Respiratory Infections in Birds

Respiratory ailments are one of the most common health problems that veterinarians diagnose in pet birds. Here, a Treasure Coast vet discusses these dangerous disorders in more detail.


There are different types of respiratory infections, and each has various causes. Fungal spores that cause infections can be found in water, food, nests, incubators, and various other areas. Your bird could come in contact with the spores and be infected. The spores lodge in the air sacs of your bird’s lungs, and can spread to the bronchi, trachea, voice box, and even other body organs over time.


Symptoms of respiratory infections in birds include difficulty breathing, listlessness, depression, lethargy, and lack of appetite. Infections can severely damage the lungs, and there can even be bone changes and reshaping of the nose, trachea, and voice box areas. If the infection migrates to your bird’s central nervous system, spasms, loss of coordination, and paralysis could even result. You must contact your veterinary professional at the first unusual symptom in your pet.


Your Treasure Coast veterinarian will take steps to diagnose the infection to determine proper treatment. Any symptoms will be dealt with as necessary, and anti – fungal drugs or other medications—depending on the type and severity of infection—will usually be prescribed to rid your bird’s body of the infection. To accurately diagnose respiratory infections and other health issues in birds, your veterinarian may recommend advanced Veterinary Diagnostics, such as X-rays, blood tests, or cultures, to identify the specific cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Usually, the prognosis is good if the respiratory infection is caught and treated early enough, so it’s imperative you get your bird to the vet as soon as possible.

Preventing Infections

You can do your part to minimize the risk of your bird becoming infected with a respiratory disease. Keep your bird’s environment clean and sanitized properly. Always make sure there is adequate ventilation in your bird’s immediate area, whether it is a cage, carrier, or outdoors. Maintain your bird’s personal hygiene, and make sure his diet is top – quality. Refresh water often and remove uneaten food when necessary.

Another common health issue in pet birds is egg binding, which can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Egg Binding in Pet Birds to ensure your feathered friend receives the necessary care.

Our Advice on Respiratory Infections in Birds in 2024

Why are respiratory infections so common in pet birds?

Respiratory infections are common in pet birds due to their sensitive respiratory systems, which can easily inhale fungal spores present in water, food, nests, incubators, and the environment. Birds’ air sacs, crucial for their unique respiratory function, can harbor these spores, allowing infections to spread to the bronchi, trachea, voice box, and even other organs. Inadequate ventilation, poor hygiene, and unclean living conditions can increase the risk of exposure to pathogens, making respiratory infections a prevalent issue among pet birds.

What steps will a veterinarian take to diagnose and treat a respiratory infection?

To diagnose a respiratory infection in a bird, a veterinarian will first conduct a thorough physical examination, which may include listening to the bird’s breathing and observing for symptoms like difficulty breathing, lethargy, or loss of appetite. Diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, blood tests, or cultures, may be utilized to identify the specific pathogen causing the infection. Based on the diagnosis, the veterinarian will prescribe an appropriate treatment, which could include antifungal drugs, antibiotics, or supportive care such as fluid therapy and nutritional support. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for the bird’s recovery.

What are the most common fungal spores or other pathogens that cause respiratory infections in birds?

The most common fungal spores causing respiratory infections in birds include Aspergillus, Candida, and Cryptococcus. These fungi are often found in the environment, such as in water, food, or contaminated surfaces. Bacterial pathogens can also lead to respiratory infections, with Chlamydophila psittaci being particularly significant due to its association with psittacosis, which can affect both birds and humans. Additionally, Mycoplasma is another bacterial cause of respiratory issues in birds. Proper hygiene, ventilation, and care are essential in preventing these infections.

Are certain bird species more prone to respiratory infections than others?

Yes, certain bird species are more prone to respiratory infections than others. Birds with longer, more complex respiratory tracts, such as canaries, finches, and other songbirds, are often at higher risk due to their delicate respiratory systems. Additionally, pet birds that are kept in environments with poor ventilation or cleanliness, such as some parrots and cockatiels, can also be more susceptible to developing respiratory issues. Providing a clean, well-ventilated habitat and regular veterinary care can help minimize these risks for all bird species.

Besides observing symptoms, how does a veterinarian definitively diagnose a respiratory infection?

Besides observing symptoms, a veterinarian may use several diagnostic tests to definitively diagnose a respiratory infection in birds. These can include X-rays or other imaging techniques to assess the condition of the lungs and air sacs, cultures from the bird’s respiratory tract to identify specific pathogens, and blood tests to check for underlying health issues or infections. In some cases, endoscopy might be performed to visually inspect the bird’s airways for signs of infection or damage. These diagnostic tools help tailor a precise treatment plan for the affected bird.

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