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What are Seizures?

Your bird may be unable to control its muscles and may fall off its perch while experiencing twitching and spastic jerking for up to 2 to 5 minutes. The cause of seizures is often hard to isolate, with the causes ranging from tumors and heat stroke to trauma and toxins. The seizure is a result of spontaneous disturbances within the brain’s electrical activity. Until you can get your bird to a specialist for treatment, ensure that your birdcage has a layer of soft padding on the bottom to protect it and minimize injury while having a seizure.

Seizures are upsetting to witness in your bird, involving loss of muscle control and muscle spasms such as leg twitching and wing flapping.

Symptoms of Seizures in Birds

  • A seizure can range from a mild episode to severe, and can be frequent or infrequent in occurrence. 
  • Flapping of your bird’s wings in an uncontrolled manner
  • It may vocalise and trash about during an episode
  • Your bird may lose consciousness for a brief time
  • Loss of the motor functioning of the body
  • Stiffening of the body during a seizure  
  • Disorientation and inability to perch 
  • Twitching or thrashing of the legs 

Types

There are three distinct stages to a seizure.

  • The first stage is the aura phase where your bird may exhibit a change in its usual behavior 
  • The second stage is the ictus phase, which involves disorientation and inability to coordinate its muscles; this phase is where your bird may fall from its perch to the floor, and trash about, stiffen, vocalise and defecate. It can last for 5 to 25 seconds
  • The third stage is the postictal phase and lasts the longest, sometimes up to a few hours; your bird will demonstrate lethargy, confusion, and agitation or may be exhausted
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Causes of Seizures in Birds

  • Physical injury such as concussion caused by a collision with the wall, or flying into a window or a blow to the head 
  • Nutritional deficiencies can be low blood sugar caused by an inadequate diet (hyperglycemia), deficiencies in vitamins such as Vitamin B or E, low calcium levels (hypocalcaemia), 
  • Viral diseases such as Borna virus, can result in the nerves being attacked resulting in seizures and other symptoms
  • Fungal diseases can infect the spine causing muscular disorders 
  • Infectious diseases attacking the central nervous system (such as bacteria that secrete toxins) 
  • Disease of the internal organs such as a tumor, arthritis, and other causes such as liver disease 
  • Environmental causes (overheating caused by inadequate shade from the direct sun during summer, lack of hygiene, toxic fumes) 
  • Poisoning (often toxins such as lead or zinc can lead to loss of muscle control and cause seizures)
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Diagnosis of Seizures in Birds

After your bird has a seizure, carefully take your bird to the avian veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the cause of the problem and enable a treatment plan. Keep your bird in a dim light and quiet environment after a seizure, and keep it warm but not overheated. Padding on the cage floor, and lowering the perches may help your bird recover. Nutritious food offerings of easily digested food and ensure the water bowl is not too deep to prevent accidental drowning. Your veterinarian will need a history of how long the episode took, and what character changes your bird experienced will help, such as did your bird look vacant, fall over, or have any trembling at all. 

Your bird will be given a thorough physical examination followed by radiographs and blood chemistry to reveal the cause of the problem. The blood chemistry can reveal liver and kidney malfunctioning, while the radiography can determine the presence of metallic material (toxic material) in the gastrointestinal tract. The blood count can help determine infectious disease. It can also show dietary deficiencies and mineral/vitamin shortages. Often it is a case of eliminating other disease before an in-depth study on the remaining options can source a reputable diagnosis.

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Treatment of Seizures in Birds

Because a seizure can be caused by a variety of physical reasons, once the cause can be found then targeted treatment can begin immediately. If the cause is toxic metals such as lead and zinc, then the treatment with chelating drugs and removal of the particles is the focus. There are many possible treatments for seizures, but your specialist will be able to advise you dependent on the results from his examination of your bird companion. Hypocalcemia requires dietary adjustments to be made, and supplying calcium and Vitamin D3. If hypoglycaemia is present then using glucose to stabilise the blood sugar will help.

Diseases such as liver or kidney disease have specific treatments that your specialist can advise you on. Good supportive care that includes a warm and safe home, fluids, and treatment medication will help. Anticonvulsants can be used to temporarily halt the seizures allowing treatment to take effect. While there are plenty of possible treatments depending on diagnosis, some birds only have rare episodes, and others recover completely. There are some birds that unfortunately get worse and for those the prognosis is grim. Your bird will need your support and care that only you can give in its time of need.

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Recovery of Seizures in Birds

Once your bird is home and on the road to recovery, it may be an innovative idea to keep your bird companion in a smaller cage with a padded floor to prevent injuries if it continues to have seizures. Check the environment to ensure there are no possible items in the vicinity that may cause possible poisoning. Birds are such curious creatures that they will investigate everything in their environment.

Beware of using household cleaners that have toxic vapors such as cleaning products, and while it may not affect you, it could harm your pet. Follow your avian veterinarian’s guidelines for treatment, and make sure you give all the treatment, don’t stop it when your bird appears better. Often the cause takes the full treatment to cure.

