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Common Bacterial and Fungal Skin Infections in Birds

Skin Infections Seen in Pet Birds

With good nutrition and a healthy environment, birds tend to be hearty pets. But like all living things, they can be at risk for developing bacterial or fungal infections. In most cases, a bird's immune system is strong enough to keep such infections at bay. But if a bird has a compromised immune system, her owner needs to pay close attention for signs of infection.

If an infection goes untreated, the bird may start to peck at the infected area until it becomes ulcerated, and the more the infection progresses, the higher the risk will be that it could prove fatal.

Bacterial Infections Found in Birds

A bird usually develops a bacterial infection when she has poor hygiene or when she is experiencing high emotional or environmental stress levels. The two most-common types of bacterial infections seen in birds are staphylococci and streptococci, but they're not the only ones a bird can develop. Others include:

  • Aeromonas
  • Citrobacter
  • Clostridia
  • E. coli
  • Enterobacter
  • Klebsiella
  • Mycobacteria
  • Pasteurella
  • Proteus
  • Pseudomonas
  • Salmonella
  • Serratia marcescens

If you think your bird might have a bacterial infection, look for include loss of appetite, weight loss, and listlessness.

There are also site-specific symptoms, depending on where in the body the infection is located. For instance, if the infection is in the lungs, the bird may have difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, or an eye infection. If the bird's stomach has an infection, then she may have diarrhea, while an infection in the nervous system may cause tremors or seizures.

Treatment for avian bacterial infections involves antibiotics like azithromycin, amoxicillin and clavulanate, cephalexin, and doxycycline, to name a few of the options available.

Fungal Infections in Birds

Birds are most commonly affected by one of five types of fungal infections – aspergillosis, candidiasis, cryptococcosis, rhodotoruliasis, or mucormycosis. Causes of these infections can include:

  • Poor immune system
  • Overcrowding
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor sanitation
  • Poor ventilation
  • Respiratory toxins
  • Environments that are either too humid or too dry
  • Age
  • Concurrent infections

The most-common symptoms associated with fungal infections in birds are lethargy, depression, diarrhea, weight loss, change in or loss of voice, difficulty breathing, and anorexia. In cases of rhodotoruliasis, the bird will develop a yellowish crust over the skin in the axillary area of the wings or thighs that if left untreated, will develop into horny growths.

Treatment options for fungal infections in birds include fluconazole, itraconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine, enilconazole, and amphotericin B.

If you believe your pet bird has developed a bacterial or fungal infection, take her to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The longer these infections go untreated, the more damage they can do to your pet.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.