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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.

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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

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)

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.

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.

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.

Seizures Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Borb
African lovebird
4 Weeks
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

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.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 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

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Sully
cockatiel
7 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Unable to perch
Flailing
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.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 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.

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Lucille
Green-Cheeked Conure
11 Months
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

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?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 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!

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

Worming solution*

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Dove
Dove
5 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Hi I’ve found my dove bird when he or she barley flew out the nest I decided to take care of it and evrything was going great it’s in a very well big cage fresh water and food all the time and for the last 2 weeks she or he has been having very bad seizures and mostly fluffed and sleeping the whole time of day and out of no where she will flap her wings and twitch or even fall off the perch also her body temp feeels cold when I hold it. I’m trying to keep it warm and comfortable. She drinks a lot of water and eats fine. But at this point idk what to do in order to help she or he has grown part of the family and it’s starting to concern us. Any help thank you so much

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
With any bird, nutrient deficiency is a common cause of illness so you should ensure that you are feeding a diet specifically for the species to ensure a balanced healthy diet; infections are other possible causes of neurological symptoms but would need to be evaluated by your Avian Veterinarian. Review the diet, but an examination would be best to be on the safe side due to the sensitive physiology of birds. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Dec
Budgerigar Budgerigars
6 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

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?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 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.

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Kanda
Lovebird Species
3 Months
Serious
Has Symptoms
Loss Of Balance
It started suddenly and it was struggling a lot .I separated it from a cage and kept in a quite,soft,warm place. Hope it gets fine.