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How To Treat Sinus Infection in Parrots

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

A parrot may have a sinus infection (sinusitis) if it shows signs of respiratory distress. The symptoms include labored breathing, sneezing, and discharge from the nares and eyes.

Sinusitis occurs when the sinuses (the holes between the nares and throat) become blocked or inflamed.

This is usually the result of an unsuitable diet, irritation, viral or fungal infections, rhinoliths, or a lack of humidity in the air. Prompt treatment usually leads to a full recovery from sinus infections.

A nasal flush loosens mucus in the sinuses, potentially resolving a minor issue. However, to treat secondary infections, antibacterial or antifungal medication is required.

How Parrots Get Sinus Infections

The sinuses are hollow pockets accessed through the nares at the top of the beak. When a parrot inhales, air enters the nares and reaches the sinuses. The sinuses warm up the air before reaching the lungs.

A thin layer of mucus is housed within the sinuses. This mucus attracts anything unwelcome in the parrot’s body, bonding to dust and other airborne irritants.

This mucus is moved deeper into the nose by tiny, hairlike structures called cilia.

Once mucus reaches the nose, it’s swallowed and passed to the digestive tract. From here, stomach acids break down the mucus, enabling the sinuses to drain.

Sinus infection is a consequence of a blockage or inflammation of the sinuses. If the sinuses are blocked or inflamed, the cilia can’t clear the mucus, leading to the symptoms of sinusitis.

Here’s why parrots develop sinus infections:

Insufficient Humidity

A lack of moisture in the air can cause mucus to thicken and harden in the sinuses.

This concern is likelier during the winter months. Artificial heating increases the temperature, and ventilation is limited due to closed windows.

A humidifier and air purifier can improve the air quality in the room.

how do parrots get sinus infections?

Hypovitaminosis A

Hypovitaminosis A occurs when a parrot’s diet lacks vitamin A. Parrots fed primarily or exclusively nuts and seeds are vulnerable because these foods are low in retinol.

One role that vitamin A fulfills is maintaining the health of mucus that lines the sinuses. If a parrot doesn’t get sufficient Vitamin A (retinol), this mucus grows increasingly thick.

If the mucus that lines the sinuses starts to solidify, the cilia won’t be able to clear it.

Airborne Irritants

Parrots have a complex respiratory system irritated by allergens and airborne particles.

Common airborne irritants include:

Many of these fumes are also toxic and life-threatening.

Bacteria or Fungus

Sinusitis can progress from a bacterial or fungal infection. If the parrot has a health concern like a cold, it should receive prompt treatment to minimize the impact on the sinuses.

A respiratory illness that leads to sinusitis may be due to cramped, unsanitary living conditions. A caged parrot has no choice but to breathe in fungal spores or be surrounded by bacterial microbes.


A blockage of sinuses may be due to rhinoliths (nose stones). As the name implies, rhinoliths are solid obstructions within a parrot’s sinuses that restrict breathing. Rhinoliths must be removed.

Rhinoliths are usually due to another illness that affects the respiratory system. A common cause of rhinoliths is epistaxis, with blood not leaving the nares and solidifying within the sinuses.

Untreated bacterial and fungal infections or hypovitaminosis A can lead to rhinoliths.

Sinus Infection Symptoms

These symptoms are associated with sinus infections in parrots:

  • Loud, heavy breathing.
  • Streaming ocular or nasal discharge.
  • Regular wet sneezes.
  • Clicking the beak.
  • Swelling around the eyes, potentially leading to proptosis (bulging eyes.)

According to the New Zealand Veterinary Journal, significant untreated cases of bacterial sinusitis can also lead to malocclusion of a parrot’s beak.

All parrots sneeze occasionally, so 1 or 2 symptoms don’t necessarily point to a sinus infection,

Preventing Sinus Infections

There are ways to protect parrots birds from sinus infections, including:

  • Keep the cage clean.
  • Feed the parrot a balanced, nutritious diet.
  • Maintain an appropriate temperature.
  • Prevent contact with unwell birds.
  • Clean your hands before handling a parrot.
  • Get an air purifier.
  • Increase the humidity level.
  • Provide adequate ventilation.
  • Avoid airborne irritants, like smoke.

These actions will help a parrot breathe more easily.

Treating Sinusitis

Assist the parrot in its recovery by taking the following steps:


Upon noticing the symptoms of sinusitis, the parrot should be quarantined. What ails the parrot may be contagious and could spread to other birds, pets, or humans.

Protect yourself while the parrot is in quarantine by sanitizing your hands after handling it, wearing a face mask, and putting on designated clothing while in the same room.

symptoms of sinus infection in parrots

Veterinary Assessment

You’ll answer basic questions about the parrot’s symptoms, diet, and lifestyle over the phone. Then, you’ll need to bring the parrot to the surgery for assessment. Possible treatments include:

Nasal Flush

Saline irrigation involves moving a small amount of liquid solution through the nares. The objective is to loosen the mucus in the sinuses, enabling them to function again.

A nasal flush can be effective if a parrot has hardened mucus buildup due to its diet or room temperature. Unfortunately, it won’t resolve bacterial or fungal infections.

You may need to continue administering a nasal flush at home while the parrot undergoes various dietary and lifestyle adjustments. Only attempt this using vet-prescribed products, as instructed.

Prescription Medications

A vet may prescribe oral antibiotics for bacterial infections. Common antibiotics prescribed by veterinarians include Vibramycin-D, Periostat, and Efracea.

Antifungal medications may be necessary. However, they’re likelier to be administered through injection.


Surgery may be required for chronic sinusitis or extreme acute sinus infection. This will only be considered if the parrot has oversized rhinoliths that can’t be dissolved.

Surgery can affect parrots permanently if the nares are enlarged to remove rhinoliths.

Rest And Observation

The prognosis for acute sinusitis in parrots is favorable if you take action early. Most parrots fully recover, and you’ll be given expert advice on minimizing the risk of recurrence.

When the parrot returns home, it must rest while it recovers. Consider rehousing the parrot in a quieter room than usual, where it won’t experience as many noises and distractions.

Symptoms should begin to ease within a week, but the parrot may take several weeks to recover fully.