Thyroid Illness in Parakeets

Symptoms of thyroid illness in parakeets start subtly, but progress.

Symptoms of thyroid illness in parakeets start subtly, but progress.

Before commercial seed mixes for parakeets were widely available, thyroid problems were common in these little birds. Today, most commercial seed mixtures contain sufficient iodine so thyroid issues rarely occur. However, if your bird does experience an enlarged thyroid gland, it can swell enough to put pressure on his heart and kill him. Familiarize yourself with the subtle signs of thyroid illness and take your pet to the vet if he appears even slightly off.

Thyroid Gland

Your parakeet's thyroid gland is located in his neck. It's responsible for keeping many of your bird's bodily functions operating normally. Usually, a parakeet's thyroid gland is about the size of a pea, approximately 3 millimeters or 0.1 inch. If your bird suffers from iodine deficiency, the gland swells up considerably, to 1 centimeter, or 0.39 inch. When his thyroid is out of whack, other organs in his body also go out of kilter because they're aren't receiving proper amounts of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine.

Other Symptoms

If your budgie starts squeaking or wheezing when he breathes, suspect thyroid dysplasia. The squeaking occurs because the enlarged gland presses on his trachea. Other symptoms of thyroid disease include dry, flaky skin; weight gain or loss; thickening and browning of the cere, the tissue over his beak; depression; difficulty swallowing and frequent food regurgitation; skin and feather abnormalities and reproductive issues. In severe cases, a bird might develop a swelling on his neck in the area of the thyroid gland known as a goiter.


Take your bird to your avian vet for treatment. After an examination, including measuring your parakeet's blood thyroid levels, she'll likely prescribe an iodine supplement, as well as giving your bird an iodine shot. Your vet might also recommend dietary changes. You'll mix the iodine supplement in your bird's water daily until he recovers.


Fortunately, preventing thyroid disease in parakeets is easy and inexpensive. Your vet can recommend an iodine solution for you to mix in with your bird's drinking water a few times a week to prevent thyroid illness. Avoid feeding your parakeet foods that interfere with thyroid hormone production. According to the University of Florida, these include flax, soybean, rapeseed, turnips, broccoli, kale and cabbage. Although you can offer your parakeet certain treats and fruits and veggies, ask your vet which items are appropriate for your pet.

About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

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