Keeping your Cockatiels Healthy

You as the owner should be aware of the potential threats and diseases that could harm the wellness of your Cockatiels. Just like human beings, you need to have knowledge on these diseases so that you can prevent it from happening in the first place. You will find tons of information on the most common problems that may affect your bird including its causes, signs and symptoms, remedies and prevention.

Common Health Problems

​In this section, you will learn about the diseases that may affect and threaten your Cockatiel’s wellness. Learning these diseases as well as its remedies is vital for you and your bird so that you could prevent it from happening or even help with its treatment in case they caught one.

​Below are some of the most common health problems that occur specifically to Cockatiels parrots. You will learn some guidelines on how these diseases can be prevented and treated as well as its signs and symptoms.

Protozoal Infections

  1. Cause and Effect Trichomonas and Giardia are common protozoal infections, these infections usually occurs during the breeding process of small birds such as Cockatiels. It usually spreads during breeding season.
  2. Signs and Symptoms ​These protozoa usually target the intestines and digestive tract of the birds, which then causes diarrhea. If you think that your bird’s feces is sticky rather than loose, it’s a sign that your bird might be infected. As a precaution, you should bring him/her to a veterinarian for a lab report to prevent the infection
  3. Treatment and Remedy The treatment for birds infected consists of several anti-parasitic medicines that are fortunately available to the vet, after which, your vet will suggest you to make your bird undergo lab tests to monitor and ensure that the medicine killed the virus.

Psittacosis or Parrot Fever

 It is a zoonotic infectious disease caused by an unknown organism whose natural hosts are birds such as Cockatiels.

  1. Cause and Effect It is an airborne disease and it can also be spread via the bird’s feces. This disease is highly contagious. Before acquiring a Cockatiel, it’s important that your bird goes through a Psittacosis test because this type of infection can also potentially harm a human being.
  2. Signs and Symptoms ​The worst thing about this disease is that it is asymptomatic, which means symptoms does not appear or cannot be detected easily, you will never know when it could happen and if the bird is a carrier. Nevertheless, watch out for these possible signs that your pet might be having Psittacosis: Difficulty in breathing (due to Respiratory infections with airsac)  Sneezing  Runny eyes Congestion Liver disease might occur (and can progress rapidly to death)
  3. Diagnosis of Psittacosis As mentioned earlier, this type of disease is asymptomatic that sometimes even a psittacosis test could not detect the disease. Identifying organisms in the feces is done in most cases.
  4. Treatment and Remedy This disease is treated with a tetracycline based antibiotic given for about 45 days to eliminate the carrier state, although some veterinarians believe that the antibiotic does not necessarily remove the carrier state.

Avian Pox ​

Avian pox is the single deadliest disease that acquired by Cockatiels. It is caused by an Avian Poxvirus infection and it causes real damage to Cockatiels and scarred it for life.

a.) Cause and Effect ​The virus is usually transmitted through a direct contact with birds carrying the virus. Biting insects or any contaminated surfaces may spread the disease even further and may make the pain worse.

b.) Signs and Symptoms ​The thickening of the eyes by mucous membranes is a sign that your Cockatiels is a carrier of the virus. It manifests through a wet form of the pox that affects, mouth, gullet, and upper and lower respiratory systems.

c.) Treatment and Remedy Veterinarians typically recommend 10,000 units of Vitamin A which are given by injection. Antibiotics are also given to treat secondary infections and a Mercurochrome solution is given to treat their mucous-thickened eyes. Consult an avian veterinarian immediately.

E – Coli  ​

Another common illness that affects Cockatiels is a bacteria called E-Coli. It is very rampant among psittacine birds.

  1. Cause and Effect ​E-Coli is a gram-negative bacteria found in guts of birds that are considered abnormal; this bacteria is highly capable of causing diseases especially if it reaches into the bird’s bloodstream, respiratory system, and reproductive system or if the carrier parrot is under a stressful situation.
  2. Signs and Symptoms Coliform infections are the main cause of deaths in most Cockatiels, the E-Coli bacteria weakens the bird’s digestive and respiratory system most of the time. A sudden loss appetite and difficulty in breathing may be a sign that your bird is suffering from this bacteria.
  3. Treatment and Remedy ​Veterinarians usually have to determine first if these bacteria are the disease causing agents or merely a secondary infection through a culture testing before treating it with antibiotics or other necessary medicines.