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Seizures Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Lovebird

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures

My grandma has two lovebirds. One of which has seizures. My mom has told me it happens once a month, but it has happened twice in two weeks since I have been staying with her. The bird is tired all day after, but is usually recovered the next day. If only one bird is having seizures, could the cause still be diet or environmental? I’m trying to convince my mom and grandma to take the bird to the vet, but they are convinced it will be expensive and result in nothing.

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Seizures in birds don't tend to be environmental, and there is probably an underlying reason for it. Unfortunately, I cannot give you an idea as far as cost of testing, as I do not know what test we would need until I would examine the bird, and the cost of things can vary greatly depending on where you live. It may be a good idea to start with an examination with a veterinarian, and they can give you an idea as to what they think might be going on, what test might be needed, and how much those cost. I hope that all goes well with the birds.

July 29, 2020

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Sully

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cockatiel

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Flailing
Unable To Perch
Neck Twisted

He started to flail around on the floor of his cage and he couldn’t twist his neck. It took about two and a half minutes for him to recover, then had another one around five minutes later.

May 18, 2018

Sully's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Sully is having seizures that frequently, he should be seen by a veterinarian to determine why he is having the seizures, and to get medications to help him stop. I hope that he is okay.

May 18, 2018

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Dec

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Budgerigar Budgerigars

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6 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Seizure

My male budgie has been suddenly falling from his perch landing on the bottom of his cage and flapping his wings and screeching like he's in pain but then seconds later he is a little tired but his usual self is this normal?

April 3, 2018

Dec's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

That is not normal behavior for a bird, no. Dec should probably be seen by a veterinarian to assess his overall health and determine what might be going on with him.

April 3, 2018

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Lucille

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Green-Cheeked Conure

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11 Months

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures

My conure had a mild seizure on the 15th of January 5 or so seconds after she had done a mating dance to herself in a mirror she began to shake and her eyes started to flicker. She had done this dance to herself many times before and never had a seizure. The seizure lasted around 5 seconds and she returned to her normal self after the episode. She had another seizure again today after she did the same dance to herself in the mirror again. This time the seizure lasted around 20 to 30 seconds. It started with her eyes flickering and then she began to shake and lean back on my finger. She also extended her left leg and lost the ability to grip with it. After the seizure she is acting normally again. With the first seizure I thought she may have been dehydrated as I had added working solution to her water the evening before and when i changed it after her little episode she drank a lot of it. I was wondering if the seizures she had were due to hormonal stress Or if the action of fluffing up her feathers and extending her neck whilst rocking backwards and forwards is trapping a nerve or triggering the Seizure?

Feb. 1, 2018

Lucille's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Lucille may have a neurologic problem and need treatment for the seizures. It would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian to determine what might be going on, and see if she would benefit from treatment. If you are able to video the behavior, it will help your veterinarian in trying to see what might be happening. I hope that everything goes well for her!

Feb. 2, 2018

my little boy a cape olive parrot ws three years old he flew off the bed started skawking fell on his side and died in my hands this was all very sudden prior to this he was a happy little boy could this of been a heart attack

Aug. 5, 2018

Terence C.


Worming solution*

Feb. 2, 2018

Lucille's Owner

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Borb

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African lovebird

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4 Weeks

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Chills, Seizures,Muscle Stiffening

My handfeed bird is having seizures every 10 minutes. I injected him oxytet and amilyte-c since he is lethargic. I don't know what to do now. I'm a vet student. And as of now,i put him in a comfy beddings and dim light.

Jan. 1, 2018

Borb's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Seizures in birds are not uncommon and usually are attributable to nutritional deficiency, infections, poisoning, environmental issues among other causes; use of antibiotics should be done under veterinary supervision and misuse should be avoided. Due to the varied possible causes of these seizures, I would speak with one of your Professors at school to see if they are able to guide you. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 1, 2018

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sugar

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australian zebra finch

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1 Year

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Not Drinking
Trembling

hi, my grandma's australian zebra started staying on the cage's floor with his eyes closed and spasming. we tried to make him drink and eat but he dosn't open his mouth or eyes. when he spread his wings it was really hard for him to close them back and he was trembling the whole time. now he just sits there spasming and we don't know what to do... there aren't any bird vets around and with this pandemic we can't travel. he's also really light now cus he doesn't want to eat. any advice?

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Daisy

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Cockatoo

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

She would lose muscle control of both legs balance and would twitch all over...took her to vet all organ functions are normal but has a respiratory infection so gave her antibiotics and seizure meds .. she’s fair condition but lost weight take her to Other dr

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Marla

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Budgie

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Circling
Twitching
Chirping

My bird has been circling the bottom of the cage while twitching its wings and right foot continuously for the last few hours. She can't eat or drink water. Would this count as a seizure? What should I do?

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