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What is Respiratory Disease?

While there are less respiratory problems for your bird to contract due to improvements in bird care and the results of research, common diseases such as bacterial and fungal pneumonia, aspergillosis, and others remain a common threat. Early diagnosis is vital to catch any disease or condition in its early stages, preventing it getting established and damaging vital organs.

With ongoing research, there are many new developments in the field of respiratory disease in birds. Engaging the help of an avian doctor who specialises in the field of bird health is vital to the success rate of recovery.

Respiratory diseases in birds are similar to the common cold, but are considered infectious diseases that are caused by a diverse range of pathogens.

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Symptoms of Respiratory Disease in Birds

Other disorders can mimic respiratory illness which is why it is important to get your avian veterinarian's assistance. 

  • Labored breathing
  • Dyspnea after your bird undertakes a short flight 
  • Tail bobbing, which is a rhythmic jerking of the tail 
  • Frequent sneezing combined with nasal discharge 
  • A change of your bird’s voice may be noticed 
  • Panting after a short bout of exercise 
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing sounds 
  • Periocular swelling

Causes of Respiratory Disease in Birds

  • Environmental factors can cause respiratory disease in birds; these factors can include overcrowding, malnutrition, long-term antibiotic therapy, and poor ventilation
  • Toxic fumes inhaled by birds can be a factor including hairspray, ammonia, cigarette smoke, overheated Teflon and self-cleaning ovens (Teflon is also in many appliances such as hair dryers, pots and pans)
  • Bacterial infections such as Chlamydophila
  • Fungal pneumonia
  • Hypovitaminosis A is a deficiency of vitamin A which can result in changes to the respiratory epithelium allowing bacteria, viruses and fungi to enter your bird's body 
  • Tracheal foreign body such as a seed, piece of toy, or abnormal tissue growth can cause difficulty in breathing and needs emergency attention by your avian specialist 
  • Klebsiella, Proteus, Chlamydophila and Pasteurella all of which are severe and very serious 
  • Aspergillosis disease is a fungal disease affecting the lungs and respiratory system, and is particularly infectious when your bird’s immunity is low 
  • Large indoor flocks of birds have a higher risk of getting bacterial and fungal infections due to the poor ventilation compared to outdoors 
  • Your indoor birds are susceptible to breathing in airborne toxins such as household cleaners, incense and air fresheners 
  • Damp environment with decaying vegetation and contaminated seed causes fungus growth

Diagnosis of Respiratory Disease in Birds

When your bird is having a hard time breathing, the best response is to take it to an avian veterinarian for treatment. Birds are notorious for hiding their illness due to an inbuilt survival strategy because a sick and disabled bird is one that attracts predators. Fortunately, with a respiratory illness, the wheezing and sneezing will give it away. Your avian doctor will examine your bird to determine what is causing the respiratory system to become infected. 

He will typically determine the cause of the condition through laboratory culture of mucus. He will ask about your bird’s environment and diet and do a physical examination of your bird. An examination of your bird’s air sacs for inflammation, which is a sign of airsacculitis, may reveal congested air sacs and lungs with white mucus and nodules. With any infection, it is important to treat it immediately before the condition gets to an advanced stage.

Treatment of Respiratory Disease in Birds

With early diagnosis and if treated in the early stages of a disease or infection, the prognosis is good. Just recently, specialists have used a bronchodilator to treat birds with severe respiratory distress. The bronchodilator works by relaxing the smooth muscle around the bronchi, opening the bronchi and letting more air pass into the deeper tissue for oxygen exchange. If your bird doesn’t respond to intramuscular administration, drugs like terbutaline can be used via a nebuliser. In the case of bacterial infections, supportive care and antibiotics are the treatment to use. A larger number of specialists are now using the nebuliser to enable effective delivery of the medications directly into your bird’s respiratory system. 

Antibiotics, steroids, and antifungals are used depending on the diagnosis of your bird’s condition. The main thing is getting your bird into treatment in the early stages of the illness. Advanced disease is harder to maintain and treat. For Aspergillosis, there have been several new developments in medications for the treatment of this disease. Lamisil is a very safe drug and is appropriate for long-term therapy.  Because of the variety of causes of respiratory disease in birds, it is hard to define all treatments here that are available. The best solution is to consult with your avian doctor.

Recovery of Respiratory Disease in Birds

As in all illness, prevention is always best. If your bird lives inside, being aware of how sensitive your feathered friend is to airborne toxins is vital. Spraying air fresheners or lighting incense can hurt your bird and can initiate a respiratory response. Good ventilation, clean living conditions (but don’t use strong cleaning materials on the cage - check for non-toxic products) and monitoring your pet's health will keep infections in check. Early diagnosis and an effective long-term treatment will maintain the health of your bird.  A sick bird requires a calm environment, plenty of rest, and good quality food to enable treatment to be effective.

