Last Updated on March 8, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Originating from tropical & subtropical areas, parakeets are intelligent and lovable birds to keep as pets. Parakeets are quite easy to care for but just like every other living species, can suffer from diseases. Parakeets are delicate and sensitive little cuties that require good care & management.
Keeping the parakeets healthy is one domain every bird owner should focus on. You must acknowledge the proper research and knowledge about the common parakeet diseases. Moreover, these intelligent creatures must get observed with a keen eye for any health problem.
Common Diseases of Parakeets
As a veterinarian, I have seen many cases of parakeet diseases arise just due to the neglect of their owners. Many people are unaware of the early disease signs and only be able to comprehend when things have already gotten out of hand.
Many bird diseases are now zoonotic, meaning these can also get transferred to humans. For instance, according to the annual report published by Wenyi Zhang, avian influenza known as bird flu caused the deaths of 259 people in 2017.
Therefore, many veterinary experts recommend you learn about the influence of common parakeet diseases. This will enable you to comprehend and respond at an earlier stage of the diseases because many of them are life-threatening for your parakeets.
Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
Psittacosis is a highly contagious disease of parakeets and other parrot breeds caused by Chlamydial bacteria. The disease presents itself with mild to severe symptoms of respiratory difficulty, inappetence, and abnormal eye and nasal discharges. The color of the cere will be darker than usual in psittacosis.
Apart from that, chlamydia also affects the digestive system of parakeets leading to watery droppings and severe weight loss. Only the prescribed antibiotics from qualified veterinarians are the way to treat psittacosis orally or through injectables.
Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease (PBFD)
PBFD is one of the most commonly occurring serious diseases affecting the whole parrot family. This disease is known as bird AIDS due to the severity and resemblance of the symptoms. As the name suggests, PBFD causes abnormal growth of feathers & beak abnormalities.
The parakeets suffering from PBFD will show significant feather loss with a complete absence of dander. The disease is diagnosed by skin and feather biopsy and unfortunately, no cure is available for treating Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)
PDD attacks the nerve supply of the parakeet’s gut leading to vomiting and losing droppings. Not only the gastrointestinal tract but other organs are also get affected on the neuronal levels. The crop of parakeet suffering from PDD is swollen and he/she will experience noticeable weight loss.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease is treated with a specially formulated diet and veterinarian prescribed NSAIDs. Some parakeets will not even show the signs of PDD until the case is severe. There is no proven medicine to cure the PDD and treatment mostly aims to provide pain relief.
Polyomavirus is a fatal disease mainly affecting newborns and juvenile birds with a high mortality rate. The enlarged abdomen with diarrhea and muscular paralysis are some of the prominent signs of the disease. Parakeets not only are the victim but also stay as carriers of this virus.
If your parakeet is suffering from polyomavirus or even get recovered from it, there is a chance of bringing the infection to other parakeets in the cage. Polyomavirus is incurable and treatment is done to ensure the proper support. Proper vaccination can prevent the disease in your parakeet flock.
Candidiasis in Parakeets
Candida referred to the fungal infection of the digestive tract in all bird species mainly affecting the parrots. The disease is characterized by the overgrowth of yeast leading to severe digestive problems. Parakeets show white color lesions on throat mucosa with vomiting.
The disease is treated with antifungal preparations and usually occurs as a secondary infection to other underlying bacterial and viral infections.
Fleas & Mites Infestation
Among other common skin infections, external parasites are something you must focus on. The Knemidokoptes Mites pose a significant feather loss and skin flaking in parakeets. You’ll notice the flaking near the ceres, legs, vent, and eyelids with white crusting.
Fleas and mites may also lead to beak deformities and abrasive lesions on your bird’s skin and can only be treated through medications such as ivermectin.
Hepatic & Renal Diseases
Mostly kidney and liver diseases are a result of dietary alterations or deficiency of specific nutrients. Obesity in parakeets is a problem that predisposes them to hepatic issues such as fatty liver disease.
If your parakeet is currently on a seed diet, you must add mineral supplementation to the regular diet. Vitamins are also helpful in regulating the metabolism and well-being of these birds. Maintaining a healthy and playful routine in the cage prevents the development of such issues.
Noticing the Signs of Disease in Parakeets
Observing the habits and subtle changes in the behavior of parakeets gives you an idea if your bird is living a healthy life. Not only the behavior but also there is a noticeable change in the food and water consumption of parakeets.
The initial signs of illness are only subtle due to the wild built-in mechanism of hiding the weakness in front of predators. You have to spend time with your parakeets and should be aware of such mechanisms that might mask many prominent signs.
Inappetence & Lethargy
Generally, parakeets are active and eat a reasonable feed portion throughout the day. If you are petting these birds for many years, you are quite aware of any change that deviates from the normal. In such cases, the feed and water intake will be tremendously reduced.
