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Dr. Pat
Dr. Pat, Avian Veterinarian
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 4244
Experience:  25 years as avian-only veterinarian
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How can I tell if my untamed parakeet has mites or lice, and

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How can I tell if my untamed parakeet has mites or lice, and is there any home treatment that would be safe for him--because he isn't tame, I can't imagine how I could get him to a vet, and would try to find a way if I had to, but first I need to determine if he needs a vet. Also I don't know how much preening is excessive, and if he might just have some other sort of skin irritation, as I live in a very dry climate and he doesn't like to bathe.
Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds for many years. I will do my best to help you.

In spite of what pet stores may sell, mites and lice are very rare in pet birds. The only mites to worry about are scaly face mites, which appear as encrustations of the beak and cere; and wild or not you would have to catch him to be treated by a vet for that condition.

The easiest way to check for the mites that make them itchy is to put a white sheet over the cage at night. In the morning, the mites can be seen as they travel off the bird (and into your woodwork) as tiny moving specks on the sheet. If you see them, it is a trip to the vet. Treatment in quite involved and you will need local help. Lice can only be seen by close examination of the bird.

Skin problems are fairly common.

Budgies will often bathe in a leaf. Use kale, or other big leaves, and spritz with clean water until little pools and drops form. Budgies like this, and it has the side benefit that they often eat the leaves as well. Do it everyday and spritz the bird until he bathes on his own.

Feather and skin issues can be caused by a multitude of things, including bacterial skin infection, viruses, fungal infections, allergies, metal poisoning, hormonal flux, psychological or combination of these factors. The difficulty is diagnosing the problems and assigning an intelligent treatment plan. Your vet will want to run a number of tests so that appropriate medications can be prescribed.

Inflammatory skin/follicle disease is common. The causes can include local infection, metabolic problems, or even intestinal parasites. It can also be a prime area for even more serious problems like skin cancer. An avian-experienced vet should take a look at him, and run some tests. If he were my patient, I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces, skin, feather pulp, and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues. Generally I start them out on antibiotics as indicated by the tests (I use a lot of human antibiotics that are injectable) and an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.

Pet/feed store medications and home remedies are harmful, ineffective, immuno-suppressive, and make them much worse and may interfere with the veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment. Do not use them.

You are going to need local help on this, and a scientific and solid diagnosis to find safe and effective treatment. It can be made worse by poor nutrition (seeds), seasonal changes, sleep patterns, cage cleanliness, etc. and can therefore be a bit complicated and require more than just a course of antibiotics.

You need to to take your bird to see an avian-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check this link for members of AAV in your area or call your regular vet and see who they recommend; ask if they really have worked with birds a lot.

The following guidelines help with basic issues such as nutrition, obesity, good immune status. Surprising how the following can make a bird healthy, and how infrequently birds are ill if they are on the following regimen. No amount of medicine is going to work if the birds' basic needs are not met.

Birds should be on a high-quality, preferably prescription, pelleted diet (I prefer Harrison's High Potency, TOP , Tropican). In addition, they should be offered dark leafy greens, cooked sweet potatoes, yams, squash, pumpkin; entire (tops and bottoms) fresh carrots and so forth. No seeds (and that means a mix, or millet, or sprays, etc. etc.) and only healthy, low-fat high fiber people food. A dietary change should be closely monitored and supervised by your avian vet.
convert to pellets
good diet

Birds should get 12-14 hours dark, quiet, uninterrupted sleep at night. Any less and they can suffer from sleep deprivation and associated illnesses. They should be covered or their cage placed in a dark room that is not used after they go to bed. They should have access to bathing by daily shower, misting, bath bowl, etc.
basic maintenance

The cage material should be cleaned everyday, and twice a day if the bird is really messy. Paper towels, newspaper, bath towels are ok. Never use corn cob, sawdust, wood chips, or walnut shell. Consider getting a large cage that is longer than tall--as birds move in a horizontal rather than vertical orientation; and have several feeding stations.

Never give grit, gravel sandpaper or cement perches. A bird will eat those to excess when it is not feeling well or if there is a nutritional deficiency. They do not need it at all (an old myth from the poultry days, even poultry do not need it). It can cause an impaction and lead to serious or fatal consequences.
daily routine
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