How to treat and prevent parasites
Birds in captivity can be exposed to large numbers of parasites, which can slowly build up in the captive environment over time.
Among the more common and visible parasites are mites, lice, fleas and ticks. Scratching is one of the most obvious symptoms of external parasites. Other signs include:
Treatment involves removing the source of the infestation if possible and treating both the environment and the birds. Avian Insect Liquidator spray, which is available from veterinarians and vet shops, can be used carefully under the wings and at the vent. Never use cat or dog products on your birds. Pyrethroid-based powders that are registered for use in birds can also be dusted through the feathers.
Intestinal worms are not commonly seen and can cause problems varying from diarrhoea to weight loss, anaemia, regurgitation, and coughing. We recommend deworming once a year. There are dewormers formulated specifically for birds – ask your avian vet about these.
Microscopic single-celled parasites can also cause illness in birds. These organisms cannot be seen with the naked eye and must be diagnosed by examining samples of stool or blood (depending on the parasite) under a microscope.
Coccidia, an intestinal tract infection, is spread via infected droppings and causes severe diarrhoea.
Giardia also causes diarrhoea and can be the underlying cause of itching and feather picking in cockatiels.
Trichomonas is very prevalent in dove and pigeon flocks and causes a condition known as ‘crop canker’. Large cheesy growths develop in the mouth as a reaction to the parasite and prevent the bird from eating and drinking.
There are several measures that can be taken to minimise the chances of your pet birds picking up parasites:
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