Getting rid of fleas on parrots involves the use of oral or topical medications. So, recognizing the signs of fleas early on, such as excessive scratching and feather loss, is important. Fleas can lead to iron deficiencies and anemia in parrots, resulting in further health complications or even death.
Parrots rarely get fleas. Only certain anti-parasitic treatments prescribed by a vet, such as Ivermectin and moxidectin, are parrot-safe. Parrots can’t be bathed with flea shampoo, nor are flea combs suitable.
Preventing re-infestation involves removing fleas from the home. Only a small number of flea-removal chemicals are safe to use around parrots due to the way their respiratory systems work. Alternatively, you can move your parrot to another location during the flea removal exercise.
Can Parrots Get Fleas?
Although uncommon, fleas can live on parrots, sucking blood and laying eggs. Unfortunately, as stated, you can’t rely on flea combs or flea shampoo. Parrots can’t be combed, and they don’t take well to baths that involve heavy scrubbing. Likewise, medicated shampoos may be unsafe for parrots or have no effect.
You may be mistaking the symptoms of fleas for a different problem. Parrots are more likely to have mites or lice than fleas. The signs are similar, so you can end up dealing with the wrong problem. All three parasites are visible as tiny specks on a parrot’s skin and feathers, making diagnosis more difficult.
How Do Parrots Get Fleas?
Even if a parrot is the only animal living in your home, and it’s not allowed outdoors, it can still get fleas. It’s possible that you brought in fleas and infested your parrot. Fleas can be brought into the home by animals, objects, and people that venture outside. Even clothes hung out to dry can carry fleas inside.
Fleas use light and shadows to search for new hosts. This is a behavior that pest exterminators exploit in trap design, which is explored in great detail by Medical and Veterinary Entomology.
Fleas commonly infest a new host when in close contact with another animal. They may also infest an object that other animals have contact with. In the case of parrots, this could be the bedding in an aviary. Parrots that spend time outdoors, such as in an outdoor aviary or on a harness, can get fleas.
Parrots that roam in the home freely may be at risk. They come into contact with the floor and furniture, like couches, and are further exposed to fleas’ favored hiding places. Fleas without a host will lurk in soft materials, such as
- Rugs and carpets
- Couch cushions
Does My Parrot Have Fleas?
Parrots can be quite dexterous, but they aren’t able to scratch a flea-itch easily. They still scratch at certain areas, like the head and face, but it’s more likely that they’ll bite at the itch. A parrot with fleas will be:
- Irritable and restless
- Preening itself excessively
- Ruffling its feathers constantly
Scratching A Lot
Aside from the bites themselves, fleas cause skin irritation. Check for:
- Spots or moving specks underneath the feathers
- Redness, bites, scabs, or rashes
You may be able to see the fleas moving on the skin. They’ll leave behind flea dust, which are flea droppings that look like small grains of dirt or ground pepper. The more flea dirt you find, the worse the infestation.
Although not easy to spot, you may also see flea larvae, which appear as tiny, dark brown worms. These are the most concerning. If left alone, they’ll hatch and cause further discomfort.
When a parrot cleans its feathers and removes dirt, it will drag each feather through its beak. This may be accompanied by ruffling or scratching with its talons.
However, this grooming behavior should be limited to a few short sessions per day. If you notice your parrot is removing a large number of feathers or appears to ruffle itself semi-constantly, it may have fleas.
Does My Parrot Have Mites and Lice?
Most suspected cases of fleas turn out to be mites or lice. That’s because parrots are significantly more likely to come into contact with mites and lice rather than fleas.
Identifying the parasite that’s using your parrot as a host is difficult without a magnifying glass. These creatures are small and formless to the naked eye.
- Mites: These are so small that it’s hard to distinguish them from juvenile fleas. Clumps of mites can look like piles of flea dirt or dustings of ground pepper.
- Lice: These are found on the feathers, rather than on the skin. The feathers may appear frayed, damaged, or covered in specs of dirt. These specs are clumps of lice.
As mites and lice are more common in parrots than fleas, various treatments are available.
How To Get Fleas Off Parrots
In most cases, a veterinarian will prescribe an oral treatment that makes the parrot toxic to fleas. These treatments are put into the parrot’s food or water. Ivermectin and moxidectin are two common treatments.
Sometimes, topical treatments may be recommended. There are also sprays available for external parasites, but they aren’t that effective for treating fleas. It’s best to use them as a preventative measure or to stop re-infestation.
In order to prevent the return of parrot fleas, you’ll need to remove them from your home. However, parrots have a far more delicate respiratory system than humans and are vulnerable to airborne toxins.
Remove your parrot from the area that you’re cleaning. Spraying pesticides and household cleaners in the same room could kill your parrot. The temporary location for its cage must be suitable for the parrot to live for several days.
You’ll need to clean every surface, including:
- Curtains and drapes
- Under and inside furniture
- Pet beds, blankets, and soft toys
- Carpets and rugs
- Bedding and clothes
You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth in areas around your parrot’s cage. This will not harm your parrot but will kill off the fleas. Since these parasites have an exoskeleton, they will dry out and die.
Are Fleas On Parrots Dangerous?
Fleas may seem like a mere annoyance, but they’re dangerous. Fleas kill thousands, of pets, strays, and wild animals every year. Often, fatal cases are those where the:
- Flea infestation is large
- Host animal is old or young
- Host animal is already unwell
No matter the health status of the parrot, if left untreated, fleas will eventually cause anemia and iron deficiencies. As the Canadian Veterinary Journal notes, iron is a vital mineral for many functions within the body. Delicate as parrots are, anemia can cause a rapid decline in health. Left untreated, it can be fatal.
Not all flea treatments are safe to use on parrots, so consult an avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. A vet will also be able to determine if fleas, mites, or lice have infested your parrot.