Home » Is Mold Bad for Parrots? [Aspergillosis + Respiratory Problems]
can mold kill parrots?

Is Mold Bad for Parrots? [Aspergillosis + Respiratory Problems]

Mold affects parrots much more than it does humans. What may seem like harmless fungal growths could severely damage a parrot’s respiratory system, leading to early death.

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 exposure.

Can Mold Kill Parrots?

If your parrot is repeatedly exposed to mold, it may develop a chronic illness. This happens when the cage isn’t cleaned frequently enough, as it’ll be dirty and damp for long enough for mold to multiply.

Mold can kill parrots if they’re exposed for long enough. After several weeks in a cage with mold, a parrot will eventually die from severe respiratory issues.

The parrot will grow ill long before it becomes fatal, exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Lose its appetite
  • Difficulty breathing

You can usually observe the signs of mold before they’re no longer possible to reverse.

Black Mold vs. Other Types of Mold

Black mold can damage the brain, nervous, and respiratory systems 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.

mold poisoning in parrots

How Mold Hurts Parrots

The main threat mold poses to parrots is aspergillosis, which takes several weeks to develop. 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:

  • Caged environment
  • Food
  • Owner’s home

Limited Contact

Mold is produced by humidity. It’s common to see mold growing around the home during rainy seasons. At this stage, it won’t harm the parrot unless it comes in direct contact with the mold.

Direct Contact

The parrot may get fungal spores on its feet or beak if the mold isn’t removed. 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. When the parrot exhales, it doesn’t travel outward. Instead, it reaches the air sacs until the parrot breathes again.

Aspergillosis develops gradually, so it only gets noticed once it begins to affect a bird severely. Depending on how often the parrot breathes in spores, the disease can lead to the following:

  • 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 the following:

  • How to identify the symptoms of aspergillosis.
  • The differences between acute aspergillosis and chronic aspergillosis.

Acute Aspergillosis

Acute aspergillosis gradually harms the following:

  • Lungs
  • Air sacs
  • Syrinx
  • Trachea

During this stage, most of the parrot’s organs remain uncompromised. However, there’s an increased amount of drinking and urination that indicates the start of kidney failure.

The most common symptoms of acute aspergillosis are as follows:

  • Lethargy
  • 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, 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.

Chronic Aspergillosis

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:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

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 the organs and the 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 spores leave the body in the next breath, but parrots take extra steps when breathing, so the spores stay longer in the body.

Of course, like any other living creature, when bacteria enter a parrot’s body, its first line of defense (the autoimmune system) will handle 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

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
  • Preen themselves less

This impacts how the parrot can function physically and mentally.

Food

Even if you don’t live in a very humid place, 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.

Another culprit is monkey nuts (peanuts), as they grow underground.

Diet

Malnourished parrots get infected with aspergillosis sooner.

The parrot’s immune system can’t fight off disease without a well-optimized diet. Once infected, the parrot will slowly lose its appetite, removing any chance of rebuilding its immune system.

Cage Hygiene

Cages are ideal for mold to grow as they’re often wet due to spilled drinking water and excretions.

Cage hygiene is a large part of why 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.

Medication

If your parrot is on 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.

aspergillosis

How to Prevent Mold Poisoning in Parrots

Mold poisoning causes an infection that’s difficult to clear up once it becomes chronic. Not much can be done for a parrot with chronic aspergillosis. However, you can take the following preventative steps:

Sunbathing

Allow your 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 your parrot alone in the sun while in a cage because it may overheat and dehydrate.

Moldy Cage Hygiene

Deep clean the cage at least once a week. Don’t use bleach or traditional cleaning products; use white vinegar to clean the cage. Then, leave it out in the sun to dry and kill off any mold.

Clean the House

If there’s mold in your home, clear up the problem.

Deep-clean the home after the rainy season ends to eliminate mold before it produces any 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.

Dehumidifier

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 any mold in your home, move your parrot to a different room until it’s been completely removed. Once the problem is resolved and the air is clear, the parrot can be returned.