With good care, your parakeet -- or budgerigar -- might share your life for 10 years or more. A budgie needs an appropriate diet, some exercise, a clean environment and a yearly checkup with an avian vet, who can detect early signs of disease and offer treatment when there is still a possibility of a cure.
Budgerigar Fledgling Disease
Technically known as avian polyoma virus, budgerigar fledgling disease often kills young parakeets. Usually appearing at the age of 7 weeks, the virus can kill birds within a few hours of becoming symptomatic. If your young bird develops bruiselike marks under the skin, rush him to the avian vet. If he survives, he may not be able to fly, and his feathers may look funky or fall out. Since a surviving bird may remain a carrier, he should not come into contact with other parakeets. While there is no cure for budgerigar fledgling disease, an available vaccination is given at the age of 40 days, with a booster two weeks later. However, that's very close to the date that viral symptoms first appear.
Tumors in Parakeets
Parakeets are prone to developing tumors in various parts of the body. These growths may be benign or cancerous. Tumors most often appear on or in the wings, the ovaries or testicles, the kidneys, the skin and the adrenal glands.
You'll obviously notice a growth on the wing or skin, but internal tumors can grow for a while before you notice changes in your bird. Take your bird to the vet if you note any lumps or swellings, or if the parakeet is losing weight or limping. The latter could result from a tumor's pressure on the sciatic nerve. If the tumor is benign, your vet may or may not chose to remove it. If it is malignant, surgery is usually required. Because parakeets are so small, any significant blood loss during surgery may prove fatal in itself. Your bird's treatment is a decision you'll have to make in conjunction with your vet, based on your pet's prognosis.
Although "bacteria" is part of its name, the parakeet disease known as megabacteria appears to respond more to antifungal medications than to the antibiotics commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections. Symptoms include:
- Fluffing up
- Weight loss
- Vomiting blood
- Dark, tarry feces
- The appearance of eating without actual food consumption
Without prompt treatment, megabacteria is quickly fatal in its acute form. In budgies afflicted with the chronic form, their condition waxes and wanes. The most effective treatment appear to amphotericin B, a fungicide/antibiotic combination.
Budgies often suffer from liver problems, but many times, liver disease is completely avoidable. That's because these little birds' liver ailments are frequently related to obesity. Without weight loss and dietary changes, an overweight parakeet's liver becomes fatty, and cirrhosis may eventually develop. Your vet can diagnose liver disease via blood testing, although ideally a liver biopsy is performed. Such a surgery often isn't practical for sick or aging birds, though. When caught early, liver disease is cured with exercise and a new diet:
- Add some fresh fruits and vegetables to the daily fare.
- Give the bird sprouted seeds daily.
- Provide swings, ladders and other exercise equipment to the cage.
- House your parakeet in the largest cage possible.
- Play with the bird.
Psittacosis, a disease affecting many pet birds, is zoonotic. That means people can catch this disease from their budgies. Also known as chlamydiosis, the disease spreads via the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci. Psittacisis affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal system, as well as the liver.
Symptoms include nasal or ocular discharge, sneezing or coughing, appetite loss, weight loss and diarrhea. Under normal circumstances, parakeet feces are partially white. Lack of white droppings, or greenish-yellow stools, are signs of possible psittacosis infection.
Fortunately, prompt diagnosis and treatment with appropriate antibiotics cures the condition. In most cases, the patient must visit the vet once weekly for an injection.
Take your parakeet to the vet at the first sign of any illness.
In people, psittacosis can result in pneumonia, as well as liver or heart disease. If you or anyone in your household becomes ill after exposure to your bird, see your doctor for an examination and diagnosis.