How Can I Tell If My Bird Has Mites?

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Like many other species of animals, birds can get external parasites. If you discover that your bird has mites, it needs to be treated quickly. Not only can it make your bird sick, but many mites can spread to humans.
 
Bird mites feed on your bird’s blood and they can live in the cage or nests as well. Mites will die after 3 weeks without a blood source but you can get rid of them and keep them from becoming an infestation or returning.
 
Look at your bird carefully when checking for mites. There is more than one type of mite so you should look at all possibilities:
 

Burrowing Face Mites:

There might be a crust looking buildup around the eyes or beak. This is often where you will see face mites. These mites dig into the birds skin like they are creating tunnels.
 

Scaly Leg Mites:

Check your birds legs and feet. You might see scaly skin that can look dry and have white crust on it.  If the mite has burrowed into the skin, it can become swollen or have a rash as well.
 

Air Sac or Canary Lung Mites:

Birds can cough and sneeze frequently if they have a bad infestation of mites. They may breathe with difficulty as if gasping - mites can infest the birds air sacs or sinuses.  The bird might start to make a clicking sound or change how he sounds.
 

Feather Mites:

These are most likely to be found on birds with a low immune system. The bird will be restless-often more so at night. They may appear to be weak (this is from anemia from the mites feeding). You could see ruffled or dull feathers.
 
If you see your bird act as if he is trying to scratch his body against the cage or begin to preen a lot more than he used to you should take note. He could start to lose weight and become dull in his appearance.  Often you will see birds start picking feathers as they try to get the mites off, you will notice more feathers than usual in the cage or even spots of bare skin on the bird.
 
Mites are nocturnal, you can check for mites with a flashlight to see if there are any crawling on your birds skin.  You might see small areas of red or black in the birds cage. They will crawl around after a while to look for more blood.  You can put a white sheet over the cage at night and often will see red specks on the sheet in the morning.
 
To treat for mites after you have identified that the bird has mites, you will need to treat both the bird and the environment.

Healthy Birds

  1. Wash the birds cage with a soap, a dish soap is fine, dry the cage and spray it with a pyrethrin product such as UltraCare Mite & Lice Spray.
  2. Wash your bird with a mild glycerin soap or a parrot bathing product. You can spray your bird with the UltraCare or spray your hands and gently rub the spray onto your birds feathers and skin. Many birds enjoy this and it's good bonding time for you and your bird!
 
With severe infestations your avian vet can give the bird an internal medicine (usually, this is Ivermectin based). It is very important that a veterinarian administer this type of treatment as the dosage must be specific to your bird. It is usually given in drinking water. This will treat blood sucking mites but not quill mites. Your vet might also prescribe this as an external treatment and will give you the proper dosage and treatment schedule to follow.
 
To prevent infestations, keep bird areas clean and give your bird a bath. Some birds like to be misted with water and some like to bathe in a shallow dish of water.  Be sure to only leave a chest high amount of water in the bathing dish for your bird's safety.

You can help your bird with grooming while you are petting him. Spending time with our feathered friends is always a fun and rewarding experience!   

IMPORTANT:

Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge, or supplant the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a licensed veterinarian.

Any use of a product that is not clearly defined on the label directions should only be done under supervision of a qualified veterinary professional.

For more information on products, pets, or non-emergent health issues, call us at 1-800-533-3377 (1-800-JEFFERS).

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