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How To Get Rid of Fleas on Parrots

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots are rarely affected by fleas, but they can get them from walking on the ground outside the cage. They can also get fleas from other parrots (birds) or when interacting with pets like 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 kill flea eggs (larvae) and can prevent parasite problems from returning.

Sometimes, parrots have different ectoparasites because mites and lice are often mistaken for fleas. If you’re unsure, a veterinarian should make a formal diagnosis.

How Parrots Catch Fleas

Parrots are less susceptible to fleas than dogs or cats, but they can still get them.

They may encounter fleas hiding in areas of the home when free-roaming, such as:

  • Bedding or blankets.
  • Clothes, boxes, and bags.
  • Curtains or drapes.
  • Cushions.
  • Furniture like beds and sofas.
  • Carpets or rugs.

Adult fleas can survive for up to two weeks without a live host. If a parrot goes on or near an infested item, the fleas will conceal themselves in the parrot’s feathers and feed off the parrot’s blood.

It’s also possible that a parrot got fleas from another parrot or pet, like a dog or cat. People also bring fleas into their homes through outdoor pets or by introducing pre-owned furniture.

Once a parrot interacts with animals and home possessions, fleas can jump onto them. A live host will always be more appealing than a blanket, as a host is essential to their survival.

Signs of Fleas in Parrots

The occasional itching from a parrot doesn’t necessarily mean it has fleas or other ectoparasites. While flea bites are itchy, there are alternative explanations.

Fleas are tiny and brown-colored but can be hard to detect, especially with declining vision. Hook-billed birds like parrots are most likely to get fleas in the spring, which is the peak season.

Here are some common signs that a parrot has fleas:

  • Excessive scratching.
  • Increased irritability and restlessness.
  • Excessive preening or feather ruffling.
  • Damaged and lost feathers.

Although bird fleas may seem minor, you can’t allow an infestation to grow. A flea infestation can impact a parrot’s health, mobility, ability to fly, and long-term survival chances.

Fleas need a live host’s blood to survive. As the number of fleas increases, they’ll need even more blood. Unfortunately, this means that a parrot will develop anemia with life-threatening implications.

An elderly, juvenile, or already-ill parrot will be most vulnerable to fleas.

Bird Fleas Go Away on Their Own

Parrots do have a line of defense against fleas, mainly through:

  • Preening.
  • Scratching with their feet.
  • Bathing.
  • Dusting.
  • Sunbathing.
  • Cosmetic ruffling.

A parrot should be able to rid its body of most fleas or other ectoparasites through preening alone.

It’ll preen itself or seek the assistance of a flock member. This mutual preening is a sign of bonding and removes parasites hidden around its neck and head, where it can’t reach itself.

Things Mistaken for Fleas

Fleas are uncommon in parrots, and other conditions are often mistaken for fleas, including:

  • Lice.
  • Mites.
  • Bacteria, viral, and fungal infections.

Poor cage hygiene can allow ectoparasites, like lice and mites, to grow and multiply. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can also cause symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

The Proceedings of the Royal Society found that ectoparasites can reduce the long-term survival of parrots. Indeed, non-treated birds had a 12% lower survival rate than ones treated for parasites.

parrot safe flea treatment

Lice

Lice have similar symptoms to fleas. To kill lice, you’ll need a vet-prescribed pyrethrin spray, like Nuvan. You should also regularly clean and disinfect the cage and nearby surfaces.

Mites

Feather mites are difficult to see with the naked eye because they’re tiny, but it’s easier to observe how they affect parrots’ behavior and temperament.

Mites cause parrots to cough, wheeze, or become anemic. They result in a pet bird excessively preening and itching, especially at night when mites awaken.

You’ll observe red or brown spots if you put a white sheet at the bottom of the cage.

Veterinary treatments, like Nuvan, are highly effective. Just spray the feathers, and the mites will perish. Also, 1% drops of Ivermectin can be added to a parrot’s drinking water.

How To Remove Fleas from Parrots

Parrot flea treatment includes vet-prescribed medications and home remedies. A vet will recommend a parrot-safe flea treatment that kills fleas without harming the skin or feathers.

Fortunately, there are proven methods you can use to get rid of fleas on pet birds:

Oral Treatments

A veterinarian will prescribe an oral flea medication like Ivermectin or moxidectin that can be added to a parrot’s food or water.

A vet may also prescribe oral insect growth regulators (IGRs). According to the University of Minnesota, IGRs are natural hormones that kill flea eggs and larvae.

Although adult fleas are unaffected by this treatment, it can prevent their number from increasing. IGRs can also be a topical treatment manually applied to the feathers.

Topical Treatments

Veterinarians may prescribe topical treatments you can spray or apply to the body and feathers, but they’re less effective than oral treatments.

They’re usually used as an extra precaution against further infestations. Perhaps the parrot reacted adversely to the oral treatment and must use a topical treatment as an alternative.

Start spraying toward the bird’s rear and work toward the head, shielding its nose and eyes. Usually, the formula will be applied manually to the head with a cloth or flannel.

Due to a parrot’s sensitive respiratory system, flea sprays should be avoided unless vet-prescribed. Also, follow the vet’s (or product’s) instructions to prevent breathing problems.

Deep Cleaning

Fleas will linger for around 14 days without a host to feed off.

Applying a vet-prescribed treatment is essential, but take steps to ensure that fleas can’t return. If fleas still live in the cage (or the home), they’ll jump back on the parrot.

Fleas can jump roughly 13 inches high to latch onto other surfaces to reach a host.

After applying medication and before returning the parrot to its home, you must clean the cage.

Bird fleas are good at avoiding detection, so pay particular attention to the grooves and corners. Also, sterilize food and water bowls, swings, mirrors, ladder ropes, perches, and toys.