Educational Articles

Birds + Medical Conditions

  • Feather loss occurs either because the bird is truly losing feathers or because the bird, or its cage-mate, is picking out its feathers. Feather-picking is often a behavioral problem, especially in the larger species of birds (such as cockatoos, macaws, and African gray parrots). However, feather loss and feather-picking can also be caused by diseases that result in irritation or pain for the bird, or damage to, or inappropriate growth of feathers. Your veterinarian may have to many perform several diagnostic tests to rule out potential causes. Treatment of feather loss depends on the cause. Feather loss and feather-picking are complicated problems; for specific advice, your bird should have a thorough work-up by a veterinarian familiar with birds.

  • 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.

  • Telemedicine is the act of practicing medicine from a distance and your appointment will be conducted by a licensed veterinarian. Before your appointment, gather information on your pet’s history and your current concern. Look at a calendar and write down a timeline of your pet’s problems. Be prepared to answer questions that you would normally be asked at an in-person appointment. Write notes to help you remember everything. Most telemedicine appointments involve the use of some type of video chat. Conduct your visit in a quiet area with good lighting and have your pet with you before the call starts. Not all concerns can be addressed through telemedicine. If your veterinarian is unable to arrive at a diagnosis via telemedicine, he or she can help you determine the next step for your pet to ensure that he or she receives optimal care.

  • 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.