For First-Time Parrot Owners: 7 Signs Your Pet Needs An Emergency Vet Clinic

If you are a first-time parrot owner, you may be unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of a true avian emergency. It's important to recognize these signs, because parrots are instinctively known to "hide" their symptoms, as a weak bird is vulnerable to animals of prey. Besides the obvious, such as not eating and drinking, bleeding or blunt force trauma, note these 7 signs that indicate an avian emergency:

1. Inability to Perch

Does your parrot suddenly have difficulty remaining on the perch? If you notice your pet suddenly prefers staying on the bottom of the cage, especially with ruffled feathers and the appearance of being all "fluffed up," this could indicate illness. If you notice this occurrence, take your pet to an emergency vet clinic that treats exotics and birds.

2. Vomiting

An ill parrot may vomit a frothy or foamy substance, with or without the presence of undigested seed or food. Foamy regurgitation should not be regarded as "normal." Consult with your emergency vet without delay, especially if your pet has stopped eating or drinking altogether.

3. Diarrhea

This condition also indicates illness or disease. While a parrot may occasionally produce watery droppings due to the consumption of fruit or other foods, this is not to be confused with diarrhea. A sick bird with diarrhea may produce watery droppings with no form, although there may also be matted feathers or caking around the vent area from dried droppings.

4. Sudden Loss of Weight

Every parrot owner should have a gram scale and keep track of their bird's normal weight. If you've noticed your feathered friend has suddenly lost weight, this could be a sign of a serious health issue. Take your pet to the emergency vet if the weight loss is accompanied by other symptoms, such as inactivity and loss of appetite.

5. Labored, Open-Beak Breathing

If your parrot has begun breathing with their beak open, this is a sign of respiratory distress. In some cases, labored breathing may be accompanied by the sound of a clicking noise. Do not delay in seeking emergency treatment if you notice these signs.

6. Tail Bobbing or Tail Pumping

As a first-time parrot owner, you may be unfamiliar with the term tail bobbing. This abnormal movement of the tail may be present during respiratory distress. Notice the bird's tail while perching. If there is a rapid, back and forth movement, especially with labored breathing, this could be a sign of a medical emergency. Again, do not delay in seeking treatment.

7. Egg Binding (in Female Birds)

This situation occurs when a female bird is unable to pass an egg. Your pet does not have to mate or be in the presence of a male bird to ovulate or produce (infertile) eggs. Some females with nutritional deficiencies may have difficulty passing the egg naturally. Although egg binding is more common in certain species, any female bird or parrot may become egg bound, and if left untreated, it may be life threatening. Some common signs of egg binding are as follows:

  • Decrease in droppings.

  • Straining, as if to try to pass dropping (or the egg).

  • Lameness of the legs, due to increased pressure from an egg that has become "stuck" inside the bird

If you notice any of these signs, especially if your parrot has laid eggs in the past, seek emergency veterinary treatment at once. The vet will initiate treatment or surgery to remove the egg, if other methods fail.

As a responsible parrot owner, it's imperative to locate an avian vet or other emergency vet clinic, such as Gwynedd Veterinary Hospital, before a crisis arises. Ask your breeder or exotic bird store for a recommendation of a qualified local avian veterinarian with emergency hours. Keep the phone number handy and be prepared.