What Does it Mean?

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.  


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