What are Blepharitis?

Anterior blepharitis affects the front of your bird’s eyes and is caused by seborrheic dermatitis although it can get infected by bacteria. The other type of blepharitis (posterior blepharitis) affects the back of the eyelids and is caused by the oil glands in this area. This type is the most common type of the condition. Depending on the severity, there are holistic and medical treatments available for your bird which can overcome this irritating condition and provide relief.

Blepharitis in birds causes an inflammation of the eyelids resulting in redness, crustiness and irritation to both eyes and is often confused with conjunctivitis due to similarities.

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Symptoms of Blepharitis in Birds

  • An obvious redness around the rim of the eye or within the eye as the irritation spreads 
  • Crusty dandruff type of grit that builds up around the eye rendering sight difficult 
  • Irritated eyes
  • Depression
  • Weeping eyes
  • Swollen eyelids 
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Self-trauma

Types  

  • There are two kinds of blepharitis in birds, which is a condition of inflammation to the eyelids 
  • One type of blepharitis affects the eyelids at the front (anterior Blepharitis) and is caused by seborrheic dermatitis and can have a secondary Staphylococcus bacterial infection
  • This may cause an area around the eye to have dry flaking skin that is similar in appearance to dandruff 
  • Posterior blepharitis is known to attack the back of the eyelids
  • The oil glands located in your bird’s eyes are affected with the posterior blepharitis and it is the most common kind of this disease

Causes of Blepharitis in Birds

Although the cause is not known, professionals agree that the it may be associated with one of the following factors:

  • Oil glands within the eyelids become clogged or malfunction (posterior blepharitis)
  • Seborrheic dermatitis which is a type of dandruff (anterior blepharitis) 
  • Reactions to being located in a draft
  • Toxic cigarette smoke
  • Avian poxvirus 
  • Allergies to chemicals used to clean cages and bowls 
  • Bacterial infection of the red infected tissue around your bird’s eye can create a secondary infection that prolongs the condition

Diagnosis of Blepharitis in Birds

Depending on the severity of the condition, you can try holistic treatments if the condition is fairly minor, but if it is serious then you need to take your bird to your avian veterinarian to be assessed. The obvious redness and irritation will help with the diagnosis, but if there is secondary infection from bacteria it needs to be cleared up as soon as possible to avoid any major damage. Your bird usually exhibits a ‘sick bird’ appearance, with depression, loss of weight, no appetite and its feathers are usually fluffed or ruffled. The use of natural aloe vera is very useful for a home treatment, it will soothe and heal your bird’s eyes if it is just an irritation. But for a secondary infection or deeply embedded blepharitis, veterinary attention and a much stronger medication will be needed.

The veterinarian will carefully examine your bird’s eyes, and will order tests if required such as blood work or an evaluation of your bird’s fecal droppings. The vet will refer you to a specialist if needed. This is where your avian specialist will be able to advise, as well as suggest changes to your bird’s cage location if necessary or having adequate ventilation (without any drafts) to keep him healthy. Some experts suspect environmental factors to be the instigator of blepharitis.

Treatment of Blepharitis in Birds

To treat your bird for mild irritations to their eyes, the use of aloe vera juice can provide relief; this may be used under the advice of a veterinarian. You only need one to two drops of the juice at room temperature to be put on the eye around 6-8 times per day. With mild infections, this treatment can provide healing within a couple of days. If you do use this treatment, keep the aloe vera in the fridge during use, and allow it to warm up to room temperature before use. Another practice that you can do is to apply a hot (be careful it is not too hot) compress of chamomile teabags to both your bird’s eyes very gently and carefully after squeezing out the excess water.

Your avian doctor may prescribe an ophthalmic ointment to clean the eye with and a topical antibiotic and steroid drop depending on the severity of the condition. The use of an anti-inflammatory medication may also help. This condition can reoccur so it is important to act the minute you notice your bird having problems with his eyes. Check all environmental factors to ensure his cage is cleaned with non-toxic agents, he is neither too hot or too cold (or in a draft) and that his diet and water are high quality. This will ensure your bird’s health is maintained.

Recovery of Blepharitis in Birds

Your bird will usually recover quickly once the infection has been treated. After treatment, it is just a matter of ensuring your birds living quarters are kept clean, his environment is ideal and that he cannot get into any mischief with toxic products. Aloe vera is very easy to grow at home in the garden in warmer climates or inside the home in colder areas. Once they are established, you can just break or cut off a piece of the plant and use the juice as directed above to soothe and heal any minor eye problems. But for anything major it would pay to get your bird to the clinic and have your avian doctor attend to it as blindness (or worse) can occur if it is left unattended. Bird health can be quite fragile, so prompt attention to any illness is vital.