Seizures are common in parrots, especially African grays, Amazons, canaries, and parakeets.
Common explanations for seizures in parrots include head injuries, inhaling toxins, dehydration, malnutrition, overheating, and an underlying health concern.
Seizures can be confused with basic shaking or trembling caused by low temperatures, anger, or excitement to see you. Understanding the signs of a seizure may save the parrot’s life.
While a seizure is unlikely to kill a parrot, the underlying cause of the issue may 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 inspire a seizure in the brain of a parrot.
As per the Canadian Veterinary Journal, seizures can be unpredictable. A parrot may return to normal as though nothing happened following a seizure but experience an identical attack within 24 hours.
How Do I Know if My Parrot is Having a Seizure?
You 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 your parrot’s body language to understand when it’s shaking for any reason beyond a seizure.
What Does a Parrot Seizure Look Like?
Parrot seizures unfold over three 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, as it’s aware that something is happening and is afraid.|
|Ictal Phase||The parrot will 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 physical symptoms and can last several hours. The parrot will come around and regain control of itself but will likely be exhausted, confused, and aggravated.|
The parrot must be cared for during the postictal phase of a seizure, as it’ll be frightened and agitated.
Why Does My Parrot Have Seizures?
Parrot seizures can strike at any time for various reasons. Here are the most common explanations:
1/ 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 need to supervise these endeavors. Parrots aren’t always careful in their exercise.
If a parrot hits its head while flying, perhaps by flying into a window or a ceiling fan, it could be concussed. Parrot concussion leads to potential nerve damage and bruising on 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 your parrot is concussed, keep it warm and support the 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 your parrot’s health at risk include:
- Heavy metals, most notably zinc or lead.
- Fumes from air fresheners, cleaning materials, or paint.
- Onion and garlic.
- Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
Always keep your parrot away from toxins, as the consequences can be significant – seizures are a warning that something is amiss.
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 that your parrot regularly visits a water bowl and bottle, especially in the summer. If your parrot needs encouragement to drink, apply a sweet taste to the water.
If the weather is particularly hot and your parrot doesn’t drink as often as you would like, consider adding electrolytes to the water for rapid hydration.
Use powdered supplements where possible, although an occasional drink of Gatorade is parrot-safe.
4/ Inappropriate Environment
Always ensure that the parrot is housed in an appropriate part of the home.
Don’t allow the parrot to get too hot, as sunstroke can cause seizures, but allow at least some access to natural sunlight for vitamin D absorption.
Parrots need 8-10 hours of sleep, so cover the cage at night and locate your 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. These birds will bounce back once the seizure has passed, but it’ll be a frightening experience.
5/ Nutritional Deficiency
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. If your parrot lacks calcium, or vitamin D used to process and absorb calcium in the bloodstream, seizures can follow.
Low blood sugar can also lead to seizures in parrots, so check for any symptoms of diabetes. Your bird also needs an appropriate balance of vitamin A – too much or too little can impact parrots’ health.
6/ Infection or Disease
Parrots are fairly robust but can be susceptible to various diseases and sicknesses. The most common health concerns that lead to seizures in parrots are:
- Excessively high or low blood pressure.
- Liver disease.
- Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABG), formerly known as Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) and commonly called Parrot Wasting Disease.
- 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 is not 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 normal life.
8/ Brain Tumors
If all other explanations for a parrot to experience regular seizures have been investigated and exhausted, 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 concern, not an illness in itself.
While a parrot can die as a consequence of a seizure – if it jerks so violently that it breaks its neck, for example, or falls from a great height – it’s unlikely to lead to direct mortality.
This doesn’t mean that 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 of the seizure.
In the short term, take 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 them more comfortable.
Parrot seizures can be frightening, but they can be managed.