Feather-plucking is a common, and incredibly frustrating medical/behavioral issue for many pet parrots and their people. Lolita was nearly naked when she was first surrendered to the rescue, but luckily for us, she’s improved dramatically with just a healthier diet, increased interaction with people, and lots of toys to play with and destroy.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE(S):
There can be many underlying health issues, and diagnosing the cause (or causes) can be frustrating. The first step is always a physical exam by a veterinarian experienced with parrots along with some baseline labwork like a fecal gram stain and screening blood work. These tests can help us identify bacterial or fungal infections, organ dysfunction, anemia, inflammation, and certain parasites. More specific tests are sometimes required, like thyroid function testing, checking blood levels of common toxic metals (lead and zinc), testing for infectious diseases like Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), x-rays to check for tumors and/or enlarged organs, or skin biopsies.
COMMON MEDICAL CAUSES:
-Allergies – the list of possible offenders is long: seeds, mold, pollen, cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, deteregents, artificial preservatives or colors in the food
-Toxins, especially heavy metals (zinc, lead)
-Infections of the skin and/or feathers (bacterial, viral, fungal)
-Internal infections of the digestive tract or respiratory tract
-Internal parasites like giardia, roundworms, tapeworms
-Low hormone levels (hypothyroidism, low progesterone, low testosterone)
-Cancer or tumors of internal organs
-Improper wing trimming that allows the trimmed feather shaft to scratch the bird
-Injuries or nerve damage
-External parasites like mites and lice are rare
COMMON NON-MEDICAL CAUSES:
-Change in the routine or environment
-Species-disposition (ie. Quaker Mutilation Syndrome)
More info here: http://burgebirdservices.homestead.com/Plucking.html
If your favorite feathered friend is plucking, please talk to us today so we can help you try to identify the cause and come up with strategies to help your parrot.