Seizures are common in parrots, especially African greys, Amazon parrots, and parakeets.
Causes of seizures in parrots include head injuries, inhaling toxins, dehydration, malnutrition, overheating, and underlying health concerns.
Seizures are sometimes confused with basic shaking or trembling caused by low temperatures, anger, or excitement to see you. Understanding the signs of a seizure can save the parrot’s life.
While a seizure may not kill a parrot, the underlying cause could be fatal. Seizures in parrots mustn’t be ignored, no matter how commonplace they may be.
What Is A Parrot Seizure?
Seizures in parrots can arise at any time. A seizure involves a parrot losing control of its muscles, twitching, and jerking involuntarily. Unexpected disturbances cause a seizure in the brain.
As per the Canadian Veterinary Journal, seizures can be unpredictable. A parrot may return to normal as if nothing happened but experience an identical seizure within 24 hours.
How Do I Know if My Parrot is Having a Seizure?
You’ll need to understand the difference between a parrot shaking and trembling and a bird having a seizure. Parrots shake due to excitement, anger, overstimulation, and low body temperatures.
Learn the parrot’s body language to understand when it’s shaking for a reason other than a seizure.
What Does a Parrot Seizure Look Like?
Parrot seizures unfold over 3 stages:
|Aural (Preictal) Phase||Consider this the warning of an impending seizure. The parrot may become agitated and aggressive or stand in silence and stare into space because it’s aware that something bad is happening and is afraid.|
|Ictal Phase||It’ll spasm, jerk, flap its wings, empty its bowels, and fall from a perch. Some parrots are silent during the ictal phase; others squawk loudly. This lasts up to 30 seconds.|
|Postical Phase||This phase follows a seizure’s symptoms and can last several hours. The parrot will come around and regain control but will be exhausted, confused, and aggravated.|
The parrot must be cared for during the postictal phase of a seizure because it’ll be afraid and agitated.
Why Does My Parrot Have Seizures?
Parrot seizures can strike at any time for various reasons. Here are the most common explanations:
Brain Injury (Concussion)
Parrots are endlessly curious and need time outside the cage to exercise. While a parrot will enjoy its time flying free, you must supervise its endeavors.
A parrot could be concussed if it hits its head flying into a window or ceiling fan. Parrot concussion can cause nerve damage and bruising of the brain.
The warning signs that a parrot is concussed include:
- Sensitivity to light.
- Lack of coordination in walking or flying.
- Struggling to hold onto a perch.
- General lethargy, including sleeping more than usual.
- Drooping wings.
- Lack of appetite and regurgitating food.
Any of these symptoms can eventually evolve into seizures. If you’re concerned that a parrot is concussed, keep it warm and support its head until a vet can assess the damage.
Toxins could be inhaled or consumed, which is why it’s so critical that parrots are housed appropriately. Common toxins that place the parrot’s health at risk include:
- Heavy metals, like zinc or lead.
- Fumes from air fresheners, cleaning materials, or paint.
- Onion and garlic.
- Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
Always keep parrots away from toxins because the consequences can be significant – seizures are often a warning that something else is wrong.
Some parrots can be fussy about drinking water, which leads to a risk of dehydration.
Dehydration is among the leading risk factors for seizures. Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice also warns that dehydration can lead to renal failure in birds.
Always ensure the parrot regularly visits a water bowl and bottle, especially in the summer. If a parrot needs encouragement to drink, add a sweet taste to the water.
If the weather is particularly hot and the parrot doesn’t drink as often as you want, consider adding electrolytes to the water for rapid hydration.
Use powdered supplements where possible, although an occasional drink of Gatorade is parrot-safe.
Always ensure that the parrot is housed in an appropriate part of the home.
Don’t allow the parrot to get too hot because sunstroke can cause seizures, but allow some access to natural sunlight for vitamin D3 synthesis.
Parrots need 8-10 hours of sleep, so cover the cage at night and locate the bird in a quiet part of the home where it won’t be disturbed.
This should be far from children and external noise sources, like windows, TV sets, or radios.
Avoid overstimulation, as some parrots – especially smaller species like parakeets – can be prone to stress seizures. The birds will bounce back once the seizure has passed, but it’ll be a frightening experience.
Many parrots’ health concerns, including seizures, can be traced back to nutritional deficiency. Many owners feed nuts and seeds almost exclusively, leading to insufficient vitamins.
The main concern that impacts captive parrots is hypocalcemia, a calcium deficiency. Seizures can follow if the parrot lacks calcium or vitamin D3 to absorb calcium into the bloodstream.
Low blood sugar can also lead to seizures in parrots, so check for symptoms of diabetes. A bird also needs an appropriate balance of vitamin A – too much or too little can adversely impact parrots’ health.
Infection or Disease
Parrots can be susceptible to various diseases and sicknesses. The most common health concerns that lead to seizures in parrots include the following:
- Excessively high or low blood pressure.
- Liver disease.
- Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABG).
- Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by the inhalation of black mold.
Seizures will usually arise later in the evolution of these illnesses, so be mindful of changes to the parrot’s behavior and demeanor before the neurological impact becomes clear.
As per Brain Research, birds can get epilepsy. Epilepsy needs to be diagnosed using a brain scan, and a parrot with a seizure isn’t necessarily epileptic, but it shouldn’t be written off as a possibility.
Many people associate epilepsy with flashing lights, but this is among the least common triggers for a seizure. Stress, poor sleep, and certain medications can cause seizures.
If a parrot is diagnosed with epilepsy, it’ll need lifelong medication. Thankfully, this will enable the parrot to live a full and relatively normal life.
If other explanations for regular seizures have been investigated, the bird could have a brain tumor.
Seizures are unwelcome but common in parrots, and a wide array of other outcomes will be explored and likely identified before resorting to scans.
As per the Journal of Avian Veterinary Surgery, brain tumors are rare in parrots and are accompanied by additional symptoms and unusual behaviors.
Can a Parrot Die from a Seizure?
A seizure is a symptom of a wider health concern.
While a parrot can die due to a seizure – if it jerks so violently that it breaks its neck or falls from a great height – it’s unlikely to lead to direct mortality.
This doesn’t mean seizures can be ignored or considered a normal part of parrot life. The problem at the root of the seizure, such as toxicity or sickness, could cost a parrot its life if left untreated.
Treatment for Seizure in Parrots
If the parrot has a seizure, seek veterinary assistance. According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, a vet must identify and address the underlying cause.
Follow these steps to perform first aid on a parrot:
- Calm the parrot with soothing, reassuring words.
- Line the bottom of the cage with soft bedding.
- Remove toys, perches, or other stimulation from the cage – leave only food and water.
- Place the parrot at the bottom of the cage.
- Remain with the parrot, but don’t attempt to handle or physically interact.
To reiterate, this isn’t a treatment for a seizure, but it makes parrots more comfortable.