The inappetence not only starts causing weakness but also disturbs the metabolism of birds. Your parakeet will stay sleepy and become extremely lethargic. You might observe unresponsiveness to external stimuli and a lack of interest.
Reduced Socialization & Vocalization
Parakeets are naturally very social and lovely birds to keep. When in good health, your house is continuously echoing with their sweet chirping sounds. But that’s not the case when your birds are getting down due to illness.
You’ll observe the sudden change in behavior and decrease in socialization with you and other cage mates. The affected bird will separate him/herself and show complete or reduced singing. Most of the time, he/she will prefer to stay in a darker place.
Weakness & Unnatural Behavior
As the feed and water intake of parakeets are significantly reduced in disease and illness, your bird will start shifting to a poor body condition score. In that respect, the birds will start sitting on the lower perches and remained inactive throughout the day.
You’ll see your parakeet sitting at the bottom of the cage or hanging on the cage fence using his/her beak. The walking behavior also gets disturbed and results in trembling and falling from the perches. In severe diseases affecting CNS, your bird will be circling and has periodic seizures.
Unusual Discharges & Appearance
Depending on the affected body system, your parakeet will show abnormal signs of crusting and discharges around the eyes and beak. The eyes will appear sunken and lost their shine due to dehydration and disturbed metabolic functions.
The dropping of wings and abnormal pecking is an indication that signifies a visit to an exotic animal veterinarian. The parakeet will stop the natural preening behavior and show abnormal droppings. There might be a change in color, consistency, and smell of the droppings in advanced disease stages.
In disease conditions, all of the bird’s vitals such as temperature, pulse, and respiration will get disturbed noticeably. In case of bacterial or viral infection, there will be a temperature rise. But take notes on the environmental temperature your bird is living in before making an infection diagnosis.
In respiratory and cardiovascular issues, respiration and pulse will increase or decrease depending on the underlying cause. In respiratory problems, a parakeet is observed to breathe with an open beak and have wheezing or sneezing during the breathing.
Your bird may show vomiting & regurgitation in case of digestive issues. Weight loss is common in parakeets when suffering from a disease affecting the digestive system due to reduced feed intake.
Parakeet Diseases & Your Role
Supportive Care Provision
No matter what the cause of the disease is, it is necessary to maintain the comfort and support of your parakeet in illness. A diseased parakeet when observed, must be placed in a warm environment to conserve the energy. Make sure to observe the signs of overheating such as open beak panting and dropping of wings.
If your parakeet is suffering from respiratory illness, raising the humidity levels can be of great benefit. The humid environment will moisten the bird’s respiratory tract and help him/her to breathe with a little more ease.
The sickness in parakeets always carries the risk of dehydration. Maintaining the optimum hydration levels in your parakeets can save their lives from getting hypovolemic shocks. Consider visiting a veterinarian for under-skin fluid therapy to avoid worsening your bird’s illness.
Just like hydration, sickness will take away the feed intake leading to weakness and dropping in the bird’s weight. A portion of nutritionally balanced food is proven to shorten the duration of illness and recovery period.
Scheduling a Veterinarian Visit
Most of the severe and life-risking diseases of parakeets need immediate medical attention. You must take quick action on noticing the signs of illness. As a veterinarian, I have seen pet owners rushing toward the vets when the overall condition of birds is already at its worst.
A qualified veterinarian with keep dexterity in parakeet treatment specialization is what you need to search for as soon as possible. The vet will perform a thorough examination to address the disease your parakeet is suffering from.
After completing the required blood, fecal, and skin testing, your vet will prescribe the best possible treatments. You must follow the advice given by your veterinarian and administer the required dosage as per instructions.
Like other pets, parakeets are also susceptible to many bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases. Maintaining the health of your birds not only requires timely management but also keen observation and sound knowledge about what you’re observing.
In my opinion, the more you’re aware of the common disease identifying signs, the more you’ll be able to quickly respond. With that being said, always try to consult a qualified and reliable veterinarian asap to avoid pushing the given disease condition to a fatal stage.
Can I administer the medication to parakeets by myself for common diseases?
As a veterinarian, I won’t recommend you to do that. Administering medication to birds in either oral or injectable routes required adequate training and experience. Always try to visit your nearest veterinarian for disease diagnosis and drug administration.
What should I do if the parakeet is not responding and doing open-mouth breathing?
Open mouth breathing with unresponsiveness can be due to an overheated environment or a sign of a more serious respiratory issue. You can temporarily shift your bird to a cooler place to see if the condition gets improved. However, consulting your veterinarian is still your foremost priority.
Why does my parakeet keep scratching the skin and plucking feathers?
The external parasites of parakeets cause havoc and itching on the skin surface. To get rid of the irritation, your bird will keep scratching the affected areas of skin resulting in feather loss. You can take a quick look for visible fleas and mites or go for a skin scrapping test via a veterinarian for confirmatory diagnosis.
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.