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Diarrhea in Cockatiels: Here’s What to Do

Genevieve Dugal

Domestic birds, such as cockatiels, can suffer from a variety of digestive problems, including diarrhea. Most of the time, diarrhea can be caused by a sudden change in your cockatiel’s diet, or it can be your bird’s stressful reaction to a change in his environment. However, diarrhea can also be a symptom of a more severe illness, so you should never underestimate its sudden onset. In any case, you should call your veterinarian, especially if diarrhea persists beyond 24 hours.

Indeed, if your cockatiel is sick, it’s essential to spot the causes early. In general, it can be challenging to detect diarrhea in birds, as their feces are typically quite watery due to their high urine content. Therefore, you may not immediately notice that your bird is not doing well. However, by observing his stool regularly, looking for other signs of discomfort, and receiving the proper veterinary care, you can treat diarrhea and the underlying causes quickly and effectively.

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What Are Abnormal Droppings in Cockatiels?

Normal bird droppings consist of three parts:
  • Feces: solid brown or greenish part
  • Urates: semisolid white part
  • Urine: clear, liquid part

A cockatiel with diarrhea will produce liquid feces, which is a mixture of urate and urine. If your bird only has a day of loose droppings, it may just be a sign that something in his food hasn’t settled down well with him or that he has simply overeaten. In this case, it may not be an emergency. However, if you notice watery stools for more than 24 hours, you will need to see your vet promptly.

Cinnamon cockatiel
Image Credit: Barbara Rost, Shutterstock
  • Important: A distinction must be made between diarrhea and polyuria, characterized by an increase in the urine of the droppings. Polyuria is not always due to disease; it may simply result from eating too many fruits or your cockatiel absorbing large amounts of water.

What Causes Diarrhea in Cockatiels?

Diarrhea and constipation in pet birds are not strictly speaking illnesses: they are symptoms linked to a more general digestive problem, which may have psychological, nutritional, or pathological origins.

Here are the common reasons why your cockatiel may have diarrhea:
  • Stress
  • Abrupt change in diet
  • Poor quality of food
  • Food allergy
  • Viral infection
  • Bacterial disease
  • Tumor
  • Inflammation of the liver of pancreas
  • Poisoning
  • Parasites (like roundworms, tapeworms, protozoa)

Depending on the underlying disease that affected your cockatiel, your veterinarian may recommend various treatments, which can range from changes in diet, administration of medications and antibiotics, to lifestyle or environmental changes.

How to Treat Diarrhea in Cockatiels

It is crucial to treat diarrhea early to avoid serious complications for your cockatiel. After seeing your vet, you will also need to make sure that the symptoms do not return. To do this, follow the following recommendations:

cockatiel in cage
Image Credit: Simona Robová, Pixabay

1. Observe the Behavior of Your Cockatiel

Monitor your bird’s behavior closely for any other symptoms of possible illness. For example, the following signs indicate that your cockatiel might be sick:

  • He is listless and lacking in energy
  • He is no longer chirping
  • He doesn’t preen its feathers
  • He doesn’t want to eat
  • His feathers are ruffled
  • He vomits or regurgitates
  • There is discharge from his nostrils and his eyes
  • There is blood in his stool

2. Avoid Sudden Changes in His Diet

Stick to its usual mixture of pellets and seeds. If your vet has recommended a change in diet, make gradual changes to give your cockatiel time to get used to it. Do not give him fresh food such as vegetables and fruit while he still has diarrhea. Also, depending on your vet’s directions, you may want to consider giving your cockatiel probiotics, which will help strengthen his digestive system.

feeding a cockatiel
Image Credit: M. H., Pixabay

3. Provide Your Cockatiel with Fresh, Clean Water Every Day

Make sure your cockatiel is drinking enough. This is because diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be extremely serious if not treated in time. If your bird is curled up in the back of its cage, not drinking, and showing significant listlessness, seek emergency advice from your veterinarian. He will set up a protocol for rehydration and drug treatment after carrying out additional examinations.


4. Eliminate Potential Sources of Stress

Place your cockatiel in a warm, quiet room away from the noise of your home.

cockatiel nest_Parinya Feungchan_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Parinya Feungchan, Shutterstock

5. Do Daily Cleanings of Your Bird’s Cage and Accessories

To prevent the proliferation of bacteria, wash the cage and accessories (toys, bowls, perch, etc.) in hot soapy water. Then, rinse everything thoroughly with clean water and allow it to dry completely before replacing the accessories.

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Is Cockatiel Poop Toxic to Humans?

The health of your bird is important to you, but so is yours. Is it possible to contract a disease transmitted by the feces of your cockatiel? Yes, but fortunately, this is not common; this disease is called psittacosis.

What is psittacosis?

Psittacosis is an infectious disease caused by a microorganism called Chlamydia psittaci, whose symptoms are similar to those of the flu. However, they are generally benign.

Pearl Cockatiel preening_YK_shutterstock
Image Credit: YK, Shutterstock

What are the signs of infection in birds?

Birds that can contract the infection include parrots, cockatiel, parakeets, macaws, canaries, pigeons, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Infected birds show the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tremors
  • Weightloss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea

In domestic birds, the infection may be latent; that is, an infected bird may appear healthy and have no symptoms for some time. However, the bacteria are excreted in the droppings or nasal secretions of infected birds, and these birds can transmit the disease for several months.

What are the signs of infection in humans?

The infection varies in severity, ranging from a mild flu-like illness to acute pneumonia. Usually, symptoms appear four to 15 days after exposure to the bacteria.

Here are the most common symptoms:
  • Fevers
  • Shivering
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

In rare cases, the disease can lead to death. In mild cases, the fever sometimes lasts for three weeks or more.

How do you recognize and treat psittacosis?

To properly diagnose psittacosis, your doctor must know that your cockatiel has been infected with Chlamydia psittaci. The bacteria can be identified, and laboratory tests can recognize signs of infection. Also, this disease responds well to specific drug treatment with antibiotics.

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Conclusion

In short, if you follow the above recommendations, in addition to treatment and advice from your veterinarian, you should be able to avoid recurring diarrhea. Make sure your cockatiel is in optimal living condition. Keep its habitat clean at all times, and feed it top-quality food. Avoid sudden changes so as not to unnecessarily stress your pet bird, and remove from its environment any toxic materials that may be ingested.


Featured Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

Genevieve Dugal

Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa. Having the privilege of sharing her knowledge and passion for animals of all kinds is what makes her fulfilled and happy.