Bird Disease Signs

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    Breeders usually know signs of illness in a bird, but for new owners, it could be challenging to see whether a bird is healthy or not. While ectoparasites like Dermanyssus gallinae could be easily found on feed balls, perches, or the removable bottom sand tray, other pathogens could be too small to identify with a naked eye. However, a yellow stain of bird droppings could suggest campylobacteriosis, and a liquid consistency could refer to salmonellosis or other enterobacteria infections. Broken feathers or feather-loss could indicate severe itching and discomfort. Lying at the bottom of the cage, apathy, ruffled feathers, isolation from the group, bulging of the eyes, discharge from the nares or eyes, and open beak are all signs of illness.

    Common Bacterial Diseases

    Pet birds are potential carriers and transmitters of zoonotic diseases. Most important bacterial diseases include:

    Avian Influenza

    • Sudden death
    • Respiratory
    • Neurological signs


    This is a frequent zoonotic disease. The causative agent, Campylobacter jejuni, is frequently isolated from migrating passerine birds which transmit the pathogen to humans and domesticated animals, including cattle. However, transmission from pet birds to human plays a minor role. Clinical signs include apathy and the production of yellow feces (solid or liquid).


    This is one of the most threatening zoonotic diseases transmitted by birds to humans, also known as chlamydiosis, ornithosis, psittacosis or parrot fever, caused by the intracellular bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci. Human symptoms come from mild respiratory signs to severe pneumonia, with localization in several organs leading to diarrhea, conjunctivitis, arthritis and genital organ infection. Signs in birds include:

    • Appetite loss
    • Dehydration
    • Depression
    • Diarrhea
    • Eye signs
    • Nasal discharge
    • Ruffled feathers
    • Standing at the bottom of the cage

    Lyme disease

    This disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria transmitted by ticks that can infest songbirds.

    Newcastle disease

    • Appetite loss
    • Depression
    • Ocular, respiratory and neurological signs
    • Ruffled feathers
    • Standing at the bottom of the cage
    • Weight loss


    Clinical signs in pet birds:

    • Blood poisoning
    • Crop failing to empty at a normal rate
    • Dehydration
    • Depression
    • Diarrhea
    • Loss of appetite
    • Multisystem disease
    • Osteomyelitis


    • Appetite loss
    • Blindness
    • Depression
    • Respiratory and neurological signs
    • Ruffled feathers
    • Standing at the bottom of the cage
    • Weight loss


    Tuberculosis has only rarely been reported in birds, and essentially in parrots (green-winged macaws). Clinical signs in pet birds:

    • Granulomatous hepatitis
    • Lethargy
    • Long bone lesions
    • Osteomyelitis
    • Panniculitis
    • Progressive appetite loss
    • Respiratory symptoms
    • Weight loss

    West Nile fever

    • Ocular and Neurological signs


    There are numerous other potential zoonotic bacteria also identified in pet birds, including multiple gram-negative bacteria such as Pasteurella species, KlebsiellaYersiniaPseudomonas, and Escherichia coli.

    Pet birds may also transmit parasitic and fungal diseases, such as:

    The following clinical signs in pet birds are associated with zoonotic diseases:

    • Nestlings: Weakness, anemia, death
    • Adults: Appetite loss, respiratory distress, depression
    • Cause: Blood-sucking mites.
    • Species: All

    PTFE and its dangers to birds

    Birds are highly sensitive to inhaled toxicants such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a synthetic polymer that is used in various products, including nonstick cookware, ironing board covers, and heat lamp bulbs. It is commonly marketed under the trade name Teflon.

    Most of these cases have been due to overheated frying pans within the household. At temperatures above 280°C, PTFE-coated surfaces begin to emit harmful products. Subsequent inhalation of these by-products by birds can result in various clinical signs, including open-beak breathing, chirping, incoordination, convulsions, and death.


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