Loss of Voice
- Loss of voice in birds can be caused by a problem in the syrinx (a bird’s vocal organ). The syrinx is located at the base of the windpipe (trachea), where the trachea divides into the bronchi, which connect the trachea with the lungs. This area can get easily blocked by:
- Stuck food particles (particularly seed hulls): Such blockages can cause loss of voice and can easily compromise the air flow potentially leading to suffocation. Blockages are particularly difficult to remove in small birds (cockatiel-size and smaller), where it is difficult to access and remove blockages. In larger birds, a small endoscope placed down the trachea to the syrinx can typically be used to remove any obstructive material. If unresolved, stuck food particles are likely to lead to bacterial infection aggravating the problem.
- Bacterial infections in this area can lead to abscesses that block air flow.
- Fungal disease (aspergillosis) can form granuloma (inflammation) that can restrict air flow.
- Without treatment, any of the above the condition is likely to progress in most cases and can result in death.
- This should be considered an emergency and requires an experienced bird vet to assess and potentially resolve.
Changes in Voice
- Can be caused by inflammation or infection.
- Aspergillosis is a common cause of voice change.
- If the lower end of the wind pipe is infected (bacterial or fungal), the bird may suffer from loss of voice or altered voice, such as gasping, squeaking, wheezing and labored breathing.
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) can lead to squeaking or crying sounds as well as regurgitation and coughing. Budgerigars, Cockatiels and other birds that are on a seed-only diet most commonly come down with this condition. Goiter is caused by an iodine deficiency. The enlarged gland compresses the windpipe (trachea) leading to respiratory difficulty and / or voice change. Goiter can be prevented by improving a bird’s diet and supplementing with iodine.
- Giardia– a parasite living in the small intestines may cause diarrhea and itching, which can cause a bird to scream, pull out its feathers and mutilate itself with the beak (most often the underside of the wings, the insides of the thighs and sometimes the chest).
Diagnosis / Treatment
- Testing usually involves blood work (to see if there is an infection present and assess overall condition)
- X-rays (for physical obstruction
- Growing bacterial cultures
- Removal of blockage (if caused by a blockage)
- Antibiotics (if caused by a bacterial infection)
- Anti-inflammatories (if cause is an inflammation)
- Antifungal medication (if caused by a fungal infection)
- Giardia (please visit this page to find out about disease, diagnosis and treatment)
- Provide supportive (sick-bird) care
The most common cause of infection in pet birds is an impaired immune system as a result of malnutrition, which predisposes birds to infections (most commonly upper respiratory infections). An improved diet will help prevent such health problems.