Monitoring Your Bird’s Health

Birds are capable of masking poor health — often until it is too late to help.

Regular at-home and veterinary examinations are important, even if you believe your bird is in good health.

Signs of sickness

You should be in tune to your bird’s normal behavior. Looking for deviations from normal, and the following visual cues of illness, should be part of your regular, at-home examinations. Among the things to watch for are:

  • Deformed, receding or ulcerated beak
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stains around the eyes, nostrils or vent
  • Change in appearance or texture of stools
  • Weight loss
  • Feather problems including chewing, plucking or thinning
  • Swollen eyes or eyelids
  • Bowed head, lethargy, overly quiet, loss of appetite.

If your bird exhibits any of these symptoms, take him to your veterinarian immediately.

Household hazards

Birds make wonderful pets and are easy to maintain. Take some precautions around your home to prevent accidents and minimize stress for your pet. Below are some useful safety measures:

  • Never feed rhubarb, alcohol, chocolate or avocado to your pet.
  • Do not expose him to fumes from overheated, non-stick surfaces such as pots, pans and irons.
  • Keep the temperature in your home from fluctuating drastically and keep your bird's cage out of drafts.
  • Birds are highly susceptible to bacterial, fungal and viral infections from unsanitary conditions. Be sure to clean his cage regularly and change his water at least once a day.
  • Avoid exposure to airborne contaminants such as cigarette smoke, cleaning chemicals, cooking fumes, pesticides and air cleaners.
  • Some plants are healthy for birds, but some are toxic. If you are unsure about a particular house plant, keep it out of reach of your bird.
  • Cats, dogs, small children and other creatures can present a hazard to your bird. Even if he is protected from contact with other animals, their presence could cause him stress.
  • Be sure to cover windows and mirrors, close doors and turn off fans: these are potentially fatal obstacles for your bird if he is flying freely.

Keeping clean

Most birds require your assistance when it comes to hygiene. You will need to help with bathing along with nail, feather and beak trimming. Sunning is likewise important:

  • Bathe your bird in a shallow bowl at least once a week and mist him regularly.
  • Keep your bird's nails and beak trimmed, and clip his wings to prevent him from flying away while he is out of the cage.
  • Birds require full-spectrum lighting (wavelengths that come close to those found in natural sunlight) in order to synthesize Vitamin D3 in their bodies. Provide them with the right amount of incandescent and fluorescent lighting for this purpose.
  • Be sure to expose your bird to natural, unfiltered sunlight and fresh air whenever possible and practical.

Becoming familiar with behavioral and physical cues, and taking an active role in protecting and nourishing your beautiful bird, will help keep him healthy and happy for a lifetime.