Parrots rarely get fleas, but they can get them from walking on the ground outside of their cage. Parrots can also get fleas from other parrots or when interacting with cats or dogs.
To treat fleas in parrots, most vets will prescribe ivermectin or moxidectin. These oral treatments can be added to a parrot’s food or water for easy ingestion. They work to kill flea eggs and can prevent the problem from returning.
Of course, your parrot might have contracted an ectoparasite instead of fleas. Bacteria, fungi, mites, or lice can be easily mistaken for fleas. The good news is that a vet can treat these problems as well. That’s why you need to take your pet to your veterinarian if it begins itching, over-preening, or losing feathers.
Can a Parrot Catch Fleas?
Parrots are less prone to fleas than dogs or cats, but they’re still capable of getting them.
If you see your parrot itching itself and wonder, “Does my parrot have fleas?” the answer is likely yes. This usually happens when parrots are allowed to roam around on your floor.
Despite that, parrots will have their own line of defense against fleas, mainly through:
- Daily preening
- Scratching with its feet
- Water bathing
- Cosmetic ruffling
According to the Proceedings of the Royal Society, your parrot should be able to rid its body of a large number of fleas or other ectoparasites just through preening alone.
Your parrot will either preen itself or seek the assistance of another parrot in its flock. This mutual preening is a sign of close bonding and helps the parrot get rid of any parasites hidden around its neck or head, where it cannot reach itself.
It’s also possible that your parrot got fleas from another parrot (or pet, such as a dog or cat) in your home. Fleas are resilient in terms of what they can live on.
You might find them hiding in places around your house, such as:
- Bedding or blankets
- Stuck on clothes, boxes, bags, or other items you might bring in from outside
- In curtains or drapes
- Inside cushions or furniture
- In carpets or rugs
Once your parrot interacts with these objects, the fleas can jump onto it. A warm, live host will always be more appealing than a blanket or the floor. Of course, the occasional itch from your parrot doesn’t necessarily mean fleas.
Here are the confirming signs that your parrot has fleas:
- Excessive scratching
- Scratching its head
- Increased irritability or aggression
- Excessive preening or ruffling
- Feather loss
Though fleas might seem like a minor annoyance at best, you cannot allow this infestation to grow out of control. Excess fleas can gravely impact your parrot’s health, mobility, ability to fly, and long-term survival.
An elderly parrot, baby parrot, or already ill bird will be especially vulnerable to a flea infestation.
What Can Be Mistaken for Fleas?
As mentioned, fleas are rare in parrots. There are other conditions your parrot might have instead, which you’ve easily mistaken for fleas. It’s still a kind of parasite that is bothering your parrot.
Your pet parrot may have:
Ectoparasites can get caught in parrot feathers. These parasites stem from environmental stressors, namely poor hygiene and high emotional stress levels in your parrot.
The former allows pests to fester in your bird’s cage, including lice and mites. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi, on the other hand, tend to also come with other harsh health symptoms. These include lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Another study from the Proceedings of the Royal Society found that ectoparasites can reduce the long-term survival of your parrot. Indeed, non-treated birds had a 12% less survival rate compared to birds treated for these parasites.
This could cause the host bird to lose up to 1 year of its predicted lifespan alone.
Lice will have similar symptoms to fleas. They cause your parrot to excessively itch, preen, and lose its feathers.
Oral or topical treatments prescribed by your veterinarian can treat this. You should also consistently clean and disinfect the parrot’s cage, as well as all surfaces it has come in contact with.
Mites are very similar to fleas, and one can be confused for the other.
They’ll cause your parrot to excessively preen and itch, especially at night when the mites wake up. They may also cause your parrot to cough, wheeze, become anemic, or ill.
Topical treatments prescribed by your veterinarian are ideal. Sevin dust and diatomaceous earth may also be lightly sprinkled on your parrot.
Bacteria or Viruses
Bacteria may cause your parrot to excessively (and ineffectively) preen itself.
Bacteria and viruses can also cause lung infections, eye infections, difficulty breathing, and diarrhea. Treatment includes antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian.
Thorough cleaning of the cage and reducing the environmental and emotional stress of your parrot are recommended.
Fungal infections can cause lethargy, depression, anorexia or sudden weight loss, loss in appetite, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.
Fungal medications as prescribed by your veterinarian can help combat these effects. You should also thoroughly clean the parrot cage to remove the source of the problem.
If your parrot contracts any of these ectoparasites, then you need to visit your veterinarian.
How to Remove Fleas from Parrots
Parrot flea treatment includes veterinarian-prescribed medications and home remedies. You and your vet will want to find an effective, parrot-safe flea treatment that will not harm your parrot’s skin or feathers.
Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to get rid of fleas:
A veterinarian will prescribe an oral flea medication such as ivermectin or moxidectin that you can slip into your parrot’s food or water.
These treatments are effective flea medications for birds and are the most effective flea treatments available for most animals.
Your veterinarian may also prescribe oral insect growth regulators (IGRs). According to the University of Minnesota, IGRs act as natural hormones that inhibit and eventually kill off flea eggs and larvae.
Though adult fleas are unaffected by this treatment, it can prevent a flea infestation from growing any worse. IGRs may also come as a topical treatment that you or your vet will manually apply to your parrot’s feathers.
Veterinarians may also prescribe topical treatments that you can spray or otherwise apply to your parrot’s body. These treatments tend to be less effective than oral treatments.
As such, they’re typically added on as an extra precaution against further infestations. It’s also possible that your parrot has reacted negatively to the oral treatment and must use a topical treatment as an alternative.
Flea sprays should be avoided unless prescribed by your vet directly. This is because your pet parrot’s respiratory system is quite delicate, and it may die if it inhales any toxic fumes.
Applying any treatments your vet gives you isn’t sufficient. You need to make sure that these fleas do not have the chance to come back.
Thoroughly cleaning your parrot’s cage is the best course of action after applying medications. Of course, you need to ensure that your parrot is far away from its cage before you spray any pesticides or other harmful toxins.
You should clean any surfaces your parrot may have come into contact with recently. Fleas will burrow into almost anything and linger there for around 2 weeks without a host to feed off of. These fleas can also jump roughly 13 inches high to latch onto other surfaces to reach a host.
Daily bathing should be encouraged to drown fleas. If allowed, mix topical treatments with the bathing water.