What is Melena?

Melena is the significant  existence of blood which has been digested by the bird. It is shown within the fecal matter of the bird’s droppings. Bird droppings are comprised of three parts: the feces, the urine, and the urates. Often with melena, the fecal matter is liquid-like, such as with diarrhea. It may also be quite firm in the consistency.

Melena is a sign of bleeding in the upper section of the gastrointestinal tract.  In the stool of the bird, it will appear very tar-like in color, blackened, or with a greenish tint. Many loving and dedicated bird owners are familiar with the bird droppings their bird produces, so when there is a change in color of those droppings, it can alert the owner to contact their veterinarian.

Birds may sometimes pass fecal matter that is dark green or even black at times, and this does not automatically mean they have melena. This could be the result of a change in diet, and will only be temporary. It is when owners notice a consistent, day-to-day abnormality in stools, even when diet is unchanged, that they should become concerned and seek medical attention. With melena, birds will also exhibit other symptoms, as well.

Melena in birds can be caused by several conditions and is characterized by darkened stools. The darkened stools are the result of digested blood in the fecal matter.

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Symptoms of Melena in Birds

Symptoms of melena are many in addition to the discolored feces. If your bird has the following symptoms, make an appointment with your medical professional. Symptoms may include:

  • Ruffled feathers
  • Lethargy
  • Head tucking within the wing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Darkened stools
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Bloody stools

Types

In addition to melena, is important to understand other types of abnormal droppings from your bird. Other types of atypical droppings are:

  • Droppings that are larger in size
  • Bulky droppings
  • Oily droppings
  • Any shade of green feces
  • Strong odor in the feces

Causes of Melena in Birds

There are many causes of melena in birds. A few of the more common causes include:

  • Foreign bodies in the GI tract
  • Cancer of the GI system
  • Bacterial infections
  • Ulcers in the GI system
  • Toxins

Diagnosis of Melena in Birds

If you notice darkened, bloody stools, make an appointment with your veterinarian. He will ask you about any other symptoms he is having and how long he has had the symptoms. He will begin with doing basic test such as blood work, fecal testing, and a biochemistry profile. Since melena can be the result of different conditions, your veterinarian will perform several different types of tests to find the underlying cause.

Your veterinarian will want to know if your bird has been chewing on his toys, what type of diet he is on, if he has been around other birds, and when the droppings changed in color. He will want to know of any change in your bird’s lifestyle or environment. 

After doing a complete physical examination, your medical professional will want to take a sample of the feces or cloaca and perform a cytology and bacterial culture. He may also test the blood for chlamydiosis (parrot fever), perform imaging in the form of radiographs, and also conduct an endoscopy.

These tests will enable the veterinarian to come to a conclusion of what is causing your bird’s melena. Treatment will depend solely on the underlying cause of the bloody stools.

Treatment of Melena in Birds

Since melena can be caused by several factors, treatment methods will vary from bird to bird. Your bird’s diagnosis will alert the veterinarian on what needs to be done to help your bird become well again. Treatment methods may include:

Hospitalization

Depending on your bird’s diagnosis, your veterinarian may want to keep your bird for observation. During this time he may give your bird fluids and any medications he may need that are tailored to his condition.

Surgery

If your bird’s melena is caused by the ingestion of a foreign body, your veterinarian may need to perform surgery to remove it. The extent of the surgical procedure will depend on the foreign body which was ingested.

Change in Diet

Your veterinarian may recommend a dietary change, especially if your bird developed melena after a change in diet in the home. Your veterinarian will recommend the proper diet for your bird.

Medications

There are several medications your veterinarian may recommend, depending on his diagnosis. He may prescribe antibiotics, antifungal medications, and other medications to protect your bird’s  gastrointestinal tract. He may also prescribe medications to further aid the motility of the gastrointestinal tract.

Recovery of Melena in Birds

If your bird has no other symptoms other than a few droppings that were melenic, your veterinarian may recommend giving your bird his typical diet, minus fruit and vegetables. He may also recommend avoiding all colored pellets for a day or two. Be sure to monitor your bird’s drinking habits and provide him with consistent, fresh water. 

For his environment, it is important to use only paper instead of litter on the bottom of the cage and to change it every day. This will also help you monitor his droppings as well as to keep his environment clean. 

If you are responsible for giving your avian companion any medications, follow the instructions of your veterinarian and be sure he finishes all of his medicine. If you see any new symptoms arise, or any new behavioral changes, contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.

Your veterinarian may want to see your bird for a follow-up visit if he has any type of infection, is recovering from a surgical procedure, or any inflammation. Your veterinarian will want to have this visit to be sure your bird is recovering properly.

Melena Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Odell
Budgie
1 year old
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Hi my parakeet has started hiding in dark areas today and has been puffed up when standing. His poop is tar like and when I went to wipe it is wasn’t solid and it spread. What could be wrong with him. He hasn’t been keeping both eyes open either

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1464 Recommendations
It sounds like Odell has an infection which is affecting the eyes and causing tar like diarrhoea as well; there are many different pathogens which may cause problems in pet birds but are generally uncommon in birds which do not have contact with other birds. Bacterial and viral infections are most likely, although nutritional deficiency is also a possibility; I would strongly recommend a visit to your Veterinarian or an Avian Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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