Parakeets, just like all animals, can get internal parasitic worms. Two groups of worms that affect birds are flatworms and roundworms. Within just these two groups, approximately 23 types of worms can affect your parakeet. Some can be quite common in parakeets, while others occur rarely.
How Do Parakeets Get Worms?
Your parakeet can become infected with worms during contact with infected birds, water, food or environment. Infected parakeets will spread worms during close contact with other birds and by contaminating the environment with infected feces. Feeding insects or allowing your parakeet to eat insects can expose your bird to worms. Additionally, infected insects can spread worms to your bird by contaminating the food and water.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Signs of worms in parakeets include weakness, weight loss, diarrhea, lethargy and stunted growth. Your veterinarian will diagnose or rule out intestinal worms by checking your parakeet's fecal material for worm eggs. Worms can shed eggs in the feces continually or periodically, depending on the worm. Therefore, your veterinarian may need to examine several fecal samples to provide a diagnosis for your parakeet. Deworming medication, prescribed by your veterinarian, will effectively eliminate parakeet worms.
Various roundworms can affect parakeets. The ascarids are transmitted by direct ingestion of worm eggs. The worms live in the digestive tract; heavy infections cause obstructions and can lead to death. Sometimes ascarid larvae leave the intestinal tract and migrate into or through other tissues, sometimes settling in tissues as larval cysts. A larval cyst forms when the cells surrounding the larvae form a capsule encasing the larvae. Keeping your parakeet's environment clean and dry can minimize parasitic outbreaks.
Another kind of roundworm common in parakeets is hairworms, also known as threadworms. The scientific name for hairworms is capillaria. These tiny threadlike worms often infect a parakeet's throat but can also infect the lower intestinal tract. Hairworms don't often cause the same massive destruction as ascarids, but they can cause diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting and anemia. Infected parakeets shed eggs in feces, which can contaminate other birds and the environment.
Tapeworms, classified as flatworms, can infect parakeets. These parasites reside in your bird's lower intestinal tract and steal nutrients. Your parakeet may appear thin with ruffled feathers and may experience diarrhea or depression. Infected birds may expel whole worms or worm segments in their fecal material. Since most tapeworms do not expel eggs in the feces of infected birds, a veterinarian will diagnose tapeworms by visualization of expelled worms or worm segments.
Based in Michigan, Keri Gardner has been writing scientific journal articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in such journals as "Disability and Rehabilitation" and "Journal of Orthopaedic Research." She holds a Master of Science in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University.