Proventricular Dilation Disease  ​

This disease is commonly known as Wasting Disease, it is rampant among Cockatiels species. It is an inflammatory wasting disease caused by a virus called Avian BornaVirus (ABV), which is mostly found in Psittacine species specially in Cockatiels. It primarily affects the Central Nervous System and multiple organs such as liver, kidneys, heart, brain, peripheral blood vessels, lungs and gastrointestinal tract.

  1. Cause and Effect ​It is classified as a sporadic disease that has a very rare kind of attack to a bird’s immune system. Unlike other virus which attacks the whole cell then move to another cell, ABV does not destroy the cells which leave the infected ones very little damage. Since the cells are not destroyed the immune system cannot detect it and thus the virus stays within the bird for an indefinite amount of time, which eventually weakens the immune system and results in continuous infections throughout the parrot’s life.
  2. Diagnosis ​Avian veterinarians have difficulties in detecting the virus because of other infections it can bring to the bird’s health. The ABV does not show-up in the test results and there are other viruses similar to ABV which may also lead in the assumption that the bird is not a carrier even if it is.
  3. Signs and Symptoms ​ABV is also an asymptomatic virus, which means that there are no signs that the bird might be infected or a carrier. However, sometimes you can notice it if your pet experienced instances of mild disorders such as moaning, feather-plucking or self-mutilation to severe illness such as head tremors, paralysis, seizures or other sudden sickness due to infected organs in the body.
  4. Treatment and Remedy Veterinarians classified the severity of disease and level of impact to different stages such as low-to-moderate symptoms to severe and chronic stages. Parrots in the early stages are given treatment to prevent the virus from spreading and eventually curing it. Although, this virus can be controlled and has a remedy, it’s important that your bird always goes for checkup and undergo medical tests every now and then especially if it was diagnosed with the virus before.

Coacal Papilloma

It is caused by a virus infection similar to warts in other animals and it is transmitted through direct contact. These tiny tumors usually appear in the vent area of a Cockatiel where it can eventually block the fecal area of making it hard for the bird to defecate if it grows large enough. 

  1. Treatment ​The recommended treatment for this is a laser surgery. As a remedy veterinarians also advised owners to offer Jalapino peppers to prevent and control papilloma in birds. Consult your avian vet on the right amount of peppers to feed to your Cockatiels.

Pacheco’s Disease

This disease is caused by a herpes virus which attacks the liver and results in acute liver failure. It is very contagious and highly fatal to most birds.

  1. Diagnosis

 Diagnosis is done via necropsy which detects microscopic evidences of the virus found in the liver.

  • Treatment and Remedy

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed antibiotic or remedy for this disease, the best you could do is to minimize the spread of the virus through intensive care and some antiviral medication.

 Aspergillosis          

It is a respiratory disease caused by the fungus called Aspergillus, which is found in warm and moist environments.

  1. Cause and Effect The microscopic spores of Aspergillus are an airborne transmitted disease. The fungus does not cause the disease per se but if your bird does not have a healthy immune system it can cause illness.

It increases the chances of the spores being inhaled by your bird if the environment has poor ventilation and sanitation, dusty conditions, and in close confinements.     

Other predisposing factors include poor nutrition, other medical conditions in the respiratory system and prolonged use of antibiotics or corticosteroids, which eventually weakens the immune system. Aspergillosis is more common in parrots than other pet birds.

  • Signs and Symptoms

There are two kinds of Aspergillosis, it’s either acute or chronic, both of which attacks the respiratory system.

