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What is Vomiting?

Part of the commitment we make to a bird upon adoption or purchase is to provide appropriate medical care in case of illness. When we love our pets, we want them to be healthy and happy and live for many years. If we spot a subtle change in our bird’s behavior or health, we may wonder if we are over-reacting to something insignificant. At other times, however, our avian friend may provide us with a clear signal that something is wrong. At these times, there is no mistaking the signs and symptoms in front of us.

Such is the case with vomiting in birds. If you see your bird attempting to expel food, stay calm and observe the bird’s behavior. Do not interfere with the bird. Birds commonly do something that looks like they are vomiting. However, they are simply trying to regurgitate the contents of their mouth, esophagus and gut. Like a cat, a regurgitating bird will nod its head and stick out its neck until it brings up any unwanted contents. If you have had your bird for a while, you will likely have observed this behavior more than a few times. Commonly, birds will “cough up” or regurgitate whole pieces of food, including intact seeds. A bird often chooses to regurgitate for natural reasons, some having to do with courtship or parenting. Sometimes, it may just be trying to become comfortable after a large meal. Overall, it is a common process for birds, and unlike mammals, it is not painful. Birds do not have diaphragms, and likely do not experience the miserable contractions we humans face upon becoming sick and vomiting.  

It is important for bird owners to understand the difference between vomiting and regurgitation. Regurgitation is the process as described above. When done, the bird will likely drop the food and go about its ordinary business. Vomiting, however, is not a natural or comfortable process for a bird, and may be a sign of some type of health condition. The difference between the two actions lies in both the appearance of the food and the behavior of the bird. Unlike regurgitation when the food comes up intact, vomited food is digested or almost-digested, and will be expelled in some liquid form. The bird will forcefully shake its head from side to side before it spits out the liquid. The force of the vomiting may send the liquid to all parts of the cage.

Your bird may forcefully try to empty the food into the crop (diverticulum of the esophagus). The liquid has an acidic quality to the taste, and may cause a “burning” sensation in the bird’s esophagus, mouth and stomach. Understandably, the bird will forcefully try to expel as much as it can. Unlike regurgitation, which may be done purposefully to feed offspring or a mate, the bird has no good reason to vomit.  If the bird appears to be vomiting a lot of liquid or fluid, or continues to try to vomit, seek immediate veterinary care. Tell the veterinarian if your bird has had diarrhea or other atypical symptoms or behaviors.

There is a discernable difference between regurgitation and vomiting in birds; regurgitation is the natural process of bringing up soft food, while vomiting is an unnatural, forceful expulsion of liquidized, semi-digested food.

Symptoms of Vomiting in Birds

There are many reasons your bird may vomit. Vomiting may be its only symptom; however other symptoms may be present. Describe any symptoms to the veterinarian. 

  • Lethargy
  • Ruffled or “fluffed” appearance
  • Watery green droppings 
  • Blood in the stool has a tar-like appearance
  • Twitching
  • Seizure
  • Tucking the head under the wing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discomfort
  • Lack of feces in the dropping
  • Sudden death
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Causes of Vomiting in Birds

The best way to understand what is happening with your bird is a fast trip to the vet. Meanwhile, here are some potential reasons why a bird may be vomiting (as opposed to regurgitating):

  • Bacterial infection – may be caused by spoiled food or old water
  • Parasites – worms, hexamita
  • Poisoning/toxins – such as plants, toys with lead or zinc
  • Intestinal or esophageal obstruction (blockage)
  • Yeast infection - Candida

  • Virus
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Medication side-effects
  • Cancer in the GI system
  • Diabetes
  • Motion sickness
  • New diet
  • Fungus
  • Trauma
  • Allergies
  • Behavioral/unhappy with cage/noise/people
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Diagnosis of Vomiting in Birds

This may be a complicated diagnosis. The vomiting may have a simple reason such as inappropriate food or motion sickness. Other reasons are unclear from just looking at the bird and may require more invasive testing. The vet will need a full explanation of the incidences of regurgitation or vomiting. Know the kind of food that your bird eats. 

Your bird will be physically examined. It is likely that the bird will have a blood test, and a serum biochemical panel. Samples may be taken of the feces or crop for culturing bacteria. Depending on symptoms, some birds may require an X-ray or other imaging. An endoscopy will look at the bird’s esophagus, stomach and intestines.

