Just like you and I, birds can develop eye problems. What do you do if your bird has eye problems or discharge?
While eye problems are painful, they are usually not imminently life threatening. However, the underlying condition, such as conjunctivitis, sinusitis, mites or other problems can progress fast and can be deadly. Minor problems can become big problems quickly so get your bird to the vet. Your goal is to prevent the condition from worsening and to prevent permanent blindness.
Take a good look at your birds’ eye when it is normal. You’ll note a bright, clear eye-ball with open eye-lids and no discharge like the lovebirds eye on the left.
If your bird is experiencing eye problems, though, you may see the following symptoms:
- Swollen or red eye-lids
- Lids closed or partially closed
- Increased blinking
- Excessive tearing, wet or dried discharge or even eyes matted shut
- Cloudy cornea that is opaque or bluish in color
- Rubbing the eye, beak or the side of the face on their wing or perch
Gather Some First Aid Items:
If you notice that your bird is experiencing eye problems, see if you can get someone to help you capture it and examine the eye area. Get a towel to restrain your bird and a flash light and a magnifying glass to assist you in examining your bird’s eyes.
- Magnifying glass
- Saline Solution
- Cotton Balls
Gently capture your bird and restrain it holding the effected eye up. Using the flashlight and magnifying glass, look for discharge from the eye and determine if the cornea is cloudy or opaque looking. If so, take your bird to the veterinarian quickly. Keep your bird out of drafts or direct sunlight until you can get medical treatment. Self-medicating with over the counter medications is contra-indicated until your vet determines the cause of the eye problem.
If you don’t see any discharge, gently open the birds’ eye and look for a foreign body. Foreign bodies like a seed husk can be painful. Flush the eye out well with sterile saline solution or eye wash. You can use a syringe filled with sterile water if you don’t have eye wash available. Gently open and close the eye lids to work the foreign body toward the corn of the eye or to make it more visible. Once you see the foreign body, use a moistened cotton ball to gently wipe the item away. Be extremely careful not to scratch your birds’ eye.
You’ll want to get your bird to the veterinarian as soon as possible, preferably the same day, to avoid further vision deterioration. You may moisten a cotton ball with saline solution to hold to the eye keeping moist while you transport your bird to the vet.
Four common health issues that can affect the eyes include:
- Conjunctivitis: The conjunctiva is the membrane that lines the inside of the eye lid. It occasionally gets inflamed or infected. You’ll usually see a discharge when conjunctivitis is present.
- Mites: Common in parakeets, finches, lovebirds, doves, canaries and pigeons the Knemidokoptes pilae or scaly face mite attacks a birds’ bare skin around the facial region. You’ll see powdery grayish-white honey-comb looking tissue around the eyes, cere, beak, vent, feet and legs. Scaly mites can cause beak deformity if they are allowed to progress so get your bird to the vet for proper identification and instructions on how to control them or eradicate them. If the beak becomes misshapen, then it will require periodic trimming for the rest of the bird’s life, most likely.
- Sinusitis: Larger birds tend to be more prone to sinusitis than smaller birds. Birds have a complicated sinus system whereby air sacs connect with the sinuses. Avian Sinus’ can become infected from either injury or a respiratory infection. Anything that inflames the sinus’ will also inflame the eyes. While the infection is usually bacterial, it can also be fungal in nature. A bird with Sinusitis generally has swelling and / or discharge in one or both eyes. The eyes can have so much gummy discharge that the eyes may be matted shut. You’ll note a loss of appetite and fluffed appearance too.
- Vitamin A Deficiency: Swelling around the eye(s) from Vitamin A Deficiency is known as a periorbital abscess. All sized captive birds are prone to this disease. Seen in parrots on seed and nut diets, this painful disorder is correctable with a healthy diet such as Harrison’s High Potency and supplements such as AVix Booster.
Burkett, Greg. Avian First Aid: Be Your Bird’s First Responder! DVD .
Hawcroft, Tim. First Aid for Birds: The Essential, Quick Reference Guide. Howell Book House. 1994.