Acute Aspergillosis signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe difficulty in breathing 
  • Cyanosis (a bluish coloration of mucous membranes and/or skin)
  • Decreased or loss of appetite 
  • Frequent drinking and urination 

Chronic Aspergillosis symptoms include:

  • White nodules appear through the respiratory tissue
  • Large numbers of spores enter the bloodstream    
  • Infection in the kidneys, skin, muscle, gastrointestinal tract, liver, eyes, and brain

Other signs of Aspergillosis may include:

  • Rapid breathing 
  • Exercise intolerance  
  • Change in syrinx (voice box); reluctance to talk
  • Discharged and clogging of Nares 
  • Tremors
  • Seizures or paralysis
  • Green discoloration in the urates may be seen
  • Enlarged liver
  • Gout (painful, inflamed joints due to urate deposits)
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Diagnosis of Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis is generally difficult to detect until complete diagnosis. Do not compromise respiratory infections, consult the veterinarian immediately.  Here are some of the tests that your Cockatiels need to undergo through for diagnosis  Radiographs (a complete blood count) Endoscopy  (used to view lesions in the syrinx or trachea) PCR testing for the presence of Aspergillus

  • Treatment and Remedy

Always consult a veterinarian first to know the right remedy for your bird. There are reports that the antifungal drug Itraconazole may also be toxic to Cockatiels parrots than to other bird species. Another antifungal drug called Amphotericin B may be administered orally, topically, by injection, or nebulizing. Consult your vet for proper guidance. Surgery may also be performed to remove accessible lesions. Supportive care is often needed such as oxygen, supplemental heat, tube feeding, and treatment of underlying conditions.

  • Prevention
  • Maintaining a good husbandry and diet can highly prevent outbreaks of Aspergillosis.
  • Below are some tips you can do to ensure that your bird is free from such a deadly disease:
  • Keep your bird in a well-ventilated environment. 
  • Always clean the food and water dishes 
  • Thoroughly clean cages, toys, perches and other accessories at least once a month.     
  • Replace substrate (material lining the cage bottom)   
  • regularly    
  • Offer a good nutrition, such as the right combination   of fruits, vegetables and seeds

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) 

PBFD is a viral condition that is responsible for damage to the beak, feathers and nails as well as the immune system of infected birds. These are very common in parrots between 6 months and 3 years of age.

  1. Signs and symptoms

PBFD typically affects the feathers of infected birds as well as its beak and nails over time. Here are some signs and symptoms that your pet might have PBFD.

  • Feathers are short, fragile, malformed, and prone to bleeding and breaking. Birds may first lose their the white, fine powder produced by specialized feathers to help maintain feather health when this happens more abnormal feathers will eventually develop.
  •  Beak has become glossy rather than the more typical matte appearance 
  • Nails and beak becomes brittle and malformed
  • Significant loss of feathers (as the follicles become damaged) 
  • Loss of appetite (especially in young Cockatiels)
  • Regurgitation or continuous vomiting
  • Diagnosis

Veterinarians will likely perform a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis. This test uses advanced techniques to look for the virus’ DNA. ​

Most of the time PCR only needs a blood sample,    but your veterinarian may also need to take a swab from your bird’s mouth and vent.

Other kinds of test may include:

  • Complete blood count and a chemistry panel tests. 
  • DNA test for specifically for PBFD
  • Treatment

The majority of clinically affected birds will die within a few months to a year because there are no antiviral drugs available to fight the virus. Your avian veterinarian can only help keep your bird comfortable because this condition is painful for the bird and it also allows secondary infections to take hold. Some birds may survive for a few months they will ultimately die from this disease.

  • Prevention

The only thing breeders and pet owners can do to prevent this deadly virus is to take pro-active steps but since you can’t help the birds mingle with other birds as they travel from wholesaler to retail pet distributors to your home the best solution is to have your bird examined by an avian veterinarian and allow diagnostic testing. It is also wise to take your bird for a yearly exam to make sure it stays healthy. Yearly exams can catch small issues before they get worse.

