Unfortunately, birds are subject to internal parasites just like other animals. Internal parasites (usually intestinal) such as nematodes (roundworms) or flukes and tapeworms come from eggs that may have contaminated the soil, water or food. External parasites, like ticks and mites, are generally more common and tend to come from other birds.
Regardless of any level of risk for parasites, your new bird’s first visit to the veterinarian should include a routine check for both internal and external parasites.
If your bird has an unknown history and has not been tested for parasites, signs of general ill health— diarrhea, lethargy, stunted growth and inability to gain weight—can all be symptomatic of an internal parasitic infestation.
If your bird tests positive for internal parasites, don’t panic. Your veterinarian can usually treat them very effectively with the right medication.
Arthropods are external parasites and include mites, ticks and lice. Symptoms include feather plucking, feather degradation and skin inflammation.
With an external parasite, your veterinarian will prescribe a powder or spray for external use. Keeping your bird clean by misting or bathing also will help minimize re-infestations.
If your bird is parasite-free or has been treated and cured of a parasitic infestation, there are steps you can take to help ensure that the problem never returns.
- Make sure that your bird eats only commercially-prepared food that has been inspected by you for cleanliness. Check seed bags and other food containers for possible insect infestation. If your bird consumes an organism that has infiltrated the food package, the cycle could begin all over again.
- If you have more than one bird, make sure they all test clean; it‘s very easy for one contaminated bird to re-infest the rest.
- Keeping a tidy cage is critical. Removing fecal matter and uneaten food promptly will help minimize parasitic outbreaks.
- Do not allow “guest” birds into the cage without first being quarantined for a few days.
- Try to keep your birds from eating local insects such as flies and ants.