Last Updated on: 27th September 2023, 08:22 am
All parrots can get worms, even with good husbandry. However, the risk of worms can be minimized with preventative deworming treatment, even if a parrot isn’t showing symptoms.
Roundworms and tapeworms live in the digestive tract of parrots. Birds can also get worms that target the gizzard, respiratory tract, and eyes (under the nictating membrane and lacrimal ducts).
Worms are often due to exposure to infected birds’ feces, contaminated food or water, and playing in the soil. Indoor parrots that live alone are at less risk of worms but remain vulnerable.
Worms shouldn’t be ignored. Left to grow and multiply, worms deprive the body of nutrients, leaving them malnourished, weak, and vulnerable to severe illness.
Some worms that infest birds are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed between parrots and humans.
Do Parrots Need Worming?
Parrots should be dewormed. If you buy a parrot from a pet store or breeder, check if it has been wormed before bringing it home so you know how to proceed.
You should quarantine a new parrot, even if it has been wormed. The parrot will have been surrounded by other animals, putting it at risk of parasites, illnesses, and diseases.
How Often Should Parrots Be Wormed?
Regularly worming a parrot reduces the risk of internal parasites. This means a parrot should be given a preventative wormer every 3-6 months.
What Worms Can Parrots Have?
Here are the most common types of worms in parrots:
Roundworms are most common in parrots, especially the sub-genus Ascaridia platyceri (exclusive to psittacine birds). Roundworms are usually spread through fecal matter that hosts eggs.
Roundworms can attach themselves to parts of the parrots’ anatomy, so they must be treated before their numbers increase. As roundworms increase in number, the risks magnify.
The digestive tract is the most common location for roundworms. Once they enter the parrot’s body, they form a thick, capsule-like shell, making worms hard to shed.
Preventative worming is the best way to minimize risk. Roundworms can be stubborn and don’t always cause symptoms initially, but they can be killed with deworming medication.
Due to their shape, tapeworms (flatworms) reach up to 60 mm long. Tapeworms sustain themselves on food the parrot consumes. The more a bird eats, the bigger the worms grow.
Large tapeworms take more nutrients, potentially leading to malnutrition or starvation. Tapeworms are shed in the feces in segments, making them difficult to identify.
Worms can be passed between birds, but tapeworms are likelier to arise through water supplies infested with eggs when a parrot lives alone.
Hair worms (Capillaria)
Hair worms take their name from their size and shape. They are up to 2cm long and thin, similar to human hair. Hair worms burrow into the small intestine and esophagus, causing ulcers.
Hair worms are more common in poultry than in pet birds. Sometimes asymptomatic, hair worms steadily reduce avian immunity to infection and disease, leading to severe illness or death.
Blood in the feces is most likely to manifest when a parrot is infested with hair worms.
Eye worms (Oxyspirura sp)
Eye worms, sometimes called avian eye flukes, are common in parrots. As the name suggests, eye worms impact a parrot’s nictating membrane (third eyelid), lacrimal ducts, and eye glands.
Once the larvae have evolved into worms, they migrate toward the eyes. The worms then settle under the eyelid or nictitans, leading to conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other irritation.
Gizzard Worms (Acuaria Skrjabini)
Gizzard worms are usually only found in wild birds that eat insects. They’re rare in captive parrots.
These parasites live in the gizzard lining, where they take nutrients. The gizzard is where the parrot grinds food before digestion, meaning that worms seldom lack food.
Of course, the more food they consume, the less nutrition parrots will get from their meals. Also, gizzard worms can lead to direct bacterial infection, especially once the worms multiply.
Gape Worms (Syngamus trachea)
Gape worms (called forked and red worms) live within the trachea wall. They remove a parrot’s ability to breathe by depriving it of oxygen, forcing the bird to “gape” for air.
Gape worms live in pairs. The male worm will attach itself to a female, which is larger, in the shape of a Y. Left untreated, gape worms cause significant respiratory distress.
Juvenile parrots are most at risk of gape worms due to their underdeveloped lungs and air sacs.
Signs of Worms in Parrots
Worm infestations can manifest in varying ways, but there are warning signs:
- Seeing worms hanging from the parrot’s cloaca.
- Clear sight of worms and their eggs in bird poop.
- Diarrhea – not to be confused with polyuria (excessive urine production.)
- Blood or mucus in a parrot’s feces.
- Messy bottom (fecal matter becoming matted around the vent).
- Sudden weight loss, even if a parrot is eating well.
- Feather-destructive behavior due to stress.
- Muscular weakness.
- Lethargy and a lack of vibrancy in a parrot’s appearance.
- Excessive verbalization.
What Causes Worms in Parrots?
The consumption of contaminated food and water is the most common cause of worms in parrots. Feeding a parrot live insects, especially if sourced from the wild, could cause worms.
Worms can also be passed on through the contaminated fecal matter of other animals. A parrot may develop worms through rodent (rat and mouse) droppings.
Can Worms Kill Parrots?
Worms will become frequently uncomfortable for a parrot, causing significant distress.
Gape worms that impact a bird’s ability to breathe must be dealt with urgently. Gizzard worms are equally concerning due to their ability to cause bacterial infection.
If a worm infestation causes a parrot to lose weight, it’ll become increasingly weak and lethargic.
Worms will multiply, increasing the strain on the parrot’s body. Worms can lead to anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and life-threatening medical conditions.
What Is The Best Worming Treatment for Parrots?
A pet store will stock over-the-counter parrot dewormers. Examples include:
- Beaphar Bird Worming Liquid.
- SoluVerm Water Soluble Bird Worming Treatment.
- Vetafarm Wormout Gel.
Most worming medications are effective against common worm infestations like tapeworms and roundworms, but check if the treatment will kill less common worms.
Also, check for side effects associated with worming medication. For example, some dewormers increase a parrot’s core temperature, so you may need to tackle this concern to avoid overheating.
Administer a worming treatment and deep clean the cage. Then, use a bird-safe disinfectant to ensure that any eggs that the human eye can’t detect are killed and removed.
Consider periodically changing the deworming treatment if a parrot is prone to worm infestations. Like all medications, a parrot’s body can grow resistant to a specific formula.