Most diseases in caged birds are either directly or indirectly related to malnutrition and stress. Malnutrition most often stems from what the bird eats, rather than how much it eats. Most caged birds are offered enough food, but they often do not receive enough of the proper foods and in the proper proportions. Stress results from any condition that compromises a bird's state of well-being. Examples include poor husbandry, inadequate diet, rapid temperature changes, and trauma. Click here to view symptoms of illness.
All owners of caged birds must understand that birds tend to "hide" signs of illness. Birds can compensate for serious internal disease in such a way that they appear healthy externally. It is theorized that evolution has "taught" birds to hide signs of illness to avoid being harassed and possibly killed by other birds in the same flock. Because of this disease-masking tendency, by the time a bird owner recognizes illness in a pet bird, the bird may have been sick for 1-2 weeks. Therefore, one cannot afford to take a "wait and see" approach and hope the bird improves. Be observant and act promptly. Learn to look for subtle signs of illness, and take special note of changes in the routine and habits of your pet bird. Seek veterinary assistance prompley if you suspect illness. Following is a list of signs of illness easily recognizable by the concerned bird owner. Alone or in combination, they signify potential illness in your bird.
If you suspect symptoms of illness in your bird, do not delay in making an appointment with your veterinarian. Either transport your bird to the doctor's office within its cage or use some other suitable container (smaller cage, pet carrier, box). Never visit the veterinarian with your bird perched on your shoulder. This method does not provide enough protection for your pet. Whatever container you choose should be covered to help minimize the stress to your sick bird during its visit. If you take your bird to the veterinarian in its own cage, do not clean it first. The material you discard could represent valuable information to the veterinarian.
After a sick bird has been initially treated by a veterinarian, home care is very important. Sick birds must be encouraged to eat and must be kept warm. Illness can cause significant weight loss in a matter of days, especially if the bird stops eating. If this happens, the patient must be hospitalized. However, even a sick bird with a "healthy appetite" can lose substantial weight because of the energy drain caused by the illness. As a general rule of thumb, any caged bird that appears ill to its owner is seriously ill. One day of illness for a bird is roughly equivalent to 7 days of illness for a person. The tendency for pet bird owners in this situation is to first seek advice from pet stores and there purchase antibiotic and other medication for their sick pet bird. With very few exceptions, these no prescribed products are worthless! They allow the sick bird to become even sicker, and greatly compromise the results of diagnostic tests that the veterinarian may require to properly diagnose and treat the patient. Contact your veterinarian at the slightest sing of illness in your bird!
Supplemental heat (space heater, heated room, heating pad under the cage bottom or wrapped around the cage, heat lamp) is vital for a sick bird. It is especially necessary if the bird's feathers are fluffed up. Provide just enough heat so that the feather posture appears normal. Overheating the patient must be avoided at all costs. Heat-stressed birds pant, hold their wings away from the body, depress their feathers close to the body, and appear anxious and agitated. Heat stroke and death can result if the bird continues to be overheated. The environmental temperature should be kept at 80-95 degrees for sick birds. The patient's cage should be covered (top, back and sides) during its convalescence. If a bird refused to crack seeds or eat other foods that require a great deal of work, offer hulled or sprouted seeds or other "easy" foods, such as warm cereal, cooked rice, cooked pasta, vegetables, applesauce and other fruit sauces, and peanut butter. Remember, birds that refuse to eat must be hospitalized. Few people can successfully force-feed a sick bird at home.