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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
  • Weakness 
  • 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.

Staph Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

4 Babies
5 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms


Medication Used

Amoxycillin and Sulfa-Trimethoprim

Our hand-raised baby conures developed yolk-sac infections and were initially treated with Amoxycillin. When they were tested to check on their status, they were found to have developed MRSA. All our other birds (parents and a Nanday conure) and animals (dog) as well as our entire family (3 members) were tested. None of the other animals tested positive for MRSA but two of our family members tested positive. The humans were treated successfully with a 10-day course of Sulfa-Trimethoprim, but the birds were not treated successfully with Sulfa-Trimethoprim for 30 days. We are wondering if the birds can ever be cleared of MRSA, because the vet seemed to think they would likely never be cleared and would be carriers. If that is the case, we have to have them euthanized as one of our family members is a cancer patient and another is 85 years old. We don't want to risk them getting MRSA. Is it possible to clear birds (red cheeked conures) of MRSA or are we going to have to euthanize them? Thanks for any advice. The babies are on the thin side and have sour-smelling droppings but otherwise are friendly and eat well and seem eager to explore and play.

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Goffin's Cockatoo
18 Months
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Self mutilation. Plucking.

Medication Used

Amoxi-Clavulanate 45mg .7ml twice d

We thought he was just throwing a temper tantrum and plucking. But once 50% of his feather came up missing one day, I noticed he was hissing at his skin, as he would attack himself. He cut very deep holes in his skin, when I couldn't stop the bleeding, I ran him to the vet, he tested positive for Staph Infection... All this was over a 3 day period, from 1st pluck to the vet. We had to cauterize his wounds and put on a neck brace, and cone. He is currently 3 days into his meds, and cry's almost 4-6hrs a day... We are all hurting in this household. .. Heres to speedy recovery. Plus we are slowly changing him into a none seed, healthy diet of only pellets and fresh fruit n vegis, as we also learned we were giving him a poor diet and he has elevated Kidney values. So his immune system must suck. We didn't know he want not suppose to have seeds and human foods, we were miss led by the breeder, on his breeds dietary needs.

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28 Days
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms


Can birds and humans exchange staph? I have a staph infection. I have a mating pair of budgies with 6 nesting babies. The oldest is 28days- I’ve played with her the most. Yesterday and today she was lethargic, even in a bath. No other symptoms. I hand fed her once recently too.
I recently cleaned the wooden nest. I’m new at this and the person they came from told me not to touch the nest until mom kicked them all out- that it would disturb them. But I had to, it smelled bad and seemed unhygienic. Well it turned out it was moist under the droppings. It was yucky with all those birds (others didn’t make it).
Anyway, since my doctor found staph as the reason I’m so tired, I’ve wondered if I got it from them or could give it to them. She said no but I wanted to ask a vet.

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2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

hyperkeratosis of the cere
Tail bobbing

Medication Used


I recently took my two budgies in for a routine vet checkup to get them established with the local avian vet since we just moved and my older budgie (Spock, 9 years old) had been treated for mites recently, I wanted to make sure that both budgies were free and clear of mites and that they have a good vet in town. My vet noticed some hyperkeratosis on the cere of my younger budgie (Sasha, 2 years old) and took a sample for testing along with some droppings because she found it concerning. The test came back positive for staph and she prescribed a 10 day, twice daily antibiotic course.

My budgies are on an excellent diet, they are flighted and given lots of space to fly, exercise and play, they tend to be vibrantly healthy. My younger budgie hadn't shown any symptoms of illness before I brought her to the vet (and I'd been watching them both very closely, especially after the incident with the mites), she was playful, active, eating well and sleeping well but over the last week while I was waiting for the test results she started a molt a tad bit early and has been a bit low-energy (still very playful and eating well, just not as over-the-top playful as usual) and I started to notice a slight tail bob (which indicates heavier breathing) starting 2 days ago. She started her antibiotics today (she /hates/ it) and it seems overall like I was just incredibly lucky with the timing of this annual checkup and we caught things early.

Even if you feel bad about stressing your bird out for one day a year by taking them into the vet, yearly checkups really can be life-savers. Birds (and small/exotic animals in general) are experts at hiding their symptoms when they are ill in order to survive in the wild but this often means that we don't notice their symptoms until it is too late. Do good by your birdos and take them in for annual checkups if you can, it really can keep them alive and healthy for as long as possible!

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Common Sparrow
5 Weeks
Moderate condition
2 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Less Stamina
Red swollen skin

Found this baby sparrow on the street in danger with no mum returned to him. Progressed fine the first 2 weeks, on the third week developed the symptoms which are worsening slowly. Please what can it be? I have pictures if they help.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Sparrows can be affected by parasites, fungal infections and bacterial infections, or the baby bird may have had a systemic disease that caused it to be abandoned by the mother sparrow. Without seeing Giorgi, I'm not sure that might be going on, and it would be best if he were seen by a veterinarian to see what can be done for him.

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Budgerigar Budgerigars
1 Year
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

My budgie is looking healthy and there is ղօ sign of infection on his peak/frathers/feet. However, today his voice changed to a quiet noise. He used to have a sharp chrisp. Could this be stress ( he has a female partner and she’s fine), difficultly breathing, respiratory infection?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
I would suspect iodine deficiency as a cause of a change in chirp; you can try to add some iodine drops (from your local pet shop) to the drinking water for a while to see if there are any changes in his chirp. Other causes may include other thyroid problems, tumours, infections among other causes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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