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What is Sneezing and Nasal Discharge?

Under normal circumstances, your bird may sneeze once or twice a day to clear its airways of dust and other debris.  However, when the sneezing becomes more frequent and persistent and the nasal discharge, which is normally thin and clear, takes on thickness and color and is accompanied by other abnormal respiratory symptoms, these may be signals that your bird is sick.

Sneezing is defined in birds, as it is in humans, as the body’s way of clearing dust and other debris from the airways while nasal discharge is defined as a fluid, usually thin and clear unless disease is present, which accompanies the occasional sneeze.

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Symptoms of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Birds

Sneezing and nasal discharge in bird can be quite normal under certain circumstances but increases or frequency of these symptoms may also signal an infection or other respiratory disease.  Here are some symptoms you might notice if respiratory disease or infection are present:

  • Sneezing - Usually a signal to something deeper if it is continual and persistent
  • Nasal discharge - Usually normal if it is thin and clear but not if it is thicker or has a color to it
  • Fluffing of feathers
  • Apathy
  • Bird makes sounds similar to coughing (but birds can’t cough since they don’t have a diaphragm)
  • Voice changes
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing - Can be demonstrated by a “bob” tail with each breath taken (shows increasing breathing difficulty)
  • Wheezing
  • Failure to perch
  • Keeps eye closed

Types  

There are four types of respiratory diseases which can have sneezing and nasal discharge as symptoms commonly found in birds.  These diseases affect the trachea, lungs and air sacs:

  • Viral - Includes avian influenza, pox, new castle disease and two that affect chickens: infectious bronchitis and laryngotracheitis   
  • Bacterial - Pasteurella, E coli, bordetella (affects turkeys) and infectious coryza (affects chickens)
  • Fungal - Aspergillosis or candida 
  • Other - Mycoplasmas and nutritional

Causes of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Birds

The causes of the sneezing and nasal discharge that accompanies respiratory disease would be based on the type of respiratory disease which has infected your bird.  

  • Viruses - There are hundreds of them known or thought to cause avian respiratory disease, and because they are so contagious, they can spread through your flock or aviary very quickly; some can cause serious respiratory issues as well as other neurological and systemic issues
  • Bacterial - Again hundreds if not thousands exist which are known to cause infectious respiratory diseases in avians; some can be passed by direct contact (horizontal) while others are passed from hen or mother to egg (vertical) (can be quite devastating to aviary population)
  • Fungal - There are primarily two which are found in birds: aspergillosis (passed from hatchery to litter) and candida (individual to each bird - not communicable)
  • Parasitic - Primarily blackhead, coccidia and worms; primary mode of transmission is via oral / fecal route
  • Nutrition based - Specifically cage layer fatigue (mostly found in chickens) and rickets

Any of these causes can cause a variety of symptoms and clinical signs which can be utilized in obtaining the diagnosis by your veterinary professional.

Diagnosis of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Birds

The diagnostic process will include a complete and detailed history from you which will likely encompass feeding regimen, types of feed given, enclosure hygiene, enclosure description, exercise and behavior exhibited by your birds especially as they apply to feces and appetite.  Your veterinary professional will do a physical examination and note the clinical signs being presented by your bird, observing both from a distance as well as up close.  He will be assessing changes, some of which may be subtle, in posture, wing position, respiration patterns and respiratory rate as some clinical information can potentially be gained from abnormalities found.  There is quite a list of clinical signs which the vet will be looking for to obtain for information for his diagnosis  

Your vet will likely order some diagnostic testing to be done.  You should expect him to take samples of blood for a comprehensive blood count, blood serology testing for chlamydiosis and aspergillosis and other infectious causes and samples of the choanal (slit in the roof of the mouth) or nasal cavity to check for bacteria or cancer. Radiography (x-rays) and / or CT imaging may be utilized; in addition endoscopic direct viewing of the respiratory system may be suggested as well.

Treatment of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Birds

Once the above information has been gathered, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated.  That treatment plan will be, of course, commensurate with the offending entity and the condition of your bird at the time of diagnosis.  Here are some things which could be recommended by your vet:

  • Keep in mind that, if the bird is displaying lethargy, breathing difficulties or loss of appetite, it will likely need to be hospitalized and perhaps some long-term care
  • Cleaning of any dry secretions and removal of any foreign objects from airways (potentially requiring anesthesia)
  • Administration of antibiotics or antifungal medications orally or via injection or application directly into nostrils or sinuses
  • Flushing of the nostrils or sinuses with antibiotics and antifungal medications
  • Surgical removal of any tumors which may be present

Once your bird is released from the hospital, you will likely have a care regimen that you will have to maintain while the bird continues to recuperate.

Recovery of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Birds

It is important to note that some birds may not survive regardless of treatment. The prognosis will be dependent upon the cause of the infection and the damage which has been caused by it.  At home, attention will need to be focused on keeping up with the regimen given by your vet, making changes to the bird’s enclosure environment to eliminate some of the factors which may have contributed to the bird’s condition, and adjusting the bird’s diet to achieve maximum nutritional benefit.  

