In nature, an obviously sick bird is soon a dead bird, not necessarily because of disease. Sick prey animals are extremely vulnerable to predators. It's important to observe your parakeet carefully and learn what's normal and what's not. That way he gets right to the vet if you suspect illness.
French molt affects young budgies, occurring at 5 or 6 weeks of age. It consists of considerable feather loss, with severely afflicted birds virtually bald. These young birds can't fly because of lack of feathers. Since no one's sure what causes this problem, treatment options are limited: your vet may recommend pulling abnormal feathers to encourage regrowth, but there's no guarantee your bird will ever have normal feathering. The good news is that feathers often grow back spontaneously at the normal age of first molt—between 6 and 8 months.
Also known as chlamydiosis, psittacosis causes respiratory illness in budgies. Other symptoms include feather ruffling, appetite loss and eye and nasal discharge. Seriously affected budgies might bob their tails every time they breathe, or experience neurological problems. Psittacosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it's transmissible to humans, and must be reported by your veterinarian to the local board of health. Many budgies survive this disease with veterinary treatment and supportive care.
Older budgies, especially those consuming a seed-based diet, are prone to kidney disease. Symptoms include appetite loss and lethargy. As the kidneys fail, parakeets experience gastrointestinal problems and neurological issues. While renal disease can't be cured, your vet can prescribe fluid therapy and recommend dietary changes that might keep your bird around for a while.
Tumors are quite common in parakeets, though many of them are benign. You probably can't tell the difference between a benign fatty lipoma, a pus-filled abscess, a cyst and a a malignant lump, so take your bird to the vet to get any bumps checked out. As budgies age, they're more likely to develop tumors in their reproductive organs, in their kidneys and on their skin. Tumors on the wings are generally fibromas, consisting of connective tissue, which your vet might be able to cut out.
Budgies eating seed-only diets might suffer from vitamin A deficiency, while those not receiving sufficient light might end up with a vitamin D deficiency. Signs of vitamin A deficiency include nasal discharge, poor feathering and yellow scaling around the beak, along with kidney problems. Your vet can tell you which foods rich in vitamin A to feed your parakeet, and the correct amounts. Keeping your budgie by a window doesn't guarantee he won't suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms include overgrown beak, feather plucking, splayed legs and, in severe cases, seizures. You might need to install full-spectrum lighting or ask your vet about a vitamin supplement.
- Avian Web: Budgerigars/Budgies—Common Diseases
- Exotic Pet Vet: Small Parrots in Health and Disease
- HotSpot for Birds: Understanding Psittacosis
- BirdChannel.com: Lumps and Tumors In Birds
- AvianWeb.com: The Health Benefits of Full-Spectrum Lights/Bulbs
- University of Florida: Diagnosis, Prevention, and Control of French Molt
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images