Respiratory Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Fin
Budgerigar Budgerigars
3 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Possible sneezing when held
Tail bobbing
Soft stool

I purchased a Budgie 2 days ago from the local pet store. I have several others from that store that are healthy and boisterous. This bird seemed the same but 24 hours after coming home I noticed his tail bobbing. He eats and drinks normally, preens and flies with the others. The tail bobbibg does not stop, even during rest. There is no discharge around his cere. He doesn't have diarrhea and his waste is normal colored, but it is softer than my other birds' and sometimes sticks to his feathers near his vent. There is a slight sound when breathing when close to my ear. I am concerned about infection. The store said all birds are vet checked before they are available for sale, but I am worried about respiratory infection. I tried to schedule an appointment with the vet and found out the avian vet no longer practices here. The nearest vet is many hours away. I have 5 other budgies and none of them have done this. I am concerned for the new bird as well as my current birds. The new bird is in a separate cage, but my other budgies have come in contact with it through that cage while I was at work and my teenagers let him out. What can I do to help this bird when the vet in town left? If I had known I wouldn't have gotten any additional birds.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3000 Recommendations
Whilst your local Avian Veterinarian isn’t available, a general Veterinarian would still be able to examine Fin and advise you on what they are seeing; the loose dropping may be due to a new environment but should be considered when examined. If Fin was ‘normal’ when he arrived home there may be an irritant affecting him in your home, but I cannot say with certainty without examining him. You should visit a general Veterinarian for an examination and then decide from there; I have also put a link to a directory of Avian Veterinarians in case there is one on the list closer to you that you were unaware of. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.aav.org/search/custom.asp?id=1803

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Frost
Parrotlet
2 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Losing balance, sneezing

Hi, it's Terra again. After doing much research the past couple hours with my mom, I discovered that the cookware (the Rock Starfrit cooking pan) was not actually teflon and had no PTFE or PFOA). We gave him his meds tonight and he is still looking bad. Now he's sneezing and losing balance more than yesterday or earlier today. If it IS some sort of respiratory infection caused by a virus or something, do you think he has a good chance of pulling through? Sorry I know that is not a lot of information to go off of.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
Hi Terra, thank you for the update! If it isn't Teflon, that should have a better prognosis. Make sure that you give him his medications, and contact his veterinarian in the morning if he doesn't look like he is improving. Often times when animals or peope are affected by respiratory viruses, they need help while they are being treated, while the medications take effect. if he would benefit from oxygen or nebulization therapy while his medications are working, your vet will be able to help you with that. I sincerely hope that he is okay!

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rocky
Alexendrine parrot
3 Months
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

cracking sounds as the bird breaths
blood and mucus under tongue
blood and mucus in tongue

Its hot here and I keep my bird in the exterme corner of the room with corvered cage. The temprature got changed as the guest was arrived and the bird got in the cold room for 10 minutes. He ate well and played before going to sleep.In the morning a notice load crunching or cracking sounds as the bird breaths with opening mouth and tongue out. I got him to the local vet docter for the pets and he gave dose of multi vitamins and the antibiotic and gave him honey. Their was difficulty in breathing blood and mucus was there under the tongue. I am worried as he is siting and not eating also
He was ok and worse today need expert reason

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3000 Recommendations
Without examining Rocky it is very difficult to say how severe or specifically what the issue is; you should follow the instructions of the Veterinarian and give the treatment as directed. If there is no improvement over the next five days or Rocky gets worse I would recommend you visit an Avian Specialist for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.aav.org/search/custom.asp?id=1803

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Budgie
esplit
9 Months
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

my budgie was attacked by the pigeon on tuesday and when i saw him he have a bleeding from back he have a two small hole at his back i give him him a cream(betadine) and now he is well but from last two dayshis body is blooming , his tummy, food pocket, head fill with air. He is eating and drinking well but his bloomig make him un comfort. SO PLEASE TELL ME ANY SUGGESTION

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3000 Recommendations
I am unsure what you mean by blooming, is his body swelling up? This may be a reaction to the trauma or to an infection; you should visit an Avian Veterinarian for an examination since your budgie may require systemic antibiotics since wild pigeons may carry many different infections especially when there are puncture wounds. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

his body filling with air and he become like balloon and when i press him the air come out from him from the small holes on his back ,for sometime i left him for half or 1 hour the air fills again, i went to the doctor and he prefer me a liquid(Gramogyl Syrup) .first he prefer me another liquid(pet gyl zoml) but no pet chemist have this so i went to doctor for another one so he prefer me that syrup

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Bannana
Budgerigar
12 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Clicking sounds when breathing
Tail bobbing

When i pick up my bird it starts breathing with its beak and tail bobbing and i do not know what to do because the nearest avain vet it far away. Also, i do not know how old my bird is and im guessing its a adult.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
I'm unfortunately not able to offer any advice without being able to see Banana as to what might be going on with him. If the behavior that you are noticing is a new one, there may be something going on with his heart or lungs, or nasal passages, and he may need treatment. There may be a small animal veterinarian near you that would be able to examine him and see what treatment may be needed so that you don't have to travel to see the avian specialist.

