Last Updated on May 17, 2022 by Ali Shahid
Lovebirds are the friendliest and most beautiful pets you can bring home as new family members. These birds are extremely sensitive and loveable. Just like every health aspect of lovebirds needs attention, their ear care should also be your topmost priority.
Lovebirds do have ears located at the sides, behind a special layer of feathers known as auriculars. In unfavorable conditions, the ears of these birds may catch bacterial and fungal infections quite easily. It is important that you must have proper knowledge about the causes of ear infections and the treatment options available.
According to a study published in preventive veterinary medicine by Peerapol Sukon in 2021, the global prevalence of bacterial infections such as chlamydia is 19.5% to 20%. There is no significant difference between the prevalence rates among the other continents
Lovebirds Ear Infections
As a veterinarian, I’ve encountered countless numbers of ear infection cases arise in lovebirds due to negligence and unsanitary conditions. You need to go through the complete know-how about all the aspects of ear infections in your beloved birds.
The Uniquely Hidden Structure of Lovebirds’ Ears
Evolution has given certain adaptations to survive from predators in the wild. One unique feature is their hidden ear without any prominent external ear. Unlike humans and other animals have a visible external part, lovebirds only have a middle and inner ear.
The external ear is replaced by a small hole-like opening covered with specialized feathers. These feathers are known as auriculars and they help to catch and direct sound into the ears. The auriculars also protect the ear from external injury.
Lovebirds have one inner ear with an amazing synchronization between the eardrums. The eardrum vibrates in conjunction with each other and lets the bird sense the intensity and direction of the sound at the same time.
If you want to observe the outer ear opening in lovebirds, you cannot usually see it unless the bird is wet. On the other hand, you can gently swipe your finger over the sides of his skull’s base to see the openings and have an idea about ear health.
Signs of a Possible Ear Infection in Lovebirds
There is no use of the knowledge when you don’t know where to apply it. Similarly, you cannot have an idea about the ear condition of lovebirds unless you observe them. Most of the ear problems arise due to the negligence and inability of owners to notice it timely.
In case of ear infections, there will be some generalized signs signifying something is wrong with your lovebirds. The birds will stop eating, show restlessness, and remain listless. Eventually, lovebirds will start losing weight due to inappetence and lethargy.
The first and foremost sign you must be familiar with in case of ear infection is continuous head shaking. The head shaking in combination with poor gait and imbalance is an indication of nervous problems associated with an ear infection.
Your lovebirds have a very hard time staying in peace due to the consistent scratching over the external ear opening. You can see the vigorous scratching sign by looking at the bald patch around the ear. The auriculars might be completely gone in severe cases.
Abnormal Ear Discharges
Another noticeable sign is yellow like purulent discharge from the ear opening. This discharge might be an indication of an outer, middle, or inner ear infection. However, there may be crusting and complete blockage of ear-opening by this infective fluid in the ear.
Solid Yellow Gunk inside Ear Canal
Apart from bacterial infections, fungus is a big problem in birds living in unsanitary conditions. There will be a presence of dry moldy growth inside the ear canal or solid yellow crap. This type of material will keep reoccurring unless the fungal infection is cleared.
Causes of Lovebird’s Ear Infections
The main culprit you’re quite familiar with is bacteria. They are present everywhere and are opportunistic. In unhygienic environments, ears provide a very favorable environment for the growth of bacteria.
In doing so, there is a possibility of ascending or descending infection of the ear canal. This leads to the infection of the middle and inner ear that is then very hard to treat. You’ll notice foul-smelling discharge and crusting over the auriculars.
There might be a mixed infection involving bacterial and fungal presence. The discharge has properties for the mold to develop and grow. The fungi will slowly tear the inner ear canal leading to a severe itching sensation.
Parasitic problems are disturbing for every pet owner. The ear mites are very stubborn ectoparasites that live inside the ear canal and cause severe irritation and tissue bruising. Your bird will probably keep scratching the ear opening because of the pruritis and pain.
