem; in some cases a surgical hysterectomy may be required.

Since many cockatiels are given free range of the house, foreign body ingestion and related problems occur . Lead poisoning is very common as these birds play with a variety of trinkets; excessive urination, vomiting and depression are the common clinical signs.

Inhaled seeds will result in a sudden onset of wheezing and difficulty breathing. Millet seed seems to be the perfect size for aspiration. Recovering the seed is almost impossible and most cases die from this spurious condition.

Wing tumors such as xanthomas are common and may require wing amputation to treat.

Giardia infections are thought to contribute to some of the cases of feather picking that I see in cockatiels. These cases are frequent in California and treatment is simple in most cases, although medication resistances are seen on occasion.

Psittacosis is quite often a chronic disease in cockatiels, and they may have upper respiratory signs, unthriftiness, and altered blood panels. Treatment with the tetracycline class of drugs is effective in most cases.

Mycoplasma infections may cause upper respiratory tract signs including eye infections which are unresponsive or recurrent. Treatment must be prolonged, and elimination of the infection is difficult.

There are a variety of species and their body weight is variable depending on the species. Some of the smaller species are 200-300 grams, while the large mollucan cockatoo is 800-900 grams.
Most species tend to be very affectionate and dependent, almost clingy, in their personality traits. Bonding to one member of the family and aggression towards others is frequently seen.
Because of their dependent nature, cockatoos are prone to behavioral problems such as feather picking and screaming. Birds must be carefully screened and the owners may need to seek advice on how to avoid and treat these common characteristics.
Not talkers or mimickers; can be very child-like.
Production of large amounts of powder down or dust; tends to be very messy, and can trigger allergies or upper respiratory tract problems in some people.
Breeding birds must be matched carefully due to excessive aggressiveness by the male which can cause severe injury to the female.

Medical Problems
Cockatoos appear to be the most resistant of the commonly kept parrots to psittacosis; however, to most other infectious diseases they seem to be more susceptible.

Localized herpes infections may present as wart-like growths or areas of white discoloration on the feet of cockatoos.

Cockatoos are frequently found to have blood parasites such as microscopic worms; no definitive correlation to disease has been made, yet many veterinarians recommend treatment. Tapeworms are very common in wild caught cockatoos and should be treated; the infection is less common in domestic cockatoos, yet should be considered.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease is a viral disease that is most commonly fatal after a potentially prolonged and chronic illness. All newly purchased cockatoos should be tested for this condition. Young chicks and birds exposed to numerous other birds, (such as bird shows or pet stores), have the greatest risk. No effective treatment has been documented.

Cloacal prolapse is seen only rarely in species other than cockatoos. The cause is unknown, although surgery is normally effective in treating it. Affected birds should not be used for breeding.

Midsized, depending on the species; typical weights range from 150 gms to 250 grams.
From Central and South America.
Many conures are screamers. Some, such as Nanday conures, are probably unsuitable for attached housing living situations due to the noise they create. This consideration should not be underestimated.
Behavioral feather picking is seen frequently. It often starts as the birds reach sexual maturity, yet then becomes habitual. Naked chests are common with conures.

Medical problems
Bacterial infections are commonly seen. Cultures are important in detecting and selecting the proper treatment.

Pacheco's disease, a systemic herpes in infection that can be rapidly fatal in susceptible birds is frequently carried by asymptomatic conures. This has led to the recommendation that breeding colonies of conures be kept separate from other species, and that extreme caution must be used when introducing a conure into a existing population of birds. Testing is available, yet not routinely done.

Polyoma virus is also thought to be frequently carried by conures; another reason to use caution in introducing a conure into a colony.

Psittacine Wasting Syndrome ( Macaw wasting syndrome), has been described in conures. This is thought to be a viral disease, yet it has not been conclusively proven.

Originates from the South Pacific, Indonesian islands.
Midsized/large. Body weight approximately 350 to 500 grams.
Most well known or recognized for their sexual dimorphism; the males are emerald green, and the females are red, maroon. Feather texture is unique from the other large parrots--much softer.
Rather quiet in behavior and relatively non-vocal.
The female tends to be much more aggressive than the male. The greatest problem occurs in breeding pairs where the female may injure the male, (this is the reverse as to what is seen in cockatoos). In hand-reared babies the male is usually extremely docile and can make a very affectionate pet. The female is less predictable and may become more difficult once sexual maturity is reached.

Medical problems
Psittacosis and Psittacine beak and feather disease are commonly seen, especially in imported birds, since these diseases are endemic in wild birds. All newly purchased Eclectuses should be tested for these conditions.

Annular toe deformities are seen in hand-raised chicks. Not unusual to see adult birds with parts of toes missing due to this problem. Not a progressive problem.

They appear to be susceptible to bacterial infections.

