Parakeets are astonishingly adaptable to our homes and families, but for everything parakeets have going for them, they are highly susceptible to fungal infections. Most cases of infection in pet birds stem from air quality problems and are treatable. But fungus in parakeets is not something to be taken lightly.
By far the most common fungal infection for parakeets, aspergillosis, is an infection cause by aseprgillus fungus. Though not contagious to other pets or to people, aspergillosis is mainly a disease of the respiratory tract that can affect the organs and lead to chronic infections. A weak immune system, particularly in a malnourished bird, and inhaling aspergillus spores are believed to be the main culprits. The disease is treatable, but still remains a major cause of death in captive birds.
Wild parakeets are far less susceptible to aspergillosis than captive parakeets. A major reason is outdoor vs. indoor air quality. Birds breathe and process air differently than mammals, and our sealed, insulated, indoor environments can deny the fresh, moving air that parakeets need to stay healthy. Sealed environments with poor ventilation can lead to molds such as aspergillus in homes, and birds who share ours will almost surely inhale spores.
Symptoms of aspergillosis in parakeets are similar to those caused by many other illnesses, and they can be subtle. But if your parakeet is losing weight -- or his appetite -- has difficulty breathing or becomes sullen or quiet, he may have aspergillosis. Unfortunately, even experienced veterinarians have trouble diagnosing aspergillus. It is such a common mold that false positives often show up in blood tests.
Acute vs. Chronic
Acute aspergillosis occurs in young, newly imported birds and though severe, is short-lived. Loss of appetite and breathing difficulties are more noticeable, and the didease is usually fatal if not treated quickly. Chronic aspergillosis occurs in older, captive birds and is more subtle and long-term. Your parakeet may get llistless, depressed or weak. Also, there may be bone changes and a misshaping of the beak. Left untreated, birds will often develop tremors and eventually paralysis.
Treatment and Recovery
Infected parakeets must be treated by a veterinarian. Oral drugs such as itraconazole or amphotericin B are typically used to treat aspergillosis in parakeets, though prolonged treatment has been linked to kidney disease. Topical drugs for beak issues are also used. In more serious cases, surgery is involved. If treated early, the chance of recovery is great.