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What treatment for pet birds infested by worms?

Each worm type requires different treatment, with diagnosis normally given by an avian veterinarian.

Avian Vet Sick Pet Bird Diagnosis

Tapeworm are difficult to detect, even by a vet.  Treatment is generally by eradication of the insects carrying the eggs, so use of an insecticide in and around the aviary.

Roundworm are the most commonly found parasite in budgies and cockatiels so bird worming products for this are readily available at pet suppliers or via the internet.  It normally comes as a water-soluble treatment, where you dissolve the medication in your bird’s drinking water.  It is generally not as effective as you have to rely on your bird’s intake of the medicated water, and without watching your budgie or cockatiel for 24 hours you cannot be sure of this.

The best way to worm your pet bird is to have an avian vet or a bird specialty shop give a direct dose of medication into the bird’s crop by using a ‘‘gavage needle”.  If you do suspect your pet bird has worms, ask for a laxative to be added to the worming treatment.  The laxative will help your birds pass the worms more easily; without it, dislodging a heavy infestation may cause intestinal blockage.

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Roundworm Tapeworm Hairworm Threadworm – so many worms!

Birds and worms – What’s the difference between Roundworm, Tapeworm, Hairworm, Threadworm? 

Live in the intestine of a bird.  They are white and are normally 1 inch to 1½ inches long (3 cm to 4 cm), although they can be up to 4 inches (10 cm).  Roundworm are easily spotted if passed in your bird’s droppings.  Being a parasite, roundworm live and eat off their host, ie your pet bird!  Out in the air and away from the host they die and shrivel to a pink color.

Roundworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then passed from bird to bird as they come into contact with these infected droppings.

Signs of Roundworm
The bird eats a lot but loses weight due to the roundworm absorbing all the available nutrients.  It has slightly ruffled feathers and poor feather condition, picking or scratching at the stomach area, disinterested in its surroundings, messy vent, diarrhea or straining to pass droppings if infested heavily (a severe blockage can lead to death), and poor development in young birds.

Fine and threadlike living in the esophagus, crop or intestine.  There are many types ranging in length from ¼ inch to 2½ inches (1 cm to 6 cm).  Threadworm are also known as Hairworm.

Threadworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then passed from bird to bird as they come into contact with these infected droppings.

Signs of Threadworm
Loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, disinterested in its surroundings, vomiting, diarrhea with blood in it, death.

Affix to the wall of the intestine and vary in type and length, ranging from less than ¼ inch to 12 inches (1 cm to 30 cm).

Tapeworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then eaten by small insects such as snails and beetles.  Birds then eat the insects.  For this reason, tapeworm are more commonly found in insect eating birds, rather than seedeaters.

Signs of Tapeworm
Loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, droppings contain mucus or bits of tapeworm.

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Worms… Not the type that birds eat!

I recently took in a sick pigeon and had it wormed (or de-wormed) by our local bird rescue centre.  The resultant pile of dead roundworm on the cage floor within 12 hours was disgusting – no wonder this poor bird had been showing signs of illness.  These parasites had been absorbing all the available nutrients from the pigeon’s food intake for goodness knows how long!

This reminded me of many years ago when I took pity on three cockatiels in a pet shop who for weeks I saw squashed together in a cage the size of a shoe box!  I bought them and eventually found them a wonderful new home together in a large aviary.

Back to worms though… I had these three cockatiels for a couple of weeks before rehousing them and noticed that one out of the three was less active, slightly grumpy and fluffed up and ate lots more than the other two cockatiels, and also strained a little when passing droppings.

Wormed him, and within 24 hours this poor bird had passed 35 roundworm!!!!  Needless to say he perked up very quickly.