Common Conditions in Pet Birds

Common conditions in pet birds

Pet birds often become ill. While most diseases of birds can affect every species, there are some species which are more prone to develop certain conditions. By being familiar with the various conditions which commonly affect a certain species, your veterinarian is able to formulate a diagnostic and treatment protocol which is most likely to result in a correct diagnosis and cure for your bird’s illness. While not listing every possible disease that may afflict your bird, the following discussion will make you more familiar with the specific problems your pet is most likely to encounter.


Budgerigars or budgies are known for developing various solid external tumours as well as internal cancer. A common cancer affecting the kidneys or reproductive organs causes a unilateral (one-sided) lameness that owners often mistake for an injured leg. Cnemidokoptic mite infestation (scaly face mite) is a frequent cause of crusty dermatitis of the cere (area around the nostrils over the beak), face and feet. Trichomoniasis (a protozoal infection of the crop and oesophagus) is also commonly found in budgies. This causes serious illness and death if not diagnosed and treated. Megabacteria, an organism that causes bleeding stomach ulcers is regularly diagnosed in budgies by routine faecal tests. It is also a very contagious disease that can be transferred by birds eating contaminated droppings. Since many budgies are fed a high fat diet which includes a lot of canary seed, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), is another common problem that is often fatal in budgies. Fat budgerigars often have problems laying eggs and egg binding is seen with some frequency in pet budgerigars.


Cockatiels, like budgies, are commonly adversely affected by being fed a high fat diet. Cockatiels should never be fed a sunflower seed mix. Fatty liver disease and associated vitamin deficiency are some of the most common health problems presented in cockatiels. Coagulopathy (blood not clotting) as a result of Vitamin K deficiency often causes fatal haemorrhages in cockatiels. Cockatiels also suffer from a range of reproductive disorders including chronic egg laying, egg binding, uterine infections and egg related peritonitis.


Canaries have several genetic maladies. Feather cysts, which require surgical removal, frequently occur in canaries. Cataracts are not uncommon. An unusual form of Cnemidokoptic mite (scaly face mite) infestation called Tassle-foot occurs frequently in these popular birds. Air sac mites that infect the trachea and air sacs, commonly contribute to respiratory disease in canaries. Pox virus often causes skin disease or death in canaries.

Love Birds

Love birds are often affected by Megabacteria, which left undetected will cause chronic wasting or acute haemorrhage and death in single pet birds or aviary collections. Behavioural feather picking and self-mutilation is often apparent in single pet love birds. They do better in pairs or in a flock situation.


Galahs are another species of parrots that suffer adversely from a high fat diet (specifically a sunflower seed mix). Many galahs on high fat diets develop fatty liver disease. Lipomas (benign fatty tumours) are commonly seen in galahs. Bumble foot (infected callouses) is another health problem in galahs associated with obesity and fatty liver disease. Galahs also suffer from many psychological problems that result in obsessive compulsive and stereotypic behaviours.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos

Cockatoos, like other large birds, often develop psychological feather picking that is difficult to treat. This type of obsessive compulsive behaviour requires a lot of extensive behavioural modification therapy. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Syndrome is another common problem affecting Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. These birds are also adversely affected by high fat, sunflower seed mixes which cause fatty liver and obesity health problems. Overweight, female cockatoos also develop many reproductive problems.

Some other common problems affecting pet birds:

Chlamydiosis is a common cause of respiratory disease in pet birds. It is also a zoonotic disease (infectious to humans).

Fibre impaction is an increasingly common problem amongst pet birds. Birds that chew on carpet, upholstery, cage covers, “happy huts”, tasselly toys, woven rope perches etc., develop indigestible “fibre balls” that cause blockages in the digestive system. Some of these impactions can be surgically removed. However, many go undetected and cause chronic wasting and death.

Metal toxicity can also affect household pets as well as aviary birds. There are many sources of metal within a home and aviary. Birds are very visual and are attracted to shiny things. Gold and silver jewellery don’t harm your pet but other types of metal can poison and cause death.


This discussion merely highlighted some of the common problems that bring pet bird owners to the vet. A vigilant and observant owner can often pick up on the early signs that their pet is not well. With a pet bird, we need to get them to the vet as soon as owners notice they are not well. Birds are prey species and their instinct is to hide signs of being unwell, because sick birds attract predators. Often by the time owners notice their bird is sick, they are too sick to hide signs any longer. When in doubt about the health of your pet, make an appointment with your avian veterinarian.

Information supplied by (c) Currumbin Valley Vet Services August 2010


What are some common health problems in pet birds?

Some common health problems in pet birds include respiratory infections, feather plucking, beak malformations, egg binding, and mites/lice infestations.

Why is it important to be familiar with the common health problems affecting your pet bird’s species?

It is important to be familiar with the common health problems affecting your pet bird’s species because early detection and treatment can be critical to preventing more serious health problems and even death.

What are some signs that your pet bird may be unwell?

Some signs that your pet bird may be unwell include changes in behaviour, such as decreased activity, loss of appetite, or lethargy; changes in appearance, such as ruffled feathers or a dishevelled appearance; and physical symptoms such as discharge from the eyes or nose, or difficulty breathing.

What is Chlamydiosis and why is it important to be aware of it as a pet bird owner?

Chlamydiosis (also called psittacosis) is a highly infectious and often fatal bacterial infection that can affect pet birds. It is important to be aware of it as a pet bird owner because it can cause serious illness or even death in your bird and can also be transmitted to humans.

How can metal toxicity affect pet birds?

Metal toxicity can affect pet birds if they ingest or inhale metal particles or if their cage, food or water containers are made of metals other than stainless steel. This can cause a range of symptoms from mild to severe and even be fatal.

What are some steps pet bird owners can take to prevent health problems in their birds?

Some steps pet bird owners can take to prevent health problems in their birds include providing a healthy diet, maintaining a clean environment, avoiding exposure to toxins, providing mental stimulation and socialisation, and ensuring proper veterinary care.

When should a pet bird owner take their bird to an avian veterinarian?

A pet bird owner should take their bird to an avian veterinarian if they notice any signs of illness, behaviour changes, or physical symptoms. Regular check-ups with an avian vet can also help prevent health problems by detecting and treating issues early on.

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1 Comment

  1. What can cause a parakeet to peck their chest and cause an open wound? What treatment/s are recommended?

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