parrot sneezing and runny nose

Why Does My Parrot Sneeze? (Colds, Sniffling, Runny Nose, Discharge)

You may be surprised to hear your parrot sneeze. Parrots don’t often sniffle or sneeze, but it’s a normal behavior, as long as it’s not a wet sneeze. If the discharge is thick and yellow, this is abnormal.

Parrots sneeze to clear out dust and airborne irritants. Harmless causes of sneezing include dry air, dust, strong odors, and dander. Your parrot may have allergies caused by mites, food, or airborne particles. More seriously, your parrot may sneeze due to a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection of its respiratory system.

Your parrot will normally sneeze only once, without discharge, and then stop. If it sneezes several times or has a runny nose with oddly colored discharge, it should be checked over by an avian veterinarian.

Is It Normal for Parrots to Sneeze?

Parrots sneeze for the same reason as humans. It’s a way to remove foreign bodies from their nostrils so their breathing isn’t obstructed. This also clears out certain types of bacteria, so the parrot is less likely to get sick. However, there are two completely different kinds of sneezes:

Parrot Sneezing No Discharge

This dry sneeze is safe and normal. It happens when your parrot’s nostrils have a build-up of dust or a small, foreign object. This sneeze helps dispel the object or get rid of the dust.

Because of that single purpose, it doesn’t expel any fluids from the nasal cavity. If your parrot dry sneezes once a day, or every few days, then it’s nothing to worry about.

Parrot Wet Sneeze

Wet sneezes can be more concerning. The fluid will come out of the parrot’s nostrils when it sneezes. If the fluid is clear, it may be nasal irritation from an object or dust. The parrot should sneeze once or twice and then stop.

If the sneezes continue or the discharge is oddly colored, it could indicate a bacterial or fungal infection. Some of these can be resolved with medication. A vet may also recommend that you clean the parrot’s environment or relocate its cage to a more humid room. However, wet sneezing could mean: 

  • Chlamydiosis
  • Aspergillosis
  • Candidiasis
  • Hypovitaminosis A
  • Choanal atresia

You may not be able to diagnose this yourself, so note the symptoms and share the information with your vet.

Causes of A Sniffling Pet Parrot

Sneezing doesn’t always mean that your parrot is sick. The sniffling and sneezing may be caused by a change to the parrot’s environment or a problem with its food. By making some adjustments, your parrot may stop sneezing.

sneezing in baby parrots

Dry Environment

You may live in a dry climate or a home that’s free of humidity. If so, your parrot’s nostrils may dry out. This causes it to sneeze due to skin irritation, dust, and dry skin flakes building up inside its nose.

Consider setting up a humidifier near your parrot’s cage. This will moisten the air and stop any sneezing. You can also let your parrot in the shower room and use steam to loosen up their dry passages.

Dust

If you’ve recently performed Spring cleaning or dust has built up, this can:

  • Get into your parrot’s nasal cavities
  • Irritate the area
  • Cause the parrot to sneeze

Keeping your home/parrot’s cage clean and dust-free will prevent this type of sneezing. Consider replacing the air filters in your home if your parrot sneezes regularly. You can also locate an air purifier in the room that holds the bird cage to sift out any irritants or airborne particles.

Strong Odors

If you spray a chemical or a strong fragrance near parrots, it can get into the nostrils and air sacs. This can cause irritation and difficulty breathing, resulting in sneezing. It’s best to keep scented candles, sprays, perfumes, and diffusers away from parrots.

Allergies

Your parrot could also be allergic to something around it or what it’s eating. If it’s sneezing after each meal, it may be allergic to its food. You’ll need to narrow down which ingredient is causing the problem.

If your parrot sneezes after you open a window, it could be allergic to pollution or pollen. You’ll need to get an air purifier to remove any airborne irritants. This sneezing may be worse during the Spring and Summer.

Respiratory Problem

Respiratory diseases and infections can also bring on sneezing and nasal discharge. They are usually the result of fungal, viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Your parrot may have picked this up from another bird, its food, or from contagents brought into your home.

Parrot Fever

The bacteria chlamydia psittaci brings on Parrot fever. It can be transmitted between species. According to Animal Welfare, parrot fever is one of the most common bacterial infections parrots spread to humans. If your parrot is sneezing often, limit your contact with it for now and reach out to your vet.

Tumors

Your parrot may sneeze as an early sign of a tumor. Tumors can cause respiratory infections in the nasal cavity. In this case, surgical removal will be necessary.

According to AAV Today, most tumors in the beak are malignant and invasive. The treatment will need to be aggressive, and medication prescribed to deal with any issues from the surgery.

Mite Infestation

Parasitic mites can bite the skin. Most crucially, your parrot may be allergic to the mites themselves. Any bites will become inflamed and result in flu-like symptoms, such as sneezing.

