Respiratory Disease in Birds

Respiratory Disease in Birds - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Coughing / Loud Breathing / Noisy Breathing / Out of Breath / Seizures / Sneezing

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Rated as serious conditon

13 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Coughing / Loud Breathing / Noisy Breathing / Out of Breath / Seizures / Sneezing

Ask a Vet
Respiratory Disease in Birds - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Jump to section

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.

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.

Cannanine

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.

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Respiratory Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Kiwi

dog-breed-icon

Peach Face Lovebird

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

thumbs-up-icon

2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Sneezing
Breathing Difficulty
Sleepy
Quiet
Tail Bobbing
Breathing Sounds
Open-Mouthed Breathing
Rubbing On Perches A Lot
Yawning A Lot

(The names of the meds might be in french since I'm from Quebec) My female lovebird is 6 years old and she has been sick for something like 3 months now. I went to see a vet. They did a radiography and prescribed antibiotics (Enrofloxacin) for 21 days with an anti-inflammatory (Metacam). Did not work. Went back. Prescribed an antifungal (Ketoconazole, orablend) for 14 days. Didn't work. Went back. Prescribed another antibiotic (Sulfa/Trim) for 21 days with the same anti-inflammatory. Didn't work. Now I'm starting another antibiotic (Doxycycline) for 21 days. But I have little hope that it will work. The vets said it could either be bacteria, fungus or virus (unlikely since it's been such a long time, they said). Are they missing something? I'm starting to feel like they might not be very good... but they're the only exotic vets around so I don't know what to do... She still eats and plays, the anti-inflammatory seems to do wonders, I'm assuming it reduces her pain so she becomes more active when she's on it. But I'm still worried that it will get worse and I want her to be healthy :(

Sept. 13, 2018

Kiwi's Owner

dog-name-icon

Jasmine

dog-breed-icon

Lovebird

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Sore

My 10-year old pied lovebird has developed something like a sore just above her beak. She is still active and loves to be scratched and held, and is still very vocal. There may be a small growth coming out onto the beak. There really are no other symptoms evident. Recommendations?

Aug. 17, 2018

Jasmine's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

It would be best to have Jasmine seen by a veterinarian, as I can't see the growth of determine what the cause might be. Having her seen and examined will allow the growth to be looked at and have appropriate treatment for her.

Aug. 18, 2018

dog-name-icon

prince

dog-breed-icon

cockatiel

dog-age-icon

20 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Panting
Tired
Constant Yawning

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.

July 13, 2018

prince's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 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

July 14, 2018

dog-name-icon

Bannana

dog-breed-icon

Budgerigar

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair condition

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Tail Bobbing
Clicking Sounds When Breathing

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.

July 7, 2018

Bannana's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 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.

July 7, 2018

dog-name-icon

rocky

dog-breed-icon

Alexendrine parrot

dog-age-icon

3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical condition

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Blood And Mucus In Tongue
Blood And Mucus Under Tongue
Cracking Sounds As The Bird Breaths

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

June 17, 2018

rocky's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 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

June 17, 2018

dog-name-icon

Jade

dog-breed-icon

Budgies

dog-age-icon

10 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Tail Bobbing

my bird is always bobbing it's tail but I have no vet near me which medicine should I give to him. It breath with its mouth. There is a medicine terramycin I gave to him but there is no improvement. Please reply which medicine can I gave to him

dog-name-icon

Lolly

dog-breed-icon

Budgie

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Eye Swollen
Nasal Discharge
Feather Loss

I started to notice brown discharge coming from my budgies cere,loss of feathers around his eyes and I hadn't heard him tweet for a couple of days. I took him to the vet and she prescribed an antibiotic called enrobactin for a week. The swelling and discharge around his eye has gone down almost completely and his feathers are growing back. However even though it's improved slightly he's still producing nasal discharge. I'm not sure how severe it is but I think he has a respiratory infection. Is what I'm doing correct because I'm not sure how experienced my vet is with budgies. Any advice would be great help.

Cannanine