Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Ali Shahid
Ataxia in parakeets is defined as a situation in which the muscles cannot be controlled to move in a coordinated manner. When ataxic, parakeets appear unsteady or unbalanced.
This is why they tend to stick their heads on the side of their cages or stand with their legs spread wide apart. In cases of severe ataxia, the patient will lose their balance and fall off the perch.
In parakeets with ataxia, their nervous systems, joint alignments, and musculoskeletal systems may be affected. Among the many components of the nervous system that have been damaged are the spinal cord, the brain, and the inner ear.
Consequently, the brain will be unable to understand where the bird’s body, head, and limbs are physically located. The brain will also have difficulty coordinating movement.
The muscles themselves are unable to respond to the brain’s signals when the musculoskeletal system is injured, which causes your bird to be uncoordinated.
Symptoms of Ataxia in Parakeet
As a parakeet owner, I know that it can be a bit alarming to see your bird having difficulty coordinating his movements or losing his balance at times. There is an urgent need for your veterinarian to address this serious condition as soon as possible.
You should contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms in your bird or if it is acting strangely with any of its behavior.
- Standing while keeping legs wide apart to maintain balance
- To remain in a standing position, birds hold onto objects or cages with their beaks
- They move their heads, wings, or legs in an uncoordinated manner
- Lethargic or excessively sleepy behavior
- The bird fell from its perch
- It is also very common for them to be unable to breathe properly, showing excessive neck stretches, forward-leaning postures, or breathing with their mouths open.
Causes of Ataxia in Parakeets
Ataxia is a condition that occurs in some birds for many reasons. It is commonly believed that these disorders arise from diseases of the nervous system, as well as harmful chemicals, metabolic disturbances, and from systemic weaknesses.
Several contagious diseases can cause ataxia, so you should talk to your veterinarian if your parakeet has had any direct or indirect contact with another bird. Ataxia is caused by several different conditions, including:
- When birds fly into other objects such as windows or mirrors, they may cause trauma to the brain or spinal cord.
- The toxic effects of heavy metals are a very common problem among pet birds. Lead or zinc poisoning is among the most common causes of the toxic effects of heavy metals. Another factor leading to ataxia is the presence of toxic substances, such as pesticides, molds, and salts.
- There are four nutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system, and these are thiamine (Vitamin B1), vitamin E, selenium, and calcium. Their deficiencies can lead to ataxia.
- Bacteria may cause encephalitis or abscesses in the brain, or they may infect the inner ear, resulting in infections. Symptoms such as severe weakness and trembling are also symptomatic of bacterial septicemia.
- It is believed that various avian viruses may cause neurological symptoms, such as ataxia, among others. The virus that causes PVD tends to affect the nervous system. Birds suffering from PVD often suffer from intestinal illness as well. There is also proof that some viruses can also cause ataxia, such as the Newcastle disease virus, reoviruses, togaviruses, and polyomaviruses. Despite this fact, ataxia is generally only one of several symptoms associated with these viruses.
- It is possible that Chlamydia affects not only other organs but also the nervous system. There are usually other symptoms as well as ataxia in birds that are affected with Chlamydia.
- There are instances when Aspergillus or cryptococcus can invade the brain or spinal cord which in turn can result in ataxia.
- Sometimes cancer or tumors in the brain or spinal cord can result in ataxia in parakeets.
- A number of parasites, including Toxoplasma and Sarcocystis, can cause cysts in the brain. There are some reports that these cysts sometimes can be responsible for ataxia.
- It is possible for some metabolic illnesses such as liver disorders, diabetes mellitus and renal disorders to be the cause of ataxia.
Diagnosis of Ataxia in Birds
During our consultation, my veterinarian’s role is to begin the process by asking you questions about the bird’s medical history and the environment in which it lives.
If your pet starts to show any of these symptoms, it is extremely important that you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible, regardless of whether the symptoms persist or are intermittent.
The veterinarian will conduct an in-depth physical examination of your pet. It is also possible that the physician may recommend a number of diagnostic tests to be completed in order to diagnose the severity of the ataxia and the underlying cause. Some of the diagnostic tests that may be advised include:
- Heavy metal toxicity Test
- Serum biochemistry
- It is possible for your veterinarian to order radiographs for you. As a result, the veterinarians will be able to determine whether your bird has developed any metabolic disorders and whether any spinal damage may have occurred. The use of ultrasound is another option, though veterinarians are more likely to recommend x-rays first before recommending ultrasounds.
- If any abnormalities or infections are found in the middle or inner ear, an endoscopy may be ordered. Additionally, endoscopy will be used to assess whether or not there is any evidence of metabolic disease within the abdominal cavity.
Treatment of Ataxia in Parakeet
Depending on the circumstances, your veterinarian may recommend that you undergo one or more of the diagnostic tests described above.
During this time, it is possible that the symptoms will have to be treated in order to maintain health, especially if the situation is severe.
Some of the following treatments are possible for certain birds suffering from ataxia, but not necessarily for all of them.
- Your bird’s condition cannot be improved with therapy alone. There must first be a cure for the underlying disease.
- In the case of ataxia, lethargy, or anorexia, ataxic birds generally need to be hospitalized and receive 24-hour care.
- It is common for birds to become moderately to severely dehydrated without eating, so they need to be given fluids to keep them hydrated.
- Intravenous fluids, interosseous fluids, and subcutaneous fluids can all be administered. Depending on the severity of the dehydration, the route of administration will differ.
- In the case of an anorexic bird, forced feeding will be necessary. In most cases, a tube is inserted into the crop and liquid gruel is infused into it.
- A course of antibiotics or anti-fungal medications. If there is an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast, it may be necessary to use drug therapy to treat or prevent it.
- In the case of heavy metals, chelating agents are essential
- Supplementation with calcium or vitamins
- Comfortable bedding and a quiet environment are essential for a good night’s sleep
Why Do Parakeets Lose Their Balance Due to Ataxia?
If your parakeet seems to be losing his balance, the most likely cause is ataxia. A condition that is very unpleasant, affecting the nervous system and affecting the musculoskeletal system, is caused by the following reasons:
- Damage to the spinal cord or nerves
- Diseases that are chronic in nature
- The most common infections that affect the ears and respiratory system
The brain, spinal cord, and inner ear are among the organs that are affected by ataxia within the nervous system.
As a result, your parakeet brain won’t be able to tell where your body, your limbs, and your head are located. Thus, due to the lack of support, the parrot becomes unsteady and thus loses his balance.
Do parakeets die from ataxia?
Ataxia can either be fatal or non-fatal, depending on the reason for its occurrence. A course of antibiotics may help some parrots to recover, whereas other parrots may require more intensive rehabilitation before they can walk and balance again.
Since ataxia can be caused by any number of conditions, there is no way to prevent it from occurring.
In fact, most cancers and spinal-cord conditions are the results of inadequately functioning genes. However, you can maintain the health of your parrot by following these steps:
- To prevent infections in your parrot’s ears, make sure you keep them clean
- Make sure the perches are properly positioned during installation so that your parrot won’t fall and hit its head
- Make sure all your birds are vaccinated against commonly occurring viral diseases.
- Make sure that the room is as bird-friendly as possible by removing all obstacles
- Make sure your bird eats a healthy, nutritional diet to prevent deficiencies
- Ensure that the temperature is kept at a constant level to reduce the possibility of respiratory problems
- If your parakeet has extensive nerve damage and spinal cord damage, it may be in too much discomfort to lead a normal life, so it will not be able to live as normal as possible. You veterinarian might recommend euthanasia in this situation to prevent the animal from suffering further.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.