Small species in size, ( 50-75 grams,) yet have big personalities.
Recommended as a good first bird due to their friendliness and resistance to most diseases.
Tend to be burrowers so their owners must use caution when the birds are out of the cage; being crushed by being sat on, or other injuries are not uncommon as these birds hide from easy visibility.
These birds do not seem to recognize how small they are, and can be overly trusting of larger birds. In seeking the company of larger birds they may be easily injured; broken legs are often the result as the larger birds bite at them through the bars of a cage.
Feather picking is often seen, most often behavioral, yet mites must be ruled out since they are seen in this species.

Medical problems
Psittacine beak and feather disease is often diagnosed in grey cheeks, yet they seem to tolerate it better than most other psittacines and can be rather long lived with an active clinical case. Cases with poor feather quality or a tendency to be in a constant molt should be tested, even if they are otherwise healthy.

Psittacosis is not unusual.

Tuberculosis is most commonly seen in the Grey cheeks. The symptoms are variable; any chronic illness or poor doer should be considered a candidate. A positive test can be conclusive yet negative tests do not rule out the possibility. Since this disease is transmissible to man, the treatment of the affected birds is controversial.

Bacterial hepatitis is frequently seen. Liver enzymes are frequently elevated when checked on a blood panel.

These birds are admired for their beautiful plumage, yet their food requirements and droppings make them less than ideal indoor pets. They are pollen and nectar feeders, and require a very specialized diet that many people find difficult to maintain. This diet results in very watery droppings that the birds tend to squirt out, making cleanliness an issue.
Most are small to medium size, weighing 100 to 200 grams, depending on the species.
Originate from Australia, Indonesia, Asia.

Medical problems
Nutritional problems are not unusual, particularly with novice bird owners who find the lorikeet's specialized diet difficult to maintain. The lorikeet owner must make special efforts to get proper nutritional advice for their lorikeet.

Bacterial infections are common and this is probably related to cleanliness and hygiene problems in many cases. Without adequate cleaning, the wet fecal material these birds produce allows for a high bacterial count in the aviary environment.

Fungal infections of the mouth and crop are seen; this is also probably related to poor hygiene.

Psittacine Beak and Feather disease is a problem in Lorikeets, as it is in other species originating from Australia. Lorikeets do appear to be more resistant to the fatal infection than other affected species.

Small species; variable color patterns are seen.
Tend to be very aggressive to other birds, even their own species. Pairs must be carefully selected.
Relative quiet, non-talker. Can be very affectionate to owner.

Medical Problems
Lovebird pox is a viral disease that causes skin lesions that itch a lot, typically along the wing web and armpit region. This itching can be severe and chronic and result in self-mutilation. While no treatment has been consistently successful, a psittacine pox vaccine has offered some protection. (The vaccine has been sporadically available.) There are other causes of feather loss problems in lovebirds; chronic bacterial infections are frequently found and may be very difficult to treat. Skin biopsy is often the best way of differentiating these conditions in the lovebirds.

Psittacine beak and feather disease is seen and frequently results in total feather loss.

Egg-binding and other obstetrical problems are quite common.

Group is quite varied in size and species; the largest are the hyacinth macaws, (1400 grams,) the blue and golds are frequently 900 to 1100 grams, while the smaller macaws may only be 300 grams. Originate from Central and South America.
Behavior is variable as well; the hyacinths are relatively docile, while the green wings can be quite difficult to handle. Behavioral problems are not unusual, even with the hand-reared domestic birds. Screaming for attention, social regurgitation to owners, and excessive aggression during breeding season are all factors that should be considered. All of the larger macaws are potentially very destructive through their chewing activity.
Behavioral feather picking is not unusual.
Most macaws should not be purchased by a inexperience bird owner.

Medical Problems
Macaw wasting syndrome is a suspected viral infection that results in loss of condition and death in a relatively short time period. The initial clinical signs are frequently regurgitation and the passing of undigested seed. This progresses to loss of appetite, depression, weakness, and marked weight loss. No treatment has been effective.

Macaws appear to be very susceptible to psittacosis and are frequently severely affected where they may be found in a near comatose condition within hours of being observed as being normal. Treatment of such cases must be very aggressive.

Chronic sinus infections are seen in association with bacterial infections. Why macaws are so predisposed to this is not known, yet raising the environmental humidity and the use of a air filter may help minimize the problem.

Sinus infections in macaws may result in a sunken eye syndrome where the eye sinks into the socket.

Annular toe lesions are seen in macaw chicks and may result in the loss of some toes. The cause of this condition is not really understood, yet rapid recognition of it and treatment will frequently minimize the lesions and the loss of the toes.

Macaws seem very sensitive to Vitamin A. Excessive supplementation of the diet will result in kidney damage and may present as gout. Many of these affected birds are only diagnosed by histopathology or necropsy.

Herpes virus infections affecting the feet are seen in macaws. These lesions may be proliferative, yet are more commonly depigmenting (loss of color).

Cloacal papillomas are seen in macaws. Sometimes associated with oral papillomas as well. Thought to be a viral condition. Affected birds should not be used for breeding.

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