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budgie
esplit
9 Months
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

AIR FILLED

his body filling with air and he become like balloon and when i press him the air come out from him from the small holes on his back ,for sometime i left him for half or 1 hour the air fills again, i went to the doctor and he prefer me a liquid(Gramogyl Syrup) .first he prefer me another liquid(pet gyl zoml) but no pet chemist have this so i went to doctor for another one so he prefer me that syrup ,is this any app or what app so i can send photos of him
Is this ok reply to Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3000 Recommendations
It sounds like the body cavity is filling with air from those two holes and when the body is squeezed the air escapes; there is nothing I can recommend that you can do at home for this. I understand you may be in an area where there is not an Avian Specialist but try to speak with your nearest veterinary school as I am unable to give you advice over the internet for this traumatic injury. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Storm
Cockatiel Species
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing tail bobbing, wheezing

My bird has trouble breathing at night. His tail bobs and he wheezes. A few sneezes here and there too. Other than that, there are no other signs of illness. How can I help him?He is on a mainly seed diet, but also gets little bits and pieces of veggies here and there. He I sighed a cockatiel

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
Thank you for your question. Since he seems to be having trouble breathing, he should see his veterinarian for an exam - they can listen to his heart and lungs, and assess his overall health. If he has an upper respiratory infection, those can lead to pneumonia if untreated, so it would be a good idea to have him seen sooner rather than later. I hope that he is okay!

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Frost
Parrotlet
2 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

labored breathing, fluffed-up

Medication Used

antibiotic and anti inflammatory

Hello. My little parrotlet who I just got a few days ago, has some sort of respiratory illness. Symptoms appeared in just one day and we suspect it was due to Teflon poisoning, because I had absolutely no idea it was harmful to them. We saw a vet who prescribed an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic (because she was unsure if the bird had an infection from a virus). If I keep him on these medications, do you think he can recover? I am just looking for some hope. Thank you.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
Thank you for contacting us about Frost. Unfortunately, with Teflon poisoning in birds, all you can do is treat, and hope for the best. Make sure that he is warm enough, in a sheltered spot, and has plenty of fresh air, or clean air. It will depend on the amount of damage that his lungs sustained whether he will be able to recover or not. I wish him the best, and hope for full recovery.

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Skittles
Jenday Conure
18 Weeks
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Head bobbing up and down

Our jenday conure is bobbing his head up and down a lot and then kind of keys out a little hiss at the end. Our closest avian vet is hours away. Would a local vet be able to help him? Does it sound like something is wrong with him? He’s only 18 weeks.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
I'm not sure if that behavior is an actual behavior or if it is a sign of respiratory disease for Skittles, without seeing him. You may have a local veterinarian who is able to see birds and would be able to assess whether he is having a problem, or you may be able to video the behavior and email it to your avian vet? I hope that all goes well for him!

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Basil
Budgie
1 Month
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Our budgie has an eye infection, it became very red and he became listless and quiet. We took him to a vet and she gave him some antibiotics and some powdered food to mix with water. We have given him the course of AB's and the eye infection has cleared up,
however he seems to have lost all mobility and has not made a sound for days. He cannot cling onto a perch and just lays in the seed bowl to get around he cage he uses his beak to clamber across the bars and sits hunched in the seed bowl. its as if he has had a stroke and is now paralysed. Every morning we expect to find him dead but he endures. What do we do?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
I'm sorry that that is happening to Basil. Since I cannot see him, I think it would be best to have a follow up with your veterinarian, since things have changed since they saw him, and they may be able to offer some treatments for him.

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prince
cockatiel
20 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

constant yawning
Tired
Panting

my cockatiel has recently recovered from liver disease. However he is always tired and yawns like 20 times in one go. He is also very inactive now days whereas before he was very active, he also has become very quiet and only chirps sometimes whereas before he was always singing if your happy and you know it clap your hands and now he barely ever chirps. The only thing he likes doing is sleeping and he is constantly itching near his throat, the skin there is quiet flaky and also very pink. I had an appointment with the vet last Monday and he said that my bird is well on the way to recovery, but these are some symptoms that I find quiet hard to ignore, espesially when I have been reading around the subject and it is associated with respirority diseases. Id really appreciate some help.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3000 Recommendations
Birds are very sensitive to start with and any recovery will take some time, if your Veterinarian has noted that Prince is on the road to recovery I would recommend that you follow their guidance and monitor for improvement; without examining Prince myself I cannot say whether there is any other underlying cause or a reason to be concerned. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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