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, as bacteria, fungi, mites, or lice can be easily mistaken for fleas.
Can a Parrot Catch Fleas?
Parrots are less prone to fleas than dogs or cats, but they can still get 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 the floor.
Despite that, parrots will have a line of defense against fleas, mainly through:
- Scratching with its feet
- Water bathing
- Cosmetic ruffling
According to the Proceedings of the Royal Society, a parrot should be able to rid its body of many fleas or other ectoparasites through preening alone.
A parrot will 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 can’t 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 where they can live.
You might find them hiding in places around your home, such as:
- Bedding or blankets
- Clothes, boxes, and bags
- Curtains or drapes
- Carpets or rugs
Most people unwittingly invite fleas into their homes through outdoor pets or by introducing pre-owned furniture to their homes.
Once your parrot interacts with certain animals and home possessions, fleas can jump onto them. A live host will always be more appealing than a blanket or the floor, as a host is essential for survival.
Of course, the occasional itch from your parrot doesn’t necessarily mean fleas. Here are the confirmatory 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 minor, you can’t allow an 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 fleas.
What Can Be Mistaken for Fleas?
Fleas are uncommon in parrots, but other conditions can be mistaken for fleas, including:
Ectoparasites can get caught in parrot’s feathers. These come from environmental stressors, like poor cage hygiene and high emotional stress levels.
The former allows pests to fester in a parrot’s cage, including lice and mites. Also, bacteria, viruses, and fungi 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 birds treated for parasites.
Lice have similar symptoms to fleas, causing your parrot to excessively itch, preen, and lose feathers.
You’ll need a vet-prescribed pyrethrin spray, like Nuvan, to kill lice. Also, you should consistently clean and disinfect the parrot’s cage and all surfaces.
Feather mites are difficult for humans to see because they’re tiny, but it’s easier to observe how they affect parrots’ behavior and temperament.
Mites cause your parrot to cough, wheeze, or become anemic. They cause your parrot to excessively preen and itch, especially at night when mites awaken.
Also, if you put a white sheet at the base of the cage, you should notice red or brown spots.
Veterinary treatments, like Nuvan, are highly effective. Just spray the feathers, and the mites will perish. Also, Ivermectin 1% drops can be added to the parrot’s drinking water.
Bacteria or Viruses
Bacteria may cause your parrot to excessively 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 environmental and emotional stress are recommended.
Fungal infections can cause lethargy, depression, anorexia or sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.
Antifungal medications can combat these effects. You should also thoroughly clean the parrot cage.
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 won’t harm a 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 can be put into your parrot’s food or water. These are effective flea medications for birds.
Your veterinarian may also prescribe oral insect growth regulators (IGRs). According to the University of Minnesota, IGRs act as natural hormones that kill flea eggs and larvae.
Though adult fleas are unaffected by this treatment, it can prevent a flea infestation from worsening. IGRs can also be a topical treatment your vet can manually apply to the feathers.
Veterinarians may prescribe topical treatments you can spray or apply to your parrot’s body and feathers, but they’re less effective than oral treatments.
They’re usually used as an extra precaution against further infestations. Perhaps your parrot reacted adversely to the oral treatment and must use a topical treatment as an alternative.
Start spraying toward the parrot’s rear and work toward the head, shielding its nose and eyes. Usually, the formula must be applied manually to the head with a cloth or flannel.
Due to parrots’ sensitive respiratory systems, flea sprays should be avoided unless vet-prescribed. Also, follow the vet’s (or product’s) instructions to avoid breathing problems.
Fleas will linger for 3-5 days without a host to feed off.
Applying vet-prescribed treatments is important, but you must also take steps to ensure that fleas can’t return. If fleas still live in the cage, they’ll jump straight back on your parrot.
Fleas can jump roughly 13 inches high to latch onto other surfaces to reach a host.
After applying medications and before returning your parrot to its home, you must clean its cage. Fleas are good at avoiding detection, so pay particular attention to grooves and corners.
Also, sterilize any food/water bowls, swings, mirrors, ladder ropes, perches, and toys.