Pet birds can be excellent companion animals, provided they are properly cared for and provided with an interesting and spacious environment. Regular adequate exercise (free flight within a safe enclosed environment) is a prerequisite for healthy, vigorous, and fit pet birds. Exercise is necessary for both physical and mental health.
However, if their care and conditions are not adequate or appropriate for the species, a number of potential health and welfare issues can arise as a result of keeping birds as pets.
Please note that birds often display a ‘preservation instinct’ which means that they can sometimes appear healthy despite being very ill. Signs of illness can be subtle in birds. Veterinary advice should always be sought immediately if you suspect that your bird is unwell or if your bird shows any sign of being unwell.
The health of pet birds is a specialised area and resolving health problems can be difficult. Checking your bird’s health regularly is a key step in ensuring good welfare and preventing disease. Any problems should be dealt with promptly and appropriately by seeking veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Things to check for include:
- appearance of droppings (quality and quantity)
- amount of food or water consumed
- behaviour (e.g. ability to fly)
- appearance or posture (e.g. sleepy or fluffed-up)
- rate and depth of respiration
Any changes in the above indicators could signal a problem.
Particular signs that indicate a health problem are:
- discharge from nostrils, eyes or beak
- excess loss of, or soiled or misshapen feathers
- inappetence (failure to eat) and weight loss
- soiled vents
- enlargements or swelling of body parts
- vomiting or regurgitation
- injury or bleeding
- dull or closed eyes
- lameness, wounded or swollen feet
- lumps or wounds on the body
- overgrown beak or nails
- stains or scabs around eyes or nostrils.
Birds can be affected by both internal parasites such as intestinal worms and external parasites such as lice and mites. Treatment of parasites may vary between bird species and depending on the context. For example factors such as the number of birds kept, the birds’ housing system, exposure to new or wild birds and the climate, among other factors can influence the worming product and regime recommended. So please consult your vet directly for more information about parasite control in pet birds.