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Q: Why are my cockatiel pairs sneezing frequently? What is the treatment?

A:

Before answering this question, I have to make it clear that this is advice only  and should be paired with or followed by consulting your veterinarian.

With any bird, I always err on the side of caution–especially when it comes to issues with their breathing. Still, sneezing is not uncommon among parrots, especially cockatiels.
Parrots originate from tropical climates; their airways have evolved to deal with humidity and fairly constant temperatures/weather conditions. As indoor pets, however, they deal with dry air and ranging temperatures (air-conditioning, winters, etc). Your bird’s nasal passages are then dried, which, usually causes sneezing.
And Cockatiel feathers tend to make a great deal amount of dust/powder–much moreso than other bird breeds/species. This powder can make its way into the nares (nostrils) and upper respiratory in the bird, and can result in a bird sneezing to expel the excess dust, powder and dander.
*I offer some more info on this, as well as how to maintain a healthy, sneeze-free zone for tropical birds, on the bottom of the page.

That being said, birds are especially susceptible and vulnerable to respiratory disease and illness. Unlike humans and other pets, respiratory illnesses–if not treated immediately–are fatal.
  • Make sure symptoms are not caused by external pollutants and eliminate any external source of irritation: Smoking, dust, chemicals, perfumes, etc. Birds respiratory systems are fragile, complex, and easily affected any outside pollutants (ones we often overlook/are imperceptible to us).
With those possibilities out of the way, here are the major questions you should address:
  1. How continuous (and frequent) is the sneezing? Is it happening all the time, in rapid succession, has it become more frequent? If not, something as simple as eliminating as much dust, feather/residue/dander, along with any external dust/debris COULD do the trick. (Look into safe cleaning methods/supplies for birds)
  2. Is the sneeze is dry? Or does it produces moisture, mucus? If dry, again, this could be a reaction to dander. If wet, it’s a sign of infection or blockage, and time to seek a vet.
  3. Is the sneezing audible (wet sounding, or accompanied by clicking, or breathing sounds?) *
  4. What are the physical symptoms/traits when sneezing? Is it accompanied by tail-bobbing, weight loss, nasal or eye discharge,  change in vocalizations, or eating habits?  *
*If yes to 4 and 5, these are signs of more serious, life threatening illnesses that need immediate attention!

If the sneezing seems more benign, there has been no weight loss, or marked changes in behavior, it may simply be dander/environmentally related.
Here are some good tips (from BirdChannel.com) on how to maintain a healthy, sneeze free environment for your birds:
  • Keep your bird in an adequately humid environment so the cilia in their nasal passages can work properly to clear debris. Provide your bird with a sufficient amount of Vitamin-A, which also helps the nasal passages work properly.
  • If the vet tests determine that no disease or infection is the cause for the sneezing, here are several tips for improving your bird’s too-dry environment:
  • Take your bird into the bathroom while you shower, enveloping it in high humidity.
  • Have your avian vet show you how to periodically flush your bird’s nostrils with sterile saline to remove debris or set up a regular appointment to have your vet perform the saline flushing.
  • Try moving the bird into a room with a humidifier, but always keep the water clean to prevent bacteria from growing
  • Place bird safe plants in your bird’s room, which will add oxygen and humidity to its environment.
  • Periodically mist your bird to raise humidity
  • Reduce allergens by running am air filter with HEPA filtration (to clean the air of dust, debris, pollen, spores and powder down. Run a box fan with an air conditioner filter on the back to catch dust, dander and feathers. This will increase the efficiency of the air filter, which will clean any additional allergens not caught by the fan).

Again, always err on the safe side and schedule an appointment with your vet. Along with being delicate, birds tend to hold symptoms in, and can be extremely tricky to read. (For example, feather puffing sometime indicates sickness. But an ever-so-slightly different form of puffing can be a sign of sleepiness and content!) Symptoms of illness are hard to pick up on, even by experts.
Last, I’ve provided you with handful of helpful links (below) to give you more comprehensive, detailed information on different forms of illnesses, symptoms, and treatments. The last link is especially important–it will give you valuable information on first aid for birds with resp. problems, as well as the best number to call for advice and medical care. Hope this helped!

 

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