What is Staph Infection?
Staphylococcus infection is a gram positive bacterial pathogen. The most common infection includes those that affect the sinuses or upper respiratory tract, intestinal tract and liver, urinary and reproductive tract, and the skin including feather follicles. Stress can also lower your bird’s immunity allowing the infection to take hold, and unattended open wounds or scratches can allow bacteria entry into the body.
Any wound or scratch needs prompt attention. A poor diet may also reduce your bird’s resistance to disease so check that it’s dietary needs are met.
Bacterial infections of Staphylococcus are quite common for your bird, and are often associated with environmental conditions (dust, humidity), lowered immunity and poor cleanliness or diet.
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Symptoms of Staph Infection in Birds
- Picking at the skin or feather follicles
- Redness around the follicle area
- A reluctance to walk
- Lameness or swelling in the joints
- Little energy to walk around
- Depression – your bird is less talkative, active or responsive to you
- Sneezing and nasal discharge
- Puffy, inflamed eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Skin redness
- Infected lesions
- Feathers ruffed up and puffy
- Watery diarrhea
- Dropped wing
- Loss of weight
Causes of Staph Infection in Birds
- Staph infections in birds are worldwide which is not a surprise when you consider that the genus of Staphylococcus comprises of over 36 species and 212 subspecies
- Bacteria can enter via inhalation or ingestion and are potentially life threatening for your bird when left without treatment
- This genus of bacteria are normal inhabitants of the skin and mucous membranes of your healthy bird
- The bacteria can be found in areas where old food lingers, humid areas, dusty locations and damp, wet cages
- Staph.aureus is the most common pathogenic species causing health problems in birds
- Low immunity or lowering of your bird’s natural defence system (such as recovery from a viral infection) can allow bacteria to multiply excessively
- Neglected cuts, scratches or sores that become infected is when Staph can become a life-threatening reality
- Environmental causes such as not cleaning or sterilising containers, the cage, and perches can all lead to bacterial infection through dirt, dust, and a build-up of droppings
- Contaminated water in your bird’s cage can cause bacteria outbreaks; you can check the water bowl by running your finger around the edge, if it feels slimy, it has bacteria
- Outdoor aviaries with dusty conditions can cause your bird to inhale the bacteria in the air
- Trimming of your bird’s toenails or beak can cause injury allowing bacteria to infect
- Minor surgical procedures can result in secondary bacterial infection
- Any breaks in the skin are ideal places for staph to multiply
- Nutritional deficiencies can lower your bird’s immunity
- Attacks and injury from cats or a rat
Diagnosis of Staph Infection in Birds
If you suspect that your bird has picked up a Staphylococcus or any other infection, it is wise to take your pet to your local avian veterinarian for an examination. Birds are very good at hiding their illness from you; it is part of a hereditary trait, where in the wild, sick birds keep their health hidden so as not to attract predators to the flock. A sick bird will be driven from the flock once the other birds become aware of its illness, with self-preservation being the driving force. You need to be very observant and be aware of any skin sores, scratches or red looking skin that may indicate a bacterial infection. If your bird starts sneezing or has a discharge coming from its nasal area, and perhaps has inflamed eyes, then this would indicate an infection that needs immediate attention.
Your veterinarian will ask about the bird’s diet or enquire about any injuries that have happened recently. But apart from the obvious physical signs, a culture test will be done to see what is causing the infection. The antibiotic to use will be determined by this test as it identifies the exact type of bacteria which means treatment can then be prescribed to cure and further prevent it from recurring.
Treatment of Staph Infection in Birds
Treatment will be administered either by injection or antibiotic drops directly into the mouth. While you can treat your bird through adding the medication to the water, you do have to check that your bird is drinking the water. Some birds will go off water and food when sick, so for very sick birds, the direct approach is best. Goldenseal is sometimes used, as the herb is a strong antibiotic and has a long history of use with bacterial infections including staph. Licorice root is another antibacterial product, as is echinacea herb, they all work to kill the staph infection.
For topical antibiotics for affected feet or skin lesions, the area needs to be cleaned thoroughly before applying the cream. Use a mild antibacterial product to wash away any infection present, then dry gently before applying the topical cream. If the infection is in the leg or toe area, a light bandage may protect the area to allow healing to begin. Improper diets need to be changed slowly (birds often take a while to get used to new food and will not eat a new product immediately). The aim is to build up your bird’s strength again and enable your pet’s system to fight off the remaining infection and heal the body.
Recovery of Staph Infection in Birds
Gentle care and support for your bird are required during the recovery stages. First, ensure that your bird's cage is pristine clean (from a recommended not toxic cleaning product) before returning your pet home. Ensure you supply fresh clean water, new seed, fresh food treats, and a clean perch and cage floor will all help your friend to recover. Dietary changes will take time for your bird to adjust to, just ensure that he is eating and drinking before making any radical changes. Your veterinary specialist may suggest a vitamin supplement which will build your pet up to full health again. Regular care of your bird’s environment is good practice. Removal of old food, changing the water at least daily, and keeping surfaces clean will prevent Staph bacteria from building up and reoccurring.