Well, last week had been fairly busy, which is good! Bird, ferret, gecko, bearded dragon, guinea pig. So much fun. When I am busy and seeing so many different critters, it is a very fulfilling day. It also gives me fodder for my blog.
I thought I would spend some time today writing about common signs of illness in birds and what it means. Birds are really good at hiding symptoms so it is critical that any signs of illness or changes in behavior be explored.
1) Change in appetite. If a bird does not seem to be eating as much, it is a good idea to weigh the pet to check for weightloss. A scale is a really valuable tool to have at home. The feathering on birds tend to hide signs of weight loss so weighing a bird (using a gram scale) can help you catch early weight loss. You want to have a baseline weight already, so weigh the pet 1-2x a week to have an average weight to compare to. A 5 % weight loss or more should mean a phone call to your vet.
2) Fluffed feathering. If your bird is fluffed this is correlated with being cold. Your bird is trying to stay warm and increase insulation. So why is he or she cold? Molting, feather loss, and illness can all cause this sign. Often the bird needs additional heat support. This can be supplemented with heat lamp or a heating pad under the cage (ideally a sick bird setup would be created by putting the bird in a small cage or an aquarium). Make sure the bird can get away from the heat if needed, talk to your vet to understands signs of being too warm, and monitor the temperature of the tank floor if there is a pad under it. You still need to consult with a vet regarding this matter, but the extra heat will probably be needed for the recovery period.
3) Dark green stools: Really dark, green (bile green) usually means that the bird is not eating well or food is not passing through to the intestines. So what you are seeing in the feces is bile from the liver. This is a sign that means–get to the vet today. Birds cannot go long without truly eating due to their high metabolic needs. So run, don’t walk to the vet.
4), Yawning: I have often seen birds (especially cockatiels) yawn frequently if they have a sore throat. Other signs of sore throat and upper respiratory infections: sneezing, rubbing nares(the nostrils) and beak against the perch or other parts of the cage, change in voice, and any discharge from eyes or nares.
5) Tail bobbing. If you notice your bird has exagerated movement when breathing, especially with the tail swinging up and down with every breath, this is an indicator of difficulty breathing and needs to be addressed immediately.
You may notice a theme runs through any abnormal sign or symptom related to ill birds–get to your vet as soon as possible. Birds are usually very sick by the time you notice anything abormal with them so that is why I harp on the advice of immediately go to the vet. The sooner your bird is diagnosed and started with proper treatment, the better the chance of a full recovery.