Can birds have allergies? You might not hear about it often, but bird allergies do occur. What is an allergy? What is an allergy? It is a body’s abnormal reactivity to an antigen that evokes an abnormal or exaggerated immune response. Our body can become exposed to these allergens by inhaling them, touching them, or ingesting them.
The occurrence of allergic reactions in birds is still being studied, and the dermatological expression of hypersensitivity (allergy) is still poorly understood.
Many bird owners and veterinarians notice allergic reactions in birds to specific substances. The most common ones are:
- Certain foods.
- Pollen and molds.
- Cleaning supplies and heavily scented products.
- Last but not least, parasites.
Which Substances Cause Bird Allergy?
1. Food Allergy
Like humans, dogs, and cats, birds can also be allergic to certain foods. These allergens are not usually considered toxic food for birds because food allergy occurs when the body reacts to a normally harmless substance. The common foods birds are allergic to are peanuts, wheat, and spirulina.
To figure out exactly what kind of food your bird is allergic to, your veterinarian will either run tests or start to eliminate potential allergens from your bird’s diet to figure out which one is causing a reaction.
The pollens produced by flowering trees and plants in the spring are considered prevalent environmental allergens. They affect humans and animals and can also affect your avian friend.
Some birds are more susceptible to allergies than others; for example, the double yellow-headed amazons and yellow-naped amazons suffer more than other birds from seasonal allergies.
Molds are considered microscopic fungi that live on plants or animals. They are usually found in the environment and considered common environmental allergens, like pollen. Your bird’s immune system will overreact when they breathe in mold spores. These allergens can cause a reaction right away after inhaling.
4. Cleaning Supplies and Scented Products
Birds will react to the chemicals found in cleaning supplies and scented products like perfume. This means that your bird’s body will consider these chemicals a foreign substance. Usually, these chemicals, especially scented products, irritate the airway directly.
Birds may become the host to several different types of parasites, and they can be either internal or external parasites.
It is thought that birds harboring intestinal protozoa (internal parasites like giardia) have an allergic reaction to the protozoa in their intestinal tract.
Biting lice and mites are very common in birds and they are the most important external parasite. There are many kinds of mites including Fowl mites, (Ornithonyssus) Quill mites, Epidermolytic mites, and Roost mites (Dermanyssus Gallinae) who feed on the bird at night and lay around their cage, which makes them hard to diagnose in the morning.
Mites are not very easy to diagnose, and if left untreated, they can cause secondary bacterial infections and itchy skin.
How to Tell That Your Bird Has Allergies?
How to diagnose bird allergy?
It is difficult to test for bird allergy in the traditional way that humans and dogs are tested. Most vets diagnose bird allergy by the bird’s symptoms and response to avoidance of the allergens.
It is possible to evaluate the White Blood Cell count (WBC) and focus on the eosinophil, which can increase owing to allergic reactions or parasite infestations.
To identify mites and other external parasites, a skin biopsy that includes a feather follicle can help.
If your bird has a skin problem, your vet will need to differentiate between allergies and other diseases like viruses, bacteria, and endocrine diseases. If your bird is suspected of having an allergic reaction, your vet will need detailed history to look for possible exposure to allergens.
What are the symptoms of bird allergy?
When birds have allergies they may have oozing from inflamed feather follicles or from the skin itself, swelling in the skin, redness, itchiness, or feather loss. These symptoms are usually caused by external parasites like mites, fleas, and ticks.
Other symptoms include red, swollen eyes and cere, usually caused by environmental allergens like pollens and molds.
When the allergies manifest as sneezing or wheezing, it can be caused by environmental allergens or scented products.
What Can You Do if Your Bird Has Allergies?
If your vet diagnoses your bird with allergies, there are steps you can take to keep your pet as comfortable as possible:
- Keep your environment clean and free of allergens.
- Use an air filter and change it frequently. This will help reduce dust, mold, and pollen in the air.
- Antihistamines and glucocorticosteroids will help your little buddy but should never be given unless your vet prescribes them.
- Make sure that your bird is on a healthy diet. This will help keep his immune system healthy and make it stronger.
- Vitamins are another way to help your feathered buddy get over their allergies. They should be getting plenty of Vitamin A and beta-carotene, but check with your vet first about the dosages.
- Some products are better to be kept away from your bird even if you are not sure that they are causing them allergies because they are considered harmful. Fumes from hairspray, scented candles, potpourri, and other strong-smelling products can cause health issues to your pet bird.
- If the vet suspects a food allergy and not an environmental allergy, you should start with a food elimination diet for your bird to try and determine which food item they are allergic to. They may have an allergy to one or more food items, so your vet should monitor this elimination diet.
How to Keep Your Pet Bird Healthy?
1. Good nutrition
The food you provide for your pet bird should be a wide variety, good quality, fresh and balanced. You can give your bird some vitamins, fruits, vegetables, and grains. But be careful; seed-only diets and one-sided diets result in nutrient deficiencies and cause diseases such as hepatic lipidosis and vitamin A, E, and D deficiencies. These seed-only diets are one of the birds’ most common causes of death.
Another point you should keep in mind is to stay away from toxic food for birds because some of them might cause sudden death or severe health issues.
Grooming your bird is a crucial and underrated step. It includes trimming its wings and nails, filing its beak, and bathing your bird.
Wing, nail, and beak trimming might seem a little hard, but it is a simple procedure and is preferable to be done by your vet.
Bathing your pet can be done in many ways, either by providing a dish of water or spraying them with water to promote healthy skin and feathers.
3. Socialize with them
Spending time with your pet bird can make them very happy, helps them avoid boredom, and makes them friendlier with people.
4. Keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer
During winter, when the weather is very cold, provide your bird with heating. During the hot days of summer, try to provide them with cool air and cold water.
5. Take them only to an exotic vet
Almost all vets have general knowledge of bird medicine, but only specialized ones can deal with diseases and surgeries.
Bird allergy is a common condition in birds, but few studies are available about it. In general, they can be caused by allergens such as certain foods, external and internal parasites, cleaning and scented products, and pollen and molds. There are a lot of steps you can follow to minimize the risk of your pet having allergies, and sometimes medications are a must.