Worms, such as roundworms and tapeworms, are internal parasites that become lodged in the digestive system of their hosts. Once they reach the bloodstream, they can spread to other organs, searching for nutrients. This enables them to reproduce and live out their life cycle while the parrot gives worms to other pets and humans.
Parrots must be dewormed every 3-6 months with worming medicines, such as Beaphar bird wormer. Although indoor parrots are rarely exposed to the same environment as wild birds, they remain susceptible to parasites. Your parrot may get infested by poop from other birds, dirty water, or contaminated food.
Worm infestations can affect any parrot, regardless of the cleanliness of your bird’s living environment. As such, you need to be consistent in your parrot’s worming routine and watch out for any clear warning signs. In most cases, worm infestations lead to malnutrition and anemia, which can be fatal if left unchecked.
Do Parrots Get Worms?
Parrots can get worms, usually helminths (intestinal parasites). There are countless breeds and subspecies, but they can be broken into three main categories:
These enter the body through an infested surface or food. Once inside your parrot, helminths will begin to enter the organs. These macroparasites are very small but can still be viewed with the naked eye.
Some worms have evolved to target the digestive tract, while others prioritize the blood vessels.
Types Of Worms That Affect Parrots
While there are different parasitic worms, you’ll find your parrot only encounters four:
- Ascars (roundworms)
- Capillaria (hairworms)
- Cestodas (tapeworms)
- Acuarias (gizzard worms)
Ascarids (roundworms) are transmitted when the parrot directly ingests worm eggs. This usually happens when interacting with infested poop from other animals or touching a surface on which the worm eggs are.
Roundworms settle into the digestive tract, where they immediately start to cause a blockage. The ascarid larvae can move to other tissue where they live as larvae cysts. These thick shells will form around the larvae as a capsule.
Not all parrots are susceptible to a roundworm infestation, but the following factors increase their vulnerability:
- Being young
- Overly stressed
- Playing or roaming on the ground, especially in the dirt
- Having free access to wild birds in aviaries
- Spending time on dirty, damp cage floors
Roundworms can survive in an environment for an extended period of time, so it’s difficult to eradicate them. It’s also difficult to diagnose a roundworm infestation in parrots during the early stages of infection. You usually have to wait until ringworm start causing more obvious symptoms.
Hairworms are threadlike worms that live in the throat or lower intestinal tract. Humans can’t get these, so there’s no danger of your parrot getting them from you or giving them to your family. However, all it takes to pass on worms is contact with infested animal poop.
This infestation will be difficult to treat, but the worms have fewer harmful effects on your parrot than ascarids. In most cases, the eggs can be easily seen in the parrot’s feces, which is often the most effective means of early detection.
Tapeworms like damp environments. Unlike other types of worms, they won’t appear in your bird’s feces. Your parrot likely ingested tapeworm through food or water that contained the parasite’s eggs.
Also referred to as flatworms, these parasites are excreted as segments, which is the only way to detect them early. There are many different kinds of tapeworm, ranging from 2-3 millimeters to 50-60 millimeters. The more they feed on your parrot, the larger in size they’ll grow.
Once your parrot is infested, it will have very mild symptoms. If allowed to continue without treatment, it may be fatal. Tapeworms can remove the nutrients from your parrot’s body, resulting in starvation, no matter how much it eats.
Acuaria (Gizzard Worm)
The gizzard worm, as the name implies, mainly targets your parrot’s gizzard. Insects will find and eat the eggs of this parasite, especially weevils or slaters. The larvae worm starts to develop within the insect as its first host. Your parrot may then eat the bug without realizing that it’s contaminated.
Once inside of your parrot’s body, acuaria will quickly grow out of control. Early in its lifecycle, this parasite will need to hunt down nutrients quickly. It finds its way to the gizzard and burrows through the gizzard lining.
Although it does take the nutrients that your parrot relies on to remain healthy, most will die from a different infection. Their gizzard will be more vulnerable to other bacteria once the gizzard worm population has grown significantly.