Tracheal Mites

Tracheal Mites are quite common in birds because it can infiltrate the bird’s entire respiratory tract and the severity of the infection can vary greatly. Birds with mild infections may not show any signs but severe infections may produce symptoms including trouble breathing, wheezing or clicking sounds, open-mouth breathing, and excessive salivation.

a.) Cause and Effect

This disease can be transmitted through close contact with an infected bird and through airborne particles. It can also be passed through contaminated food or drinking water.

b.) Diagnosis

It is quite difficult to diagnose if your Cockatiels has tracheal mites, veterinarians often recommend performing a tracheal swab to check under a microscope for further evaluation.

c.) Signs and Symptoms ​

Common signs include sneezing, wheezing or difficulty in breathing. Continuous bobbing of the tail while breathing is also a sign that you Cockatiel may have a respiratory problem. Tracheal mites also overlap with a number of other infections that has the same symptoms, so you need to make sure you have an accurate diagnosis.

d.) Treatment and Remedy

Medications are available to treat the disease, though dosage can be tricky and many birds die from tracheal mites. It is best to consult your veterinarian first before getting any treatment options available for tracheal mites.

Other common types of disorders and injuries in Cockatiels include:

  • Constricted Toe
  • Crop Burn
  • Crop Punctures
  • Dehydration
  • Splay Leg
  • Ruptured Air Sac
  • Slipped Tendon
  • Split Sternum
  • Scissors Beak
  • Sour and Slow Crop
  • Sinusitis
  • Salmonellosis
  • Nasal Discharge
  • Gout
  • Beak and Feather Syndrome

Recommended Tests

Here are the recommended tests your Cockatiels should undergo through to detect potential diseases and further evaluate its health condition so that it can be prevented and treated as soon as possible.            

For young Cockatiels, you might want to do a CBC or Complete Blood Count; this is a general test for birds and even humans to test for any internal infections.

Another test is called Chlamydophila Immunoassay; this is a diagnosis exam to check if your bird might be carrying a contagious parrot fever, which is also potentially harmful to humans. You might also want to do a Culture diagnosis to detect if there are any bacterial infections in your young Cockatiels.

For adult Cockatiels, a CBC and Culture diagnosis should be done regularly as prescribed by your avian veterinarian as well as a full body X-ray usually with gas sedation for further evaluation of your pet’s condition. If there are any signs of illness, veterinarians will recommend further tests to identify your bird’s potential disease.

Signs of Possible Illnesses

For you to keep your Cockatiels healthy, you need to monitor them to ensure that they are in good condition, however there will come a time that your bird will get sick. Here are some early warning signs that your Cockatiels could be potentially ill. 

Activity – Is your bird sleeping when it normally does not? Or being quiet when it normally isn’t? Is there a decreased in food and water intake or not being able to eat at all like before?

Droppings (feces) – Are there any change in urates (white part) or feces that is lasting more than 1-2 days? 

Diarrhea – Have you found undigested food in your bird’s feces? Their droppings should have the three distinct parts (green/brown, white and liquid urine). If you think your Cockatiels has diarrhea, contact your vet immediately.

Weight loss – Does your bird feels “light” when you pick it up? That maybe a sign of weight loss because the Keel bone becomes more prominent.

Feathers – Is there a continuous presence of pinfeathers? It may be dull in color, broken, bent and fluffed up feathers.

Sneezing – Is there a discharge in the nostrils when your bird sneezes? Look for stained feathers over the nares or crusty material in or around the nostrils.

Vomiting – Has your pet been vomiting for quite a long period of time already? Cockatiels and all birds regurgitate occasionally as a sign of “affection”  but it could also indicate a crop infection 

Respiratory – Are there signs of respiratory distress like tail bobbing up and down with each breath, a change in breathing sounds, and wheezing or clicking noise when it inhales?

Balance – Has your bird been falling off its perch and huddling at the bottom of cage? It is a sign that it’s losing its balance.

Eyes – Does it appear dull? Is there a redness/swelling and loss of feathers around the eyes?

Feet – Is it scaly or flaky? Does it have sores on the bottom of the feet?

Head – Have you noticed excessive head bobbing and shaking?

Beak – Is your bird’s beak swelling?     

Behavior – does your bird sits on the floor of its cage   or habitat? Does it favor one foot over the other? ​When these things happen, contact your avian veterinarian immediately. Do not compromise your bird’s health; prevention is always better than cure.

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