Birds can suffer from both seasonal and food allergies. Bird allergies may manifest as respiratory issues, skin problems, and feather plucking. Pollen and powder down feathers have also been identified as potential allergens for birds.
What You'll Learn
- 1 Common Allergens Affecting Birds
- 2 Common Allergy Symptoms
- 3 What To Do if Your Bird Has Allergies?
- 4 Yes – Birds Can Suffer From Allergies
We humans are not alone in suffering from allergies. Many animals are subject to allergy problems much in the same way we are, and birds are one of them.
Yes, birds too can suffer from allergies, although domesticized birds are much more susceptible to allergies than their wild counterparts. Research into allergies in birds is still in its early stages, and thus ornithologists and allergists have yet to fully understand the nature and causes of these allergies.
There does not yet exist any definitive test for the diagnosis of allergies in birds. A comprehensive understanding of allergies in birds may be far off, but there is a growing wealth of information available on the subject.
Common Allergens Affecting Birds
Several potential allergens are believed to set off allergic reactions in birds. Two of the most commonly studied potential allergens are foodstuffs and household items.
While there is not yet any conclusive research on which specific types of food trigger allergic reactions in specific bird species, ornithologists and owners of pet birds are slowly making progress in determining the best ways to discern food allergies in birds.
Certain foods are believed to be potential culprits behind allergies in birds. Foods that various bird species may be allergic to include grains, nuts, spirulina, soy, and corn.
As there is no authoritative compendium detailing what birds are allergic to what food items, caretakers of birds have little choice but to resort to trial and error when it comes to finding an allergen-free diet for their birds.
In addition to various food items, several household items are thought to produce allergic reactions in birds.
These items include, but are not limited to: hairspray, deodorant, perfumes, hand lotion, cleaning supplies, scented candles, and anything that carries a powerful scent.
Those who keep birds as pets are encouraged to protect their birds from exposure to these items by storing and using them away from the birds’ vicinity.
Other Suspected Allergens
It is hypothesized that birds may also endure allergy problems in reaction to pollens produced at certain times of the year. Readers who see their allergies flare-up in the spring will be well-acquainted with this experience.
Finally, some birds, particularly macaws and other species from tropical climates, may also be allergic to other birds, specifically birds that have powder down feathers.
Powder downs are special feathers that produce a very fine powder that can help a bird waterproof and maintain its other feathers.
Birds that have powder down feathers include herons, tinamous, bustards, and certain parrots. Among parrots, the species with powder down feathers include African Greys, Amazons, and Cockatoos.
Common Allergy Symptoms
Allergies in birds produce symptoms similar to the way allergies manifest in humans and other animals. However, certain symptoms are unique to birds.
While some of the following symptoms are hypothesized to be the products of allergies in birds, it should be noted that research into allergies in birds is still in the beginning stages. New information is still coming in all the time.
Respiratory Difficulties and Skin Rashes
Birds with allergy problems may experience respiratory difficulties, such as trouble breathing and sneezing fits.
Pet birds who exhibit symptoms such as these may often respond adversely to the aromatic household items detailed previously.
Another known symptom of allergy problems in birds is skin rashes. Such rashes are commonly found in pet parrots. Skin allergies can lead to some of the more severe manifestations of allergies in birds. A bird experiencing skin allergies may exhibit swelling, itchiness, redness, and loss of feathers.
It is also hypothesized that allergies may cause the well-documented issue of feather-plucking, or auto-mutilation, in domestic birds.
Birds who exhibit feather-damaging behaviors are known to pull out entire wads of their own feathers or chew off parts of their feathers and gnaw at them until the feathers are frayed.
Such behavior constitutes a serious difficulty in caring for domestic birds and ensuring their health and overall quality of life.
Allergies, however, are just one hypothesis put forward for why birds may behave in this manner.
What To Do if Your Bird Has Allergies?
Nobody wants to see birds in distress. That is especially true for those who keep birds as pets. Fortunately, there are established steps that bird-owners can take if they believe their bird may suffer from allergies.
Consult With A Veterinarian
The first (and most obvious) thing a bird owner should do is take their bird to the vet. The veterinarian may diagnose a bird’s allergies, specifically skin allergies, by evaluating White Blood Cell count and by performing a biopsy of the skin.
Veterinarians have the most up-to-date scientific tools available for testing for and treating allergies in birds. Veterinarians can also provide effective advice for treating a bird’s allergies at home.
Test For Food Allergies
At home, bird-owners may test for food allergies by starting over with their bird’s diet and feeding their bird one specific food item at a time, then monitoring for adverse reactions.
Food items that produce no adverse reaction may be safely added to the bird’s diet. In conducting these at-home tests, only small portion sizes should be administered to keep potential adverse reactions as mild as possible.
Address Respiratory Allergies
To address respiratory allergies, bird owners should keep aromatic household items such as deodorant, perfume, and scented candles away from the vicinity of their bird.
Bird owners can create a healthy breathing environment for their bird by consistently changing their air filters to limit the amount of mold, dust, and pollen to which their bird is exposed.
Antihistamines And Powder Down Feathers
A potential option for alleviating a bird’s allergies is treating them with antihistamines. However, one should always consult with a veterinarian before doing so.
Studies have shown that antihistamines can effectively mitigate allergic reactions in birds. Lastly, owners of macaws and other types of birds that are sensitive to powder down feathers should keep the sensitive bird away from any other bird they may have. This can be done by keeping the birds in different rooms.
Yes – Birds Can Suffer From Allergies
Yes, birds, like their human counterparts, are susceptible to allergies. The potential source of a bird’s allergies includes but is not limited to certain foodstuffs, certain household items, pollen, and the powder down feathers of other birds.
These allergies may manifest in respiratory issues, skin problems, and feather-plucking. Bird-owners who wish to address any potential allergies in a bird may do so by:
- Conducting trial and error with a bird’s diet
- Keeping aromatic household items out of a bird’s vicinity
- Separating sensitive birds from birds with powder down feathers
- Consulting with a veterinarian to conduct tests and determine solutions.
Best of luck with your feathery friend!
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.