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What Causes Seizures in Parrots?

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Seizures are common, especially among African grays, Amazons, and parakeets. The causes include head injuries, inhaling toxins, dehydration, malnutrition, overheating, and specific health concerns.

Seizures can be confused with shaking or trembling due to low temperatures, anger, or excitement.

While a seizure may not kill a parrot, the underlying cause could be fatal. Seizures must never be ignored, no matter how common they are among certain species.

Parrot Seizure Meaning

Seizures can arise at any time. A seizure involves a bird losing control of its muscles, twitching, and jerking involuntarily. Unexpