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What is Yeast Infection?

There are two types of yeast infection; acute, which is sudden and moves fast, and chronic, which happens over a long period of time. It is difficult to treat yeast infections in birds because of the close contact of large flocks and since the route of transmission is through bird droppings, which are everywhere.

Yeast infection, or candidiasis is an extremely dangerous fungal infection that birds get secondary to an infection or disorder of the crop or from antibiotic treatment. This illness affects young birds, geese, ducks, ibis, quails, turkeys, ostriches, canaries, finches, budgies, and other psittacines. Birds that have systemic diseases such as avian chlamydiosis and mycobacteriosis are more susceptible to yeast infection as well. However, this infection can be found in a bird of any age, breed, or sex. Since this is such a highly contagious fungus, yeast infections almost always affect all chicks in the clutch and will spread rapidly throughout the flock. Some of the symptoms it produces include diarrhea and regurgitation, progressing to chronic wasting and death.

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Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Birds

This infection is almost always chronic and does not usually show symptoms until long after it has begun. However, over a period of 12-18 months you may notice certain gradual changes in your bird. In acute cases, the signs will come on quickly and be fatal within 24 hours. Some of these signs include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Regurgitation
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Crop stasis (slow digestion, swollen crop)
  • Listlessness
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • White throat
  • Plaques in mouth (usually white or red)

Types

  • Chronic cases are gradual and more common in all other birds
  • Acute cases are most often seen in parakeets (budgerigars) and are commonly fatal within 12-24 hours
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Causes of Yeast Infection in Birds

The cause of yeast infections in birds is Macrorhabdus ornithogaster, which is fungi that attacks the gastrointestinal system. This fungus colonizes the digestive tract (proventriculus) and elevates the pH to alter the stomach and disrupt the koilin layer. Koilin is a combination of carbohydrates and proteins that is secreted by the mucosal glands. Without this product, the gizzard is left unprotected and cannot aid in digestion as it should.

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Diagnosis of Yeast Infection in Birds

Because this infection spreads so fast and the symptoms are so slow, you will probably not notice the condition until your whole flock is infected. In these situations, it is best to have the veterinarian come to you rather than taking one or more of your sick birds to the office where it may spread the infection. However, you should call your veterinarian for advice on what is best. Yeast infections can be found in feces specimens or periventricular scrapings stained with Wright, Diff-Quik, Leishman, or Giemsa preparations. Barium sulfate contrast x-rays will show a sandglass shaped retraction between the gizzard and the crop.

A serum chemistry test can check the values of many different types of chemicals, but the most common in birds include uric acid, total protein, calcium, phosphorus, glucose, aspartate transaminase (AST), and bile acids. A complete blood count (CBC) is used to determine the amounts of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and reticulocytes in the blood. Using these tests, the veterinarian will be looking for signs of thrombocytosis, basophilia, monocytosis, and lymphocytosis.

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Treatment of Yeast Infection in Birds

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to treat yeast infections in birds because the fungi are able to build up a resistance to the antifungal medication fairly quick. The amount of time that it takes to treat the infections, which is approximately four to six weeks, give the organisms time to become resistant in many cases.

Medications

Some of the drugs used in treating yeast infections include itraconazole, fluconazole, ketoconazole, flucytosine, and nystatin. These are usually given orally with an epigastric tube leading down your bird’s throat to the stomach. The medication must be given two times per day for 30 to 45 days. In cases of oral or topical infections, a cream or ointment of amphotericin can be used. The drugs used may need to be changed if one stops working during treatment or if it goes away and comes back.

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Recovery of Yeast Infection in Birds

Treating a large flock is not usually successful, but it is possible to do by using 10 milligrams of chlorhexidine per gallon of water for three weeks. The prognosis is guarded due to the length of time it takes for symptoms to be noticed. By the time it is noticed, it has usually done permanent damage to the gastrointestinal system and has spread to the rest of the flock. Your best hope is to get treatment as soon as you suspect a yeast infection.

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Yeast Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Chirpy

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Budgerigar

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10 Years

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Fair severity

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5 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Undigested Seed

Hello doctor, my female budgie 10 years of age started pooping undigested seed(1-2 per dropping intermittently) since yesterday. Her droppings are olive green of normal size and texture with urates in the centre. Urine content is normal. Her apatite is normal and she is chirping and playful, although she is stretching her neck and yawning(indicative of regurgitation?). I am giving her apple cider vinegar in water as I've read its great against yeast.

July 31, 2018

Chirpy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Chirpy may be having some dietary upset, whether it is age related or nutritional. Since I can't examine her, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian who can look at birds, and take a stool sample that they can examine as well. Birds often don't show signs of illness until they are quite ill, so any change in health status should be taken seriously.

July 31, 2018

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Tiko

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Budgerigar

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Regurgitation
Depression
Sleepiness
Weight Loss
Non Active

Hello, I have a female budgie who has been regurgitating undigested seed all over the floor and her head for several months now. She has been eating normally but she has lost a great amount of weight since her last yearly check up. (She was 28-29 grams before.) She was just taken to the vet yesterday and she is only 22 grams now. The vet says that he doesn’t know why she is regurgitating because she is still eating normally, but that she is super underweight. He suspected that she probably had a bacterial infection and prescribed her with antibiotics for two weeks. But, I have read online that when budgies eat normally but still have weight loss, they have yeast infection. She started to show these symptoms when my male budgie who is arond the same age as her started to try to mate with her. She always looks very frazzled after he attacks her. I tried seperating them but they kept on calling for eachother. But, one thing that I know for sure is that she definitely feels stressed out when he attacks her, but only feels safe when she’s with another budgie. I don’t know what to do. Ever since then, she has regurgitated seed everywhere every single day, lost a lot of weight, has stopped chirping, started to sleep continously throughout the day, and have puffed feathers. She still flies around my house with my male budgie, who is perfectly healthy and well, though. I’m very worried though because the vet said that once a budgie is under 20 grams, there is not much hope anymore. I’m wondering if she possibly has yeast infection? If she does, how would I be able to make sure that she actually has it so that she can get treated?

June 23, 2018

Tiko's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Bacterial infection of the crop would result in regurgitation, in my experience these are typically bacterial infections which respond well to antibiotics; however fungal infections may occur. Ideally in severe sick birds, a sample is taken using a crop wash technique before treatment starts so that the bacteria or fungus can be identified with treatment being adjusted if necessary when the results come back. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 24, 2018

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