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Dealing with the

Consequences of

Anorexia in Birds


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Anorexia in Pet Birds
Dr Julia Adams BVSc

Anorexia (loss of appetite) and lethargy (listlessness) are
common signs of illness in pet birds. They are not diseases in
themselves but they do indicate a severely ill bird that requires
urgent medical attention.

Underlying medical problems that can cause the signs of anorexia
and lethargy in pet birds include liver, heart or kidney disease,
cancer, viral or bacterial infections, fungal or yeast
infections, parasites, and hormonal disorders.

What should I do if my bird is not eating or appears listless?
How is an illness diagnosed?
What is the treatment?
Can I prevent my bird becoming ill?

What should I do if my bird is not eating or appears listless?

Unlike dogs and cats, birds are still 'wild' pets. This means
that, in order to survive, they tend to hide their signs of
illness to avoid becoming a target for predators. This is also
known as the preservation response. A sick wild animal will thus
not appear ill until it is very sick indeed, often several weeks
after it initially became ill, and literally dying. Birds rarely
get sick overnight. Therefore, a bird with anorexia and lethargy
is extremely ill and requires urgent medical attention. Waiting
to see if your bird will get better is not going to be of any
help to your bird; you may actually wait and watch as your bird

How is an illness diagnosed?

Because anorexia and lethargy can be caused by many different
diseases, several diagnostic tests may need to be run. These can
include blood tests, gram stains and cultures, fecal tests for
parasites, yeast, and bacteria, radiographs (X-rays), and a
psittacosis (chlamydiosis) test among others. Unfortunately,
there is no one test to diagnose the various causes of anorexia
and lethargy.

What is the treatment?

Treatment obviously varies with the cause of the anorexia and
lethargy. In general, many of these birds are extremely ill.
Hospitalization may be required for critical care that cannot be
given at home, such as placement in an incubator, fluid therapy,
force feeding, and broad spectrum antibiotic therapy. If the
specific cause of the illness is determined, then medications
used to treat the specific cause will be given as well.

Can I prevent my bird becoming ill?

Yes! Firstly, ensure that you feed your bird properly. An
all-seed diet is not a balanced diet for birds and predisposes
them to many of the causes of anorexia and lethargy.

Secondly, all birds need a routine yearly veterinary check-up.
Early discovery of any abnormality is crucial and treatment is
usually easy and inexpensive. With regular check-ups your
veterinarian can detect small changes in your bird's health and
prevent more serious problems developing. By spending just a
little money each year, you can detect diseases early and prolong
your bird's life.

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