Scaly Face or Scaly Leg Mites: Common Treatments

Environmental Treatment:

Even though this mite spends its whole life cycle on a bird, it also seems able to burrow into wooden perches in the cage. Therefore, it is important to replace wooden perches / toys in infected cages / aviaries weekly. Some recommend using perches from native trees.

Some mites could have fallen off and hide in the cracks and crevices of your bird’s cage. Therefore, keeping the cage / aviary clean is particularly important until this infestation has been resolved.

Please note: any treatment protocol should be discussed with a veterinarian

The most effective treatments of infected birds are:

  • Ivermectin (insecticides) which can only be prescribed by a vet.
  • Avomectin or Moxidectin (insecticides) can be prescribed by a vet or may be available at your better pet / bird store without a vet’s prescription
  • SCATT: One of the most effective treatments for mites seems to be SCATT – a treatment produced by Dr. Marshall – a well-known and publishedavian vet in Australia. Another treatment is S76.
    Scatt has a residual effect and one dose is effective for about 3 weeks. The other treatment, S76, is a good choice for treating mites that do not feed directly on the bird’s blood or living tissue, such as feather mites.

Canary with Scaly Leg (age-related)

Other treatment options – only recommended for treatment of initial or minor infections:

  • Scalex Mite and Lice Spray for Birds – and it is also effective in removing scales. Scalex is usually freely available at local stores
  • Rubbing petroleum jelly (alternatively: olive oil, baby oil or paraffin oil) on the feet and legs, which will suffocate the mites and soften the crusts for easy removal. These preparations should also be placed around the vent and on the wing tips of each bird as the mites sometimes hide in these areas. This procedure is repeated every 3 to 4 days for 2 weeks (or every day for 5 or 6 days). The old scales will then fall off over time and be replaced with new scales.
    • One breeder described coating seeds with vegetable oils and as his canaries walked over the seeds, their legs got coated with oil and the mites suffocated. He stated that his canaries were mite free within 2 weeks.NOTE: The drawback with the above options is that the oil is very difficult to remove from the bird’s feathers and sometimes one has to wait until the next molt, when new feathers replace the oiled ones.Don’t be tempted in pulling the scales off before they are ready, the wound will start bleeding.
  • Chamomile tea: Brew yourself some nice chamomile tea for drinking, and take the warm and wet teabag and gently place it over the affected area . The chamomile will help loosen the crust while healing the wounds at the same time.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) Some people also add GSE to the water – for its anti-parasitic properties.

I received the following e-mail that might be of interest to you:

“I wanted to share with you that I have a friend who’s bird suffered terribly from the worst case of bird mites her vet had ever seen. He had a crusty substance covering his face and beak from the mites. I suggested to her that she get some GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract), mix five to ten drops in one tablespoon of distilled water and dab onto the affected areas. Never use GSE full strength and be careful to avoid eyes. This treatment cured her bird. He is finally mite free after a horrific battle not unlike the one described in the article. It worked relatively quickly too. You can also add one drop of GSE to every four to eight ounces of drinking water and treat the bird from the inside. “

(Note: Any treatment protocol needs to be discussed with a qualified vet first. There is no guarantee that any of the listed treatment options are safe and/or effective.)

NOTE: “Cage protectors” commonly found in pet stores are ineffective and may be toxic.

Relevant Web Resources:

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