Humidifying and purifying the air in the aviary may also benefit the health of your flock.  Getting appropriate medical care at the earliest possible point when changes in condition and behavior is noted is vital to the survival of your bird.  Attention to prevention measures to protect the rest of the flock will go a long way toward the success of the aviary.

Sneezing and Nasal Discharge Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Rico
Yellow Napped Amazon
3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Breathing, runny nose,

We have a 35 yo Yellow Napped Amazon Rico, 2 years ago he started have trouble breathing and a runny nose. We are and have been taking him to an avian Vet. It is still going on we have done flushing of the nostrils or sinuses with antibiotics and antifungal medications Surgical removal of any material which may be present. He was good to start for about 6 months but as the time went on with this treatment the time got shorter and shorter. They did a culture and now we have to give him another AntiBiotic by injection because the culture showed the condition is resistant to the Baytril. He has been Baytril for 2 years. It has cost several thousands of dollars and he is not getting any better. We are at wits end as to what to do. Do you know if there is any homeopathic things that can be done instead of the routine he is on now?

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Lilly
Polytelis alexandrae
12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulties
Wheezing
Sneezing

I’ve had my princess parrot for 12 years and last May when I came home from holidays I noticed that one of her nostrils was swollen. I had taken her to my vet who specializes in birds they cleaned the nostril out and gave her antibiotics. Everything was ok for 4 months and I noticed her sneezing and the nostril was getting a wet discharge from it. So for close to a year now Ive been taking her to the vets. With her having been sneezing and breathing problems.

She’s had 2 rounds of antibiotics treatments that are a 6 week course. The first one was last year (one needle a week) think the vet said it was vitamin A and something else. She gotten better and then worse months later. She’s just finished her second course a month or so ago and she was good until 2 weeks ago and she was taken back for breathing difficulties. The vet examined her and listened to her chest and her chest was clear. He did give her one booster needle, however she got so stressed I thought she was going to drop dead, he taken her 30 minutes to recover from that. He also thinks she’s got a blood clotting disorder because she bleeds when she gets her needles now.

It all started last May.

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Sylvie
Quaker Parrot
2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge

My Quaker parrot seems to have dried discharge on one side.It looks sort of like dried mucous, but it's hard to examine her since she bites hard enough to draw blood. She seems completely normal other than that. Still eating and drinking regularly, but a bit more aggressive. I don't know if it's something I should be concerned about or if it's normal. The weather has been pretty cold the last week, but we've had the heat on. Any suggestions?

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Petee
Bird
2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing hunched up eye is shut

My English parkette is sneezing and all fluffed and just not looking good what kind of antibiotic can I give it I have penicillin that's injectable its 3000 rm can u tell me how much I can give him and how many times

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Without examining Petee I cannot legally advise you to give any antibiotic without visiting your Veterinarian; plus I don’t know if they penicillin you have is in date or has been stored correctly. It is possible that Petee has an upper respiratory tract infection, but I cannot be certain without examining him; you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to confirm and to prescribe treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Oscar
Alexandrine Parakeet
25 Days
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge

Hello,
I had found my baby alexandrine parakeet making some sound while breathing( kind of when human child suffers from cold). I took him/her to vet he gave some medincine. I gave it to the bird as directed .Everything else seems fine. His/her poop, feeding response, crop is getting empty normally, everything else seems fine to me. Last night i saw oscar sneez twice followed by drops of clear liquid in nasal discharge

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Nasal discharge is good since the airways look like they are now clearing, continue to give the medication as prescribed and monitor for improvement; it may take a few days or longer to start hearing an improvement in breathing. If there is no improvement over the weekend you should return to your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Babe
Green-Cheeked Conure
6 Weeks
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Hello the morning my bird looked very sick. He ruffles all his feathers will not open his eyes. His eyelids are blue-ish and he keeps sneezing and he is sleepy.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
There is most likely some upper respiratory infection going here which would require veterinary attention; depending on the severity, the nasal cavity or sinus may need to be flushed out. You should visit your Veterinarian (preferably an Avian Veterinarian) for an examination to determine the cause and to direct treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Pixie
Budgerigar Budgerigars
2 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Watery Poop
Wheezing
Watery eyes
Tail bobbing

Medication Used

An antibiotic but idk it's name.

My budgie(She's just 1-3 months old I think) looked sick to me one day. She was puffed up and sleeping the whole time She was bobbing her tail up and down and her pool was watery too. She was keep waking up and she was eating, drinking and grooming herself and again going back to sleep. I noticed somekind of brownish wet discharge above her cere and she was sneezing and rubbing her head on the perch too). I took her to a vet(not an avian vet because we don't have any avian vet in out city) and the doctor said she's suffering from cough and her eyes are watery so he perscribed her with somekind of antibiotic tablet(I don't know it's name because he gave me only one tablet) and he told me give 1/10th crushed part of it mixed with her moist seed for 3-10 days, and he told me that if she recovers in 3 days then I can stop giving her medicine. My budgie started seem normal in 3 days(she wasn't puffed up like before, she was playing, chirping and doing aerobatics in her cage) so I stopped giving her medications with her seeds. Because first day she didn't eat her food so I thought she recoverd in 3 days of medication. But after one day I noticed her sneezingand bobbing her tail, brown discharge above her cere and her eyes were watery and her poop was greeny and wet so I again started giving her medicine. It's been more than 10 days since all this started. And she's still sneezing a lot and bobbing her tail all the time, brown discharge above her cere and her poop is still watery and green. (but she's not puffed up and she's playing chriping, flying, eating, grooming well.)

