Amazon Parrots are large birds that can live as long as 60 years and many of the most common illnesses they encounter can be avoided with basic maintenance of their enclosures. However, there are certain illnesses that they may be prone to so it is wise to know the basics of them to spot if something may be wrong.
There are some bacterial infections that can cause respiratory problems for amazons as well as fungal diseases such as aspergillosis and nutritional deficiencies. The Mexican Red-Headed, Lilac-Crowned and Red lored are the most commonly affected by these types of illnesses.
Aspergillosis is a non-contagious fungal disease that is described as a major cause of mortality in captive birds and even in some wild birds. It is a disease of the respiratory tract but can also affect a range of other organs and can range from acute to chronic infections. Most cases are spread by inhaling the spores that carry the infection and it is typically treated with an anti-fungal therapy. It can cause lesions on the respiratory tract that can need surgery to correct and the lungs and other organs may need to be flushed to rid the system of all signs of the fungus.
To help avoid the infection, it is important to remove anything where the mould can grow such as mouldy straw. The areas around water dishes is also an ideal growth place so needs to be regularly cleaned. There are some vaccinations available but their effectiveness at this time isn’t proven.
There are a number of bacterial infections that can affect Amazons including E.coli, Citrobacter, Staph and Strep. Mostly, these are connected to water, seeds, old food, humid areas, wet cages or dusty spots. However, they can also occur in birds that have a low immune system or a lack of natural resistance.
Signs of a possible bacterial infection include droppings that are green or watery as the bacteria affects the bowel, liver and kidneys. If the bacteria has been inhaled, sneezing, excessive swallowing, coughing or excessive eye rubbing may be signs of a problem, as can a change in voice.
Any bacteria can be life threatening so a vet’s advice should be sought immediately at the first possible sign of an infection. They will typically treat the infection with an antibiotic after tests to confirm the exact nature of the infection.
Once an infection has been identified it is best to remove all the seed, grit and fruit from the cage then disinfect everything. Start the bird eating on fresh food in case any of the bacteria is in the old food and monitor the bird carefully. Don’t let them out of their cage unsupervised while they are recovering.
If you want to add some natural remedies as well, check with your vet to ensure they don’t interfere with the treatment. But if they are safe, goldenseal herb has strong antibiotic properties and has even shown to be mildly effective against tuberculosis. Echinacea is another herb with disease killing properties and works on bacteria and viruses as well as fungus. Liquorice root has both antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and one study showed effectiveness against a strain of staph that was resistant to penicillin.
Certain species of Amazons are more prone to certain deficiencies and the medical conditions that can come from them. All of them can be prone to vitamin A deficiency while Mealy and Blue crowned Amazons are the worst for obesity, as well as hypothyroidism.
Many deficiencies come from an imbalance in the bird’s diet. It is generally recommended that around 20-25% of an Amazon’s diet should be fruits and vegetables as an all seed diet can lead to obesity due to the fat content of seed. It also means the birds aren’t getting the essential nutrients that are provided by fruit and vegetables. Sprouted seed is another way to vary the diet as the process of sprouting uses most of the fat in the seed and leaves behind the good nutrients.
Another problem that can occur from an imbalance in the diet is fatty liver syndrome. This is where the liver is filled with fat instead of breaking it down and passing it through. Obesity is a common cause of this as it metabolic disorders such as diabetes or thyroid dysfunction. Exposure to toxins over a long period of time can also cause the problem.
Red lored Amazons in particular can be prone to seizures. These can be mild to severe, occur very occasionally or frequently and can have a range of twitching of convulsing. Birds can even lose consciousness and control of motor function and be disorientated, unable to perch.
There are a variety of reasons why a bird may have a seizure. They could be suffering from heavy metal poisoning and if so, the seizure may be accompanied by green or bloody droppings, vomiting, lethargy, weight loss and feather picking.
Dehydration is another possible cause of seizures and when the bird is rehydrated, they should stop but any underlying problem needs to be addressed. Dehydration can be a symptom of a range of illnesses including a vitamin deficiency, diabetes or other infection or illness.
Similarly, seizures can be a symptom of other illnesses such as aspergillosis and pox virus. Regardless of the cause of the seizure, it is worth consulting with a vet to ascertain the underlying cause as the seizure itself or the illness involved with it could prove fatal to the bird.
As they get older in particular, Amazons can be susceptible to cancerous tumours. They can also be prone to benign fatty tumours called lipomas, particular when they are overweight. Fibromas are another type of tumour that occurs in the wing and will need to be surgically removed or occasionally, the wing amputated.
There are several substances known to cause cancer in birds so avoiding these are crucial. They include herbicides and pesticides, second hand smoke and radiation exposure. Some viruses can also induce the condition.