Mold affects parrots more adversely than it does humans. What may seem like annoying yet harmless fungal growth could be damaging your parrot’s respiratory system.
Mold is dangerous for parrots because it causes a respiratory problem called aspergillosis. This occurs when a parrot inhales the spores produced by the mold, which accumulate in the air sacs and lungs.
Parrots with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to mold. If your parrot is healthy, it’s less likely to get aspergillosis, even if it comes into contact with mold.
Can Mold Kill Parrots?
Mold can kill parrots if they’re exposed to it for too long. After several weeks spent in a cage with mold, a parrot will eventually die from respiratory issues.
However, long before it reaches this fatal stage, the parrot will grow ill. It will:
- Become lethargic
- Lose its appetite
- Have difficulty breathing
You can usually spot the signs of mold before they’re no longer possible to reverse. However, this isn’t always the case. If your parrot is repeatedly exposed to mold several times throughout its life, it may develop a chronic illness.
This usually happens when a parrot’s cage isn’t cleaned frequently enough. It may be left dirty or damp for long enough for mold to grow.
Black Mold vs. Other Types of Mold
Black mold can damage the brain, nervous, or respiratory system of those who inhale it. In parrots, black mold results in mycotoxin-based diseases.
However, before this sickness develops, the parrot will struggle to fight off a fungal infection that a human would most likely be able to resist. All types of mold are harmful to parrots.
How Mold Hurts Parrots
The main threat mold poses to parrots is aspergillosis. This will take several weeks to develop. As such, if your parrot enters a room that contains mold, it won’t immediately become ill.
The most common way that parrots are exposed to mold is their:
- Owner’s home
Mold is produced by humidity. It’s common to see mold growing around the house during rainy seasons. Mold at this stage won’t harm the parrot unless it comes in direct contact with the mold.
If mold isn’t removed, the parrot may get spores on its feet and beak. However, external mold growth is easy to see and treat topically.
Breathing In Mold
The real danger comes when there’s dryness in the air that causes the mold to release spores.
Parrots breathe in those spores, and they accumulate in their air sacs. This is dangerous because parrots don’t breathe the same way humans do.
Oxygen passes through a parrot’s body until reaching a posterior air sac. When the parrot exhales, it doesn’t travel outward. Instead, it reaches the air sacs and stays there until the parrot breathes again.
Aspergillosis is an infection that develops gradually, so it only gets noticed once it begins to affect the parrot severely. Depending on how often the parrot breathes in spores, the disease can go one of two ways:
- Acute aspergillosis
- Chronic aspergillosis
Does My Parrot Have Aspergillosis?
If your parrot has aspergillosis, you need to clear up the condition. You need to understand:
- How to identify the symptoms of aspergillosis
- The differences between acute aspergillosis and chronic aspergillosis
Acute aspergillosis slowly destroys the following:
- Air sacs
- Voice box
During this stage, most of the parrot’s organs remain uncompromised. However, there is an increased amount of drinking and urination that indicates the start of kidney failure.
The most common symptoms of acute aspergillosis are:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urinating
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble vocalizing
- Change in voice
- Green discharge
It’s rare for a parrot to experience all the symptoms of acute aspergillosis at once.
According to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, a parrot with aspergillosis may experience leg paresis. Paresis is defined by the partial or complete loss of voluntary movement.
The parrot in that study had no respiratory troubles, leading experts to believe that aspergillosis can cause paresis without any other symptoms present.
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:
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. Aspergillosis can destroy its organs and nervous system.
Causes of Aspergillosis
Parrots are prone to infections because of the way they breathe. While mold is harmful to 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 following the next exhale. With parrots, the spores travel through to the posterior air sacs and the lungs. Some of the spores leave the body in the next breath.
Parrots take extra steps when breathing, so the spores stay longer in the body. This gives them a chance to latch on to more surfaces. Of course, like any other living creature, when a virus enters a parrot’s body, its first line of defense (the autoimmune system) will take care of things.
Infections can lead to a weaker immune system if the parrot breathes in many spores frequently. So, when is your parrot more likely to develop aspergillosis?
Stress is a parrot’s greatest nemesis. Not only does it cause behavioral issues, but it can also affect a parrot’s immune system. When stressed, parrots:
- Lose their appetites
- Grow weaker
- Become disinterested in exercise
- Groom themselves less
This state of depression impacts how the parrot can function physically and mentally.
Even if you don’t live in a place with much humidity, check any food before feeding it to your parrot.
This is especially important if your parrot is on a formulated diet. While pellets aren’t exempt from going bad, they often contain preservatives that combat the issue.
Parrots on formulated diets that eat berries, vegetables, and seeds are more likely to eat something moldy. Seeds go moldy quickly and are the main reason for parrots growing sick.
Malnourished parrots get infected with aspergillosis the quickest.
Without a proper diet, the parrot’s immune system is unable to fight off disease. Once infected, the parrot will slowly lose its appetite, removing any chance of building up its immune system.
Cages are ideal places for mold to grow as they are often wet due to spilled drinking water.
In dry, hot climates, cage hygiene is a large part of why parrots develop aspergillosis. 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. The number of times you deep-clean the cage depends on how many parrots there are and how much time they spend in the cage.
If your parrot is on any medication, ask your avian vet how it affects the parrot’s immune system.
Certain antibiotics can destroy immune cells and leave the parrot vulnerable to infections. While trying to resolve one issue, the medication can cause another problem. That’s especially true if the medication has to be taken long-term.
How to Prevent Mold Poisoning in Parrots
Mold poisoning causes an infection that’s difficult to clear up once it becomes chronic. There isn’t much that can be done for a parrot with chronic aspergillosis. However, you can take the following preventative steps:
Allow your parrot to go outside on a harness, leash, or in a cage during the summer months. 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 open up a window slightly when you aren’t home to let the sun in. Never leave your parrot in the sun all by itself while it’s in a cage, though. It may overheat and become dehydrated.
Moldy Cage Hygiene
Deep-clean the cage at least once a week. Don’t use bleach or any of the traditional cleaning products. Use white vinegar to clean out the cage. Leave it out in the sun to dry and kill off any mold.
Clean the House
If you know that there’s a mold problem in your home, clear up the problem. Deep-clean the home after the rainy season ends to eliminate any mold before it begins to produce any spores.
Get a Dehumidifier
Getting a dehumidifier is an effective way to 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 Your Parrots
A parrot cannot tolerate mold spores for long. If you notice any mold in your home, move your parrot to a different room until it’s been completely removed. Once the air is clear, the parrot can move back to that living space.