Skin and feather problems in birds

Skin diseases are common in birds and can involve any part of the body. They may be caused by infectious agents, parasites, nutritional problems, stress or congenital conditions. Hare are some of the problems you might encounter with your pet birds:   

Feather picking is extremely common in parrots. Parasites, itchy conditions, and behavioral problems are among the likely causes. Feather picking is usually very frustrating to treat and an often hard to control problem. A diagnosis of behavioral feather picking is made after ruling out medical causes. 

Mites are the most common skin parasitic disease. Mites usually cause itching, scaling and thickening of the skin. Face and leg mites (knemidokoptes) are very common in budgies, finches and canaries. They cause progressive thickening and wart like lesions around the beak and eyes, which may lead to a permanent beak deformity. The legs become scaly and crusty and develop nail abnormalities. Secondary infections sometimes complicate the disease. The disease does not appear to be very itchy. Grey cheek parakeets are commonly affected by another mite, Myialges nudus, that causes intense itching, redness and scaling that debilitate the bird and may lead to death. Mites are diagnosed by clinical signs and skin scraping. Treatment with Ivermectin and similar products is usually effective.

Baldness is common in canaries and cockatiels and usually involves the head and neck area. Birds usually do not show any other signs of disease. Baldness may be associated with hereditary conditions or hormonal imbalance. 

Xanthomas are yellow to orange growths containing lipids and cholesterol. They are common in budgies, cockatiels and cockatoos and usually involve the chest, thighs, and wings. They may invade large areas and require surgery.

Ulcerative dermatitis is a moist, often itchy, skin infection that may be associated with trauma, wounds, diabetes and certain internal parasites. Birds will pick the lesions creating further damage and complications. The disease is seen mostly in lovebirds, cockatiels, grey cheeks, amazons and cockatoos.

Bumble foot or pododermatitis in a skin infection that involves the feet. The bottom of the feet become red, painful and swollen and the bird has difficulty perching and walking. Round perches that continuously elicit pressure on one spot, trauma to the foot and other health problems contribute to the disease. If caught early, the disease can be treated successfully. Chronic and severe bumble foot carries poor prognosis.

Beak and feather disease is a viral malady that affects cockatoos and other birds. It is usually chronic and causes progressive deformity of the feathers and beak as well as weight loss.

There are many more skin diseases of birds and any bird exhibiting skin or feather problems should be presented to the veterinarian. Regular check-ups can prove life saving and help prevent, diagnose and treat diseases early on.

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