How Do Parrots Get Worms?
Wild birds come into contact with all types of worms in their environment and do pick them up.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, caged birds are highly susceptible to cross-contamination. If one parrot gets infested by worms, it will quickly transmit it to all other birds.
Caged parrots don’t have wide-open flying spaces or lofty nesting spots to spread out. They cannot limit contact with each other’s feces or infested food. Here are the causes of worms in parrots:
Parasites can contaminate food sources, especially if they’re grain-based. Check your supply for webbing or pupae.
Worms can thrive in damp spots or water bowls in a bird cage, so wipe down the parrot’s enclosure and change its water regularly.
If two parrots share a cage, they may infect each other. Most parasites are transmitted through feces, so when your parrot poops in its cage, its cage mate is put at risk. If any waste gets into food, water, or toys, your other parrot is extremely likely to get worms.
In a caged environment, worms normally only occur due to interaction with wild birds. Since nothing will deworm a wild crow or pigeon naturally, it may carry worms for its entire lifespan.
When a wild bird poops in the grass that a parrot has played in or consumes some of the food that your parrot later eats, your pet parrot may become infested with worms.
Symptoms of Worms in Parrots
According to Farmer’s Weekly, the symptoms will depend on the type of worm. The signs may be more or less obvious, depending on where the parasite is in its lifecycle. Symptoms include:
- Irregular bowel movements
- Intestinal blockages
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Heavy mucus on droppings
If you check your parrot’s feces, you may be able to see the worms. If they’re early in their lifecycle, however, this will be more difficult. In extreme cases, the parrot may become anemic, depressed, or moody.
In most cases, your parrot will sleep a lot and appear excessively hungry. No matter how much your parrot eats, it’ll never be enough. If you notice this behavior, check for signs of worms in the stool or around the anal vent.
Worming Treatment for Parrots
The treatment of worms in parrots starts by:
- Thoroughly cleaning your parrot’s cage, toys, and perches
- Changing all food and water
- Isolating the parrot from other pets or birds
- Picking the right deworming medicine
- Applying deworming medicine to food or water
- Treating the parrot for several weeks until the symptoms clear up
- Sanitizing anything that the parrot comes into contact with
If the worms have been left unchecked for some time, you may need the intervention of an avian vet. Most worms can be treated with over-the-counter medicine, but the side effects of worms can’t. If your parrot has an intestinal blockage, anemia, or is malnourished, a veterinarian may need to intervene.
Can I Use The Same Wormer Every Time?
Switch up your worming product because worms may build up resistance once exposed to a certain chemical. Some worming products are mild, and you may need to repeat the treatment 10 to 12 days later to ensure all worm eggs are removed.
Does Deworming Always Work?
With a heavy infestation, worming doesn’t always lead to direct recovery. There may be worms in the parrot’s intestines, clogging up the system and preventing it from expelling the dead worms.
Deworming Medicine for Parrots
Select a deworming medicine that treats the broadest range of parasites. It’s easy to confuse the symptoms of one type of worm with another, and your parrot may be hosting several parasites at once.
For heavy worming, Beaphar bird wormer is one of the most popular veterinary medicines. Other brands like Piperazine and Levamisol are also good choices.
The Beaphar bird wormer is recommended because it contains levamisole hydrochloride (1% w/v). It’s an effective compound against roundworms and hairworms. Levamisole should only be administered under the guidance of a vet.
Wormout Gel is effective because it combines two active ingredients: Praziquantel and Oxfendazole. These are used to target common parasites and intestinal worms in larger species of parrots. Ivermectin is a cost-effective wormer for internal and external parasites, usually in smaller parrots. It isn’t as harsh when used with water.
Deworm your parrot every 3-6 months. If your parrot lives indoors only and doesn’t have contact with any wild birds, every 6 months will suffice. However, for parrots that share a space or play outside, every 3 months will be necessary.
Just like other animals, parrots can get worms. As long as you keep up with their deworming routine and treat any infestations as they occur, your parrot will remain parasite-free.