• Discharge from the eyes
  • Change in clarity or color of the eyes
  • Closing of the eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Discharge from the nostrils
  • Obstructed nostrils
  • Soiling feathers on head or around nostrils
  • Sneezing
  • Inability to manipulate food with the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or not eating at all
  • Fluffed up feathers
  • Inactivity
  • Droopy wings
  • Decreased preening and feather maintenance
  • Break in the birds routine
  • Changed or no vocalization (may be serious)
  • Weight loss
  • Equilibrium problems (very serious!)
  • Inability to perch (bird on cage bottom)
  • Limping or not bearing weight on 1 leg
  • Swollen feet or joints
  • Change in quality or quantity of droppings
  • Open mouthed breathing when at rest (very serious!)
  • Tail pumping (rhythmic back and forth motion of the tail when at rest)
  • Lumps or masses anywhere on the body
  • Bleeding (always an emergency situation, regardless of the origin)

If you suspect 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 veterinarian has initially treated a sick bird, 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. It 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, and caged bird that appears ill to its owner is seriously ill. The tendency for pet bird owners in this situation is to first seek advice from pet stores and there purchase antibiotics and other medication for their sick pet bird. With very few exceptions, these non-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 sign 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° F. for sick birds. The patients’s cage should be covered (top, back and sides) during its convalescence.

If a bird refuses 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 generally are hospitalized because few people can successfully force feed a sick bird at home.