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Treatment of Vomiting in Birds

Treatment will depend upon the diagnosis. It is likely, however, that the vet will try to make the bird more comfortable by providing stomach medications that will lessen pain and soothe any type of raw feeling. If the vomiting was substantial, the bird may benefit from fluids. In the case of an infection, the bird will likely receive antibiotics. Depending on the bird’s condition, the vet may choose to admit your bird for the night to watch for other symptoms.

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Recovery of Vomiting in Birds

Adhere to the vet’s recommendations. Typically, food will be withheld for a period of time. Medication may need to be administered to make the bird more comfortable. Make sure to follow the instructions for the medication. If the bird starts to vomit again, call the vet immediately. Keep the bird quiet and away from noise and other birds. Reduce all stressors.

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Vomiting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Pigeon fantail

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3-5yrs

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting And No Control Of Body

What can I do to help the pigeon recover

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, with birds, they don't show illness until they are quite sick. There may be nothing that you can do at home to help your pigeon, and it would probably be best to have the bird seen by a veterinarian right away. They will be able to examine the bird and see if there is anything that can be done for him. I hope that everything goes okay for him.

Sept. 30, 2020

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Budgie

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

Hi I have a problem with my budgie. He is sleeping all day, his poo is a little runny and he threw up on my daughter. It was a kind of Greyish liquid. I'm not sure what to do.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Birds don't tend to show signs of illness unless they are quite sick, and your bird is acting sick. I think it would be best to find a veterinarian near you that will see birds, and have them examine your budgie to see what might be going on. They will be able to let you know what treatments might be needed. I hope that all goes well and your budgie feels better soon.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Parrot

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1year

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0 found helpful

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Concave Chest

Lazy

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry for the delay in answering, this platform is not set up for urgent responses. I'm not sure if your parrot is quiet, or if it is acting normally, as I cannot examine your bird, unfortunately. If you are concerned, it would be best to have the bird seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your bird and see if all is okay.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Budgie

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Four Months

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Vomited, Runny Poop And Seems Irritable

My budgie vomited right after eating her breakfast. She has had loose stools but not consistently, some look normal, some are green and sloppy. She is keeping herself to herself when she is normally very social. I have attached pictures of the vomit on the cage. There is some whole seeds but also what I think may be digested food?

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, this platform is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Indian ringneck

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1.5 Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Fever And Vomiting

My baby has fever for five days and from past three days am giving him ten drop of azitgral as directed by veterinary doctor.today he ate half slice of gwava morning nd now he is vomiting

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my response, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. Since I cannot see your pet, it would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be causing this, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Paddy

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Budgie

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

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Throwing Up, Breathing Heavily, Sh,
Throwing Up, Breathing Heavily, Sha

My six year old male budgie started vomiting seeds this morning. He is usually chatty but hasn't chirped since and his wings are shaking. He previously had some problems with his weight, but once we got him in a duet he was fine. We gave him one if those Vita craft treats (which we hive him about once every two weeks) but after he ate it he threw up, which never happens. He also shares the cage with another male.

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Dandelion

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Budgie

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2 Months

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Mild severity

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3 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Fluffed Up Feather
Clicking Sounds
Mucus-Like Vomit

Today i woke up and checked my blind budgie she seemed fine and i gave her water but after she drank she threw up a mucus-like vomit and made clicking noises. I gave her some medicine and fed her but she is very fluffy and her tail is bobbing with every breath

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Mango

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Lovebird

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Vomiting

My lovebird mango she has never done this before but she was out of her cage and then she started to vomit flicking a bunch of indigested food and I am kinda worried can you help me?

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Icky

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Society Finch

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Vomits,

I have two society finches that love another and tried to constantly make nests but recently I noticed my female finch violently shaking her head and vomited. I got little worried and changed her water and food, but she’s showing weakness and tiredness I kept an eye on her for quite some time and noticed she squeaks and shakes her head when she wakes up from her sleep. She’s in the cage fluffed up near her companion. But I don’t know what to do and it’s about an hour drive to any vets since there isn’t any in the area please help me save her.

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Alexander

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Parrot

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1 Month

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomitting Food

I have just gotten 4 baby parrots, most of them almost have all their feathers. I've been feeding them a formula for baby parrots but then, having run out of it, I went to buy another type of formula since they didn't have the same. The formula is in tune natural hand feeding formula. All seem to eat it just fine. I boil the water before I mix in with the food and even give it to them warm. Lately I've noticed Alexander, the smallest one, seems to vomit the food and sleeps more than any of the rest. I was wondering if it could be the change in food?

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