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Avian "colds"

There is no such thing as an avian "cold"! It seems to be a wide spread notion that birds contract colds just like their human owners. What may appear to the owner to be a "cold" in a bird, could actually be one of the various forms of upper respiratory tract problems. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to the following and require a trip to your avian vet immediately!

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Tail bobbing at rest
  • Noisy breathing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal or eye discharge
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Change in tone or voice
  • Lethargy
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms of illness

It can be hard to tell if a bird is ill. Being prey animals, rather than predators like most of our familiar pets, they hide their illness so a predator doesn't target them as easy game. Your best chance of catching a disease in the early, treatable stage is to know your bird well and to stay alert for significant changes.

Some signs to look our for are:

  • Listlessness, lack of energy, and lack of interest in normal activities.
  • Dull, rough, unpreened feathers or a general ungroomed look.
  • Fluffed up feathers despite moderate room temperature.
  • Abnormal feather growth.
  • Not perching/sleeping on the bottom of the cage.
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose.
  • Wheezing, clicking or raspy sounds when breathing (normal breathing is silent).
  • Tail-assisted breathing. That is, the tail moves up and down pumping to aid air through distressed lungs.
  • Runny droppings. A foul odor from either the bird or its droppings.
  • A "pasted" vent — dropping stuck to the feathers around the vent.
  • Vomiting.
  • Bleeding.
  • Any kind of growth, sore, blemish, wart, skin abnormality, etc.
  • A vague feeling that something about your bird isn't quite right. If you observe your bird carefully and know it well you can probably trust your instincts when you think that something may be out of the ordinary even if you can't put your finger on a specific symptom.

A sick bird should always be considered an emergency and should be brought to an avian vet as soon a possible!

First aid

NEVER, EVER try and treat your bird's illness yourself with over-the-counter remedies. By the time you know a bird is ill the sickness is usually well advanced. Delaying a visit with an avian vet and masking the condition with over-the-counter medicines is very likely to cost your bird's life.

Until you can get the bird to the vet keep the bird warm (85-90F degrees), quiet, and in strict quarantine. Provide fresh water and offer his favorite foods. If you have a 10-15 gallon (clean and empty) fish tank, you can use it as a hospital cage.

Take a heating pad, set in on low only and place the tank on top. If you don't have an empty and clean fish tank you can clip a heating pad on the outside of the cage near the bird's favorite perch, set in on low only and cover the cage with a sheet or towel on 3 sides to keep the heat in. Heat helps boost a bird's immune system, so he might start feeling better after spending some time on heat. Don't let this fool you into thinking the bird is all better and no longer needs vet care.

This is only a very temporary fix, make sure you get the bird to an avian vet as soon as possible. If the bird is bleeding, apply pressure to try and stop the bleeding and get the bird to an avian vet immediately.

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