Imitation

It’s possible that your parrot heard the sound of you sneezing and thought it was funny. It’s decided to mimic you. Parrots often pick up the sounds and motions they enjoy from their environment. You may see your parrot imitate sirens or your favorite song. On occasion, it may imitate your laugh, cough, or sneeze. 

Can Parrots Get Colds?

Parrots don’t get colds. The bacteria or viruses that cause a cold in humans are species-specific. No matter how exposed your parrot is to someone with a cold, it won’t be adversely affected.

Why Is My Parrot Sneezing?

Parrots can get respiratory infections, which have similar symptoms to colds. The most common causes of respiratory infection in parrots are:

  • Chlamydophila
  • Mycoplasma

They can be the result of bacteria or viruses, which your parrot contracts from its environment. These infections cause:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • A runny nare (or beak)

Parrots have delicate immune systems, and the design of their air sacs makes them more vulnerable than humans.

Symptoms

Respiratory infections don’t just involve sneezing, so look out for these other signs. If two or more symptoms are combined with sneezing, your parrot needs medication or other treatments. These symptoms include:

  • Audible breathing sounds
  • Shivering
  • Diarrhea
  • Discharge from nose or eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Sleepiness
  • Little or no appetite

These symptoms may also be paired with difficulty breathing and lethargy. For a parrot, breathing issues involve your parrot:

  • Leaning forward and stretching its neck
  • Breathing with an open mouth
  • Puffing out its cheeks
  • Bobbing its tail with each breath

Parrot Sneezing And Runny Nose

There are two types of nasal discharge after sneezing:  

Clear Discharge

If your parrot has a runny nose with clear, thin, fluid discharge, this is mainly caused by irritants in the environment. Check if your home is dusty, dry, or has strong odors floating around it. It’s also possible that allergies are bothering your parrot.

Thick Discharge

Thick and yellow discharge means that the parrot has an infectious disease. The discharge may have blood in it. This indicates the presence of an infection or tumor.

How Often Should Parrots Sneeze?

Parrots may only sneeze once per day or far less than that. This will be an infrequent habit as they clear their nasal passageways of dust and other irritants.

If your parrot sneezes many times in a row, this indicates that it has a more severe irritation. If a parrot’s beak is running with discharge or has wet sneezes, a vet should examine it. While normal sneezes can expel fluid, any discharge that’s heavy or discolored can be more problematic.

Can Vets Help Parrot Sniffling?

Upon reaching a clinic, your vet will examine the parrot and ask for its medical history. The vet may order tests, including blood samples or an x-ray.

If heavy sneezing is a symptom of an infection, the vet will prescribe medication. This may include antibiotics or antifungals, depending on the cause.

They may also recommend that you change the parrot’s environment and diet plan. If the sneezing is a sign of an allergy, that allergen will need to be identified and removed.

If the sneezing is due to a tumor, surgery will be needed.

Your vet will also recommend preventative measures to take once your parrot is healthy.

can parrots get colds?

How to Prevent Sneezing in Parrots

There are changes you can make to your parrot’s environment and diet. These will limit the irritants or enable your parrot to fend off possible illnesses. Things to do include:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is crucial in preventing a respiratory infection and sneezing. Food rich in vitamin A not only boosts the parrot’s immune system but also makes it harder for bacteria to attack the lining of your parrot’s air sacs and cause an infection.

A lack of vitamin A can lead to changes to the cells that line the nasal cavity, making it easier for an infection to occur. Vitamin A-rich foods include:

Flushing

If your parrot routinely struggles with allergies or dust in the air, your vet may recommend this treatment. Flushing involves clearing out your parrot’s nostrils with a saline solution.

This is only appropriate when advised by your vet. Also, they should demonstrate the safe way to administer this treatment. Parrots dislike flushing, so proceed with caution.

Bathing

Bathing can help your parrot to stop sneezing and avoid respiratory infections. If given water, your parrot may flush its own nostrils, moisten the cavities, and clear out any discharge.

This prevents a build-up of dust, pollen, and other irritants. Also, giving your parrot a chance to bathe in a steamy room will moisten its nostrils and stop dryness from causing sneezing.

Different Cages

If your parrot shares a cage and often sneezes, it might need to be placed in a different enclosure. The other birds may be creating dust from their feathers or poop.

Alternatively, clean the cage more often. Even wood shavings from the perch, which parrots may sharpen their beaks on, can be a problem if they build up.

Smoke

Smoking and cooking can cause parrots to sneeze. If your parrot is exposed to cigarette smoke or fumes from non-stick cooking pans, this can lead to respiratory problems.

Infrequent sneezing isn’t an issue for parrots. Contact a vet if the sneezing becomes wet or frequent so that the right treatment can be administered.