Mold affects parrots a lot more than it does humans. What may seem like annoying yet harmless fungal growth could be gradually destroying your parrot’s lungs.
Mold is dangerous for parrots because it causes a respiratory issue called aspergillosis. This happens when a parrot inhales the spores produced by the mold and they accumulate in the lungs.
Parrots with compromised immune systems are most susceptible. If your parrot is healthy, it is less likely to get aspergillosis, even if it came 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 lung issues. However, long before it reaches a 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. It’ll be more susceptible to mold each time it’s exposed, and it may develop more severe symptoms.
This usually happens when a parrot’s cage is not cleaned out frequently enough. It may be left dirty or damp long enough for mold to grow. If this happens several times a year, your parrot’s life will be in danger.
Black Mold vs. Other Types of Mold
Black mold can damage the lungs, brain, and nervous system of those who inhale it. In parrots, black mold results in mycotoxin-based diseases.
However, before this sickness develops, the parrot will begin fighting 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 for parrots is a fungal infection called aspergillosis. This will not happen right away and takes several weeks to develop. As such, if your parrot visits a home that has mold in it, it will not immediately become ill. The most common way that parrots are exposed to mold is their:
- Owner’s home
Mold is produced due to 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 immediately, the parrot may get fungal growth, usually on its feet and beak. External fungal growth is easy to see and treat. It can be cured with topical treatments before it begins harming the parrot too much.
Parrot Breathing In Mold
The real danger comes when there’s dryness in the air that caused the mold to release spores. Parrots breathe in those spores, and it accumulates in their lungs. 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 outwards. Instead, it reaches the lungs and stays there until the parrot breathes again.
Aspergillosis is an infection that develops over the course of 3 weeks to 3 months. It’s gradual and internal, so it’s an infection that 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 cure your parrot of the condition before it’s too late. You must understand:
- How to identify the symptoms of aspergillosis
- The differences between acute aspergillosis and chronic aspergillosis
In a parrot, acute aspergillosis slowly destroys the:
- 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 common symptoms of acute aspergillosis are:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urinating
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble vocalizing
- Change in voice
- Green discharge
The symptoms may resemble other illnesses. It’s rare for a parrot to experience all the symptoms of acute aspergillosis at once. As such, owners may confuse it with something else and incorrectly treat the illness.
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 fungal 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.
A healthy parrot will be able to combat fungal infections and avoid the development of aspergillosis. With that said, fungal 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 enemy. 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. So, stressed parrots are at risk of contracting any disease and infection. If your parrot is stressed and exposed to mold, it’s in greater peril.
Even if you don’t live in a place with lots of humidity, check any food before feeding it to your parrot. This is especially true if your parrot is on a formulated diet. While pellets are not exempt from going bad, they often contain preservatives that help 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 disease. Once infected, the parrot will slowly lose its appetite, making the situation worse and erasing any chance it had of building up its immune system.
Cages are ideal places for mold to grow as they are often wet due to the spilled drinking water. In dry, hot climates, cage hygiene is a huge part of why parrots develop aspergillosis. The spilled water creates humidity, and then the dryness and heat help 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 often they stay in the cage.
If your parrot has another illness, there is a high chance it could also contract a fungal infection. The body of an ill parrot is already struggling to heal. Any spores that make their way into the parrot’s body will not find resistance.
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 fix 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 deal with once it becomes chronic. There isn’t much that can be done for a parrot with chronic aspergillosis. However, you can take the necessary steps to prevent fungal infections:
Allow your parrot to go outside during the summer months on a harness and leash or in a cage. The heat will:
- Fight off any bacteria
- Dry out the parrot’s feathers after a bath, so mold and mildew don’t grow
- Encourage the parrot to be more active, thus strengthening its lungs
You can also open up a window when you aren’t home and 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. If you suspect your parrot already has a fungal infection, it may have trouble breathing. The toxic smell of chemicals will only make things worse. Use white vinegar to clean out the cage. Leave it out in the sun to dry and kill off any bacteria.
Clean the House
If you know there’s a mold problem in your home, do everything you can to clear up the problem. Deep-clean the home after the rain season ends to eliminate any mold before it begins to produce spores.
Get a Dehumidifier
Getting a dehumidifier is an effective, inexpensive 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. This will reduce the amount of mold growth.
Relocate Your Parrots
A parrot cannot tolerate mold. If you notice any in your home, keep your parrot in a different room until it’s been removed. Once the air is clear, the parrot can move back into that space.