Mold affects parrots far more than it does humans. Unfortunately, inhaling fungal spores can severely damage a parrot’s respiratory system, often with life-threatening consequences.
Mold is dangerous for parrots because it can cause a respiratory condition called aspergillosis. This occurs when a parrot inhales the spores produced by mold, which accumulate in the air sacs and lungs.
Parrots with compromised immune systems and older birds are most susceptible to mold exposure.
Aspergillus contaminates a bird’s environment but isn’t a disease that’s transmissible between birds. Also, the disease isn’t zoonotic, so humans aren’t at risk of being infected by their parrots.
Can Mold Kill Parrots?
If a parrot is exposed to mold, it may develop aspergillosis. This happens when the cage isn’t cleaned frequently well enough, as it’ll be dirty and damp for long enough for mold to grow and multiply.
The parrot will grow seriously ill long before aspergillosis is fatal, exhibiting these symptoms:
- Weight loss.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Unusual vocalizations.
- Tail bobbing.
- Fluffed feathers.
Black mold can damage the brain, nervous, and respiratory systems of birds who inhale it.
After several weeks in a cage with mold, a parrot will eventually die from this respiratory disease. However, you can usually see mold before it dries and becomes airborne.
How Mold Hurts Parrots
The main threat mold poses to parrots is aspergillosis, which takes several weeks to develop. If a parrot enters a room that contains mold, it won’t immediately become ill.
Mold is produced by excess moisture (dampness, leaks, spillages, etc.) It’s common to see mold growing around the home during rainy seasons. It won’t harm the parrot’s health at this stage.
A parrot may get fungal spores on its feet or beak if the mold isn’t removed. However, a bird-safe cleaning agent makes external mold growth easy to remove.
Inhaling Fungal Spores
The real danger comes when there’s dryness in the air that causes the mold to release spores.
Parrots breathe in those spores, so they’ll accumulate in the lungs and air sacs. This is dangerous because parrots breathe twice as much oxygen as humans.
When a parrot exhales, it doesn’t leave the body. It reaches the air sacs until the bird breathes again.
Aspergillosis develops gradually, so it only becomes apparent once it begins to affect a bird severely.
Does My Parrot Have Aspergillosis?
Here are the differences between acute aspergillosis and chronic aspergillosis:
Acute aspergillosis gradually harms the following:
- Air sacs.
During this stage, most of the parrot’s organs remain uncompromised. However, there’s an increased amount of drinking and urination that indicates kidney failure.
The most common symptoms of acute aspergillosis include:
- Increased thirst.
- Increased urinating.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Trouble vocalizing.
- Change in voice.
- Green discharge.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, a parrot with aspergillosis may experience leg paresis, which is the partial or complete loss of voluntary movement.
The parrot in the above study had no respiratory troubles, leading experts to believe that aspergillosis can cause paresis without other symptoms.
At this stage, the organs are damaged, and little can be done to treat the parrot.
The symptoms of chronic aspergillosis are similar to acute aspergillosis. The only difference is that parrots with chronic aspergillosis can experience the following:
As the organs begin to deteriorate, so does the central nervous system.
If the parrot survives long enough for the nerves to be affected, these physical problems will be present. Unfortunately, aspergillosis can destroy the organs and the nervous system.
Causes of Aspergillosis
Parrots are more vulnerable due to the way they breathe. While mold harms any living creature, it’s deadly for parrots because of how long the spores stay in the body.
Humans may breathe in the spores, but they leave our respiratory system when we next exhale.
With parrots, the spores travel through to the posterior air sacs and lungs. Some spores leave the body in the next breath, but parrots take extra steps when breathing, so the spores remain for longer.
When bacteria enter the body, its first line of defense (the autoimmune system) will be activated.
Infections can weaken the immune system if the parrot breathes in lots of spores frequently. So, when is a parrot most likely to develop aspergillosis?
When stressed, parrots develop the following problems:
- Loss of appetite.
- Grow physically weaker.
- Become disinterested in exercise.
- Preen their feathers less often.
This impacts how the parrot can function physically and mentally.
While pellets aren’t exempt from moldiness, they often contain preservatives that minimize the risk.
Parrots on formulated diets that eat berries, vegetables, and seeds are likelier to eat something moldy. Another culprit is monkey nuts (peanuts), as they grow underground.
Birds should never be fed moldy bread. Bread isn’t nutritious for birds, and the mold contains fungal spores that cause aspergillosis.
Malnourished parrots are likelier to get infected with aspergillosis sooner.
The parrot’s immune system can’t fight off sickness without a well-optimized diet. Once infected, the parrot will lose its appetite, leaving it with a compromised immune system.
Cages are ideal for mold to grow as they’re often wet due to spilled drinking water and excretions.
Cage hygiene is a common reason parrots develop aspergillosis in dry, hot climates. The spilled water creates humidity, and the dryness and heat enable the mold to produce spores.
Leftover food and old paper promote mold growth, so inspect and clean the cage frequently.
If a parrot is on medication, ask the vet how it affects the immune system. Certain antibiotics can destroy immune cells and leave the parrot vulnerable to infections.
How to Prevent Mold Poisoning in Parrots
Mold poisoning causes an infection that’s difficult to clear once it becomes chronic. Not much can be done for a parrot with chronic aspergillosis. However, you can take preventative steps:
Allow the parrot to go outside on a harness or in a cage during the summer. The heat will:
- Dry out the parrot’s feathers after a bath so mold doesn’t grow.
- Encourage the parrot to be more active, thus strengthening its respiratory system.
You can crack open a window when you aren’t home to let in the sun. Never leave a parrot’s cage in the sun unattended because the bird will overheat and dehydrate.
Moldy Cage Hygiene
Deep clean the cage at least once a week. Don’t use bleach or traditional cleaning products. Instead, use white vinegar to clean the cage. Then, leave it out in the sun to dry and kill off mold.
Clean the House
Deep-clean the home after the rainy season ends to eliminate mold before it produces fungal spores.
Bathrooms can be problematic due to the high humidity. Always dry and aerate the rooms, and consider using mold-proof paint to keep the problem in check.
A dehumidifier can lower the humidity in your home. They’re a long-term solution that can be placed in the room where the parrot lives, reducing the amount of mold growth.
Relocate The Parrot
If you notice mold in your home, move the parrot to a different room until it’s been removed. Once the problem is resolved and the air is clear, the parrot’s cage can be returned.