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
If there was improvement after the administration of antibiotics then it may be useful in this case to return to your Veterinarian and have a culture and sensitivity test done to identify the infection and then to determine the best antibiotic to treat the infection. You should also ensure that Pixie is fed an appropriate diet for age and species. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.woaw.org.au/14andOver/suitable-vegetables-budgies-ask-billy/

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Alex
Indian Ring-Necked Parakeet hybrid
3 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Voice changed
Sleepy
Lazy
Whining
Face up

My bird was going good and healthy, once i forced fed it. And i think some of it went up in It's nose from 2 3 days now its keeping it face up. Before nasal discharge was less so i couldn't figure it out but now its getting more and the bird is getting lazier. I have started giving medications prescribed by the breeder, because no vets in the country, amoxilyn formula 1ml in It's handfeed 3 times a day
What more should i do?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Whilst I understand that some countries like the Maldives, Marshall Islands and others have no Veterinarians; I cannot legally prescribe any prescription medications without examining an animal first, this includes antibiotics. You should keep Alex hydrated and monitor his breathing, it is possible that some food was aspirated and this may lead to a severe respiratory infection and antibiotics would be required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Tweedy
Budgie
11 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

none

My budgie sneezed about 6 times in a row about 5 times today but he's happy and still displaying and head bobbing for his mate, nothing's changed no puffed up feathers or discharge just the sneeze

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Tweedy may have sneezed for a few times for various reasons which may include an infection; but other causes including irritants, allergens, dust etc… may also cause some sneezing to occur. If there are no other symptoms for now, I would keep an eye on him for the meantime but if you do notice any discharge or any other symptoms you should visit an Avian Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Iris
Conure
2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

My bird is acting normal but she keeps making herself sneeze and mucus comes out. Her poop is a little bubbly and her weight is normal but should i be concerned? She drank water before she started sneezing a lot so im thinking maybe it got into her nose and she was trying to get it out.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. It may be that she is clearing water from her nasal passages, but the mucus is concerning. If she continues to display this behavior, it would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian, as birds can be so fragile, and you don't want to ignore an ongoing problem.

I think she is ok now! She has stopped sneezing but i will continue to observe her! Thank you for the advice!

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Patience
Starling
One Month
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

I have a starling her name is Patience and she’s I think she like a month old, I’ve had her for two weeks and she had all her feathers when I found her I think she was just out of the nest. She sneezes all of the time, like 4 or 5 in a row right fast like every hour but I don’t see any discharge around her nostrils I felt something wet on my hand when she sneezed on me though she has lots of energy and is always running around my arms and flying around but she can’t fly great I take her outside all of the time she doesn’t fly away and if she does it’s short distances and always comes back. She seems like a healthy energetic little bird but she sneezes all of the time

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Patience may have something in her nasal passages, or an infection, or a parasite. If she seems to be doing well otherwise, it may be something that you can monitor. If you are concerned, it would be best to have her seen by an avian veterinarian to get any treatment that she may need.

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Pikki
cockatiel
6 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge
Sneezing

My bird is sneezing and there is discharge from her right nostril. also the right nostril is swollen red. She is behaving okay though. There are no avian vet in my city. Please help

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Without seeing Pikki, I'm afraid that I cannot determine what might be going on with her, whether she has a bacterial or fungal infection, a blockage, or another problem. If there is a veterinarian in another city that can see her, it would be a good idea to take her there and have her examined before her problem becomes worse. I hope that she is okay.

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taquito
Budgie
7 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

sneezing tail bobbing

I took my budgie to the vet for tail bobbing and he was given baytril for 7 days. the last day was yesterday and i have still seen him tail bobbing and he has been sneezing more now. He is not fluffed up, he has been eating and drinking normally, he talks and has been flying around the room.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Tail bobbing and sneezing certainly point towards a respiratory tract infection (or environmental irritants), if there has been no improvement you show return to your Veterinarian (preferably an Avian Veterinarian) for another examination to determine whether a different course of treatment or testing (culture and sensitivity) is needed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Blue
Budgue
5 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing, puffy, brown stool

My budgie is sneezing and their Is clear nasal discharge. he bobs a little when he's perching and one time he pooped out a yolk like texture. As well as soft brown poop I haven't brought him to the vet and I was wondering what I should do. Is he possibly sick?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
It sounds like Blue may have picked up an infection which would need to be seen by his Veterinarian, without examining him myself I cannot say what the specific cause is or prescribe treatment. An Avian Veterinarian would be better, you can find on using the link below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.aav.org/search/custom.asp?id=1803

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