Lovebirds are very sensitive birds and a small amount of such a disturbing stimulus can lead to a considerable amount of stress. The stress consequently makes the bird immunocompromised leading to the possibility of other body infections.
Certain viruses will also put havoc on the ear health of lovebirds. Most of the viruses having replication sites inside the upper respiratory epithelium can also cause ear infections in lovebirds. Similarly, such infections may cause vestibular infection leading to a complete loss of coordination in birds.
Identification & Veterinarian’s Role
Although it is possible to quickly evaluate the general condition of the ears including the pathological changes, there is a need to find the causative agents. This is where visiting a qualified veterinarian comes in handy.
You can quickly take a look at the pathological alterations such as the presence or absence of auriculars and oozing of pus-like discharge from the ears. In that case, I recommend you quickly book an appointment with your veterinarian asap.
The veterinarian will thoroughly evaluate the general health of the bird to see the severity of the infection. He may get a swab test of the ear discharge to detect the exact causative agent of the ear infections.
By carefully examining these parameters, he will prescribe the required antibacterial or antifungal medications to cover the infection. At the same time, you’ll get a demonstration of how the prescribed medicines should be applied or administered to your lovebirds.
The veterinarian has also a role in advising you of the possible care and preventive methodologies you can adopt to prevent future infections. This includes the regular cleaning and monitoring of the ears and overall health of your beloved pets.
Treatment and Preventive Care in Ear Infections
The medical treatment strategy will be given to you by your veterinarian that you have to follow. This regimen is completely based on the causative agent whether it is bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic.
In case of bacterial infections, administer the required dosage of antibacterial medications along with the antibiotic ear drops inside the ear canal. Don’t try to overdose as it will cause life-threatening emergency conditions in lovebirds.
The fungal infections, on the other hand, are examined routinely for the presence of green moldy growth inside the canal. Use the prescribed antifungal cream inside the ear canal making sure the required amount is pushed inside the canal.
Ear mites, on the other hand, need more than just superficial cleaning. One cleaning method I can suggest to you as a veterinarian is to dip a Q-tip in the vegetable oil and use it to thoroughly clean the ear canal. Don’t leave any foul-colored residue inside.
While using Q-tips for cleaning, make sure not to push inside the ear canal. The eardrum is a very sensitive part and any small pressure by the Q-tip will damage it leading to hearing loss in lovebirds.
All the treatment regimens must be continued for the advised number of days by a qualified exotic animal veterinarian. Cleaning once a day and maintaining the hygienic cage and outer environments can help you contain and eradicate the ear infections in lovebirds.
Regular cleaning using the prescribed methods and administering timely medications can help your lovebird resist ear infections. If the ear opening is too small for a Q-tip, you can remove some of the cottons before putting them inside the ear canal.
Ear infections in lovebirds cause very disturbing effects on their general health. Regular monitoring for the possible signs of infections and treating them promptly can help you save a lot of time.
Whatever the cause is, you must take the infected lovebird to a qualified bird specialist for treatment advice. I don’t recommend you to start treating the birds by yourself as the slight alteration in medicinal doses can be lethal for these birds.
Make sure to get acknowledged the signs and causes of the ear infections in birds, this will allow you to quickly evaluate how bad the condition is. Clean the ears of your lovebirds once daily to have healthy and infection-free jolly birds.
Can I use OTC human ear drops to treat ear infections in lovebirds?
Exotic bird experts don’t recommend using any kind of over-the-counter ear drops by yourself. There might be a possibility of overdosage or contraindications in using these drops for lovebirds. Only use them after consulting a qualified veterinarian.
How to Clean the ears of lovebirds at home?
You can clean the bird’s ear using a Q-tip gently over the surface and inside the ear canal. Make sure to remove all of the sticky debris and make the canal pathway clear. Use the Q-tip in gentle motion to avoid injuring the inside of the ear canal.
Why do my lovebirds have a reoccurring ear infection after successful treatments?
In case of reoccurrence, there might be a problem with the outside environmental conditions or hygienic measures. Consider changing the place of your lovebird to a different room. Protect your birds from going under stress as it may lead to increased infection susceptibility.
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.