Bird - Anorexia and Lethargy

General information

Anorexia (a loss of appetite), and lethargy (a feeling of listlessness and general inactivity), are commonly seen in sick pet birds. While not diagnostic for any specific disease, they do indicate a severely ill bird that requires immediate medical attention..

What are the causes of anorexia and lethargy in birds?

There are many causes of anorexia and lethargy in pet birds. These include cancer, viral or bacterial infections, fungal or yeast infections, parasites, endocrine (hormonal) diseases, and organ specific problems such as liver, heart or kidney failure. Anorexia and lethargy are not diseases themselves but signs that indicate a serious underlying medical problem..

Do I have to take my bird to the vet immediately, or can I just 'wait and watch' and see if he improves?

Unlike dogs and cats, birds are still 'wild' pets. This means that they still retain their preservation response. The preservation response is something unique to wild animals. In the wild, an animal can't 'act sick' every time he feels bad. If it did, it might be killed by a predator or even a member of his own group. The preservation response assures that a sick animal will not 'act sick' until it is really sick, and literally dying. Birds rarely get sick overnight. Because of their preservation response, they don't usually act sick until they are really sick. Therefore, a bird with anorexia and lethargy is EXTREMELY ILL and requires IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. Waiting and watching will only make things worse; you may actually wait and watch as your bird dies..

How will the vet determine what's wrong with my bird?

Because many diseases can cause the signs of anorexia and lethargy, many diagnostic tests will need to be run. These can include blood tests, gram stains and cultures, faecal tests for parasites, yeast, and bacteria, radiographs (x-rays), and a psittacosis test among others. There is no one test to diagnose the many causes of anorexia and lethargy and accurate diagnosis is essential to ensure accurate therapy

The vet recommended hospitalisation for my bird. Is that really necessary?

By the time many birds are seen by the vet, they are literally dying. If your vet recommends hospitalisation, it is because your bird requires the type of critical care that cannot be given at home. In particular, many of these birds will require specialised critical care units as well as injectable drugs, fluids and tube feeding that are very hard to perform at home.


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