Does your poor little pet parakeet seem to be bothered by crusty skin on his face or feet? It could be signs of a scaly mite infestation. Your parakeet can get mites from contact with contaminated birds. Parakeets infected with mites should be treated with medication by a veterinarian.
What are Mites?
The type of mite that affects parakeets is called knemidocoptes pilae. These tiny microscopic parasites live and feed on the skin of your parakeet. They reside under the scales that cover the legs and feet, plus they invade the outer layer of skin near the face. These type of mites spend their entire life cycle living on birds, especially those with a compromised immune system.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
When mites burrow into parakeet skin, they create tiny pouch-like cavities. The burrowing causes small red patches and pits in the skin. A white film may cover your bird's skin, as well as honeycomb-looking scales and crusts. Long-term mite infestation may cause scaly growths that interfere with movement and permanent beak deformity. Diagnosis is made by a veterinarian who microscopically visualizes the mites in scrapings from your parakeet's skin.
Treatment of scaly mites must be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. Some of the insecticides used to kill the mites may cause skin or eye irritation. Ivermectin given by injection or orally is the treatment of choice and likely to be given as one initial treatment, which is repeated in two weeks. Permanent skin and beak damage may remain after treatment. Also, your parakeet's cage should be disinfected once a week to kill any remaining mites. Pet store mite sprays do not kill mites and mite protector devices can be dangerous to your bird.
It seems that a genetic predisposition for mites may be the reason that not every bird will become infected when exposed to scaly mites. Sometimes, highly infected parakeets do not transmit the disease to their cage mates, while other isolated birds seem to develop the disease spontaneously. Scaly mite susceptibility may be a genetically linked immune condition. Another theory about scaly mite infestation is that your bird may have been infected as a nestling and the mites remained dormant until something triggered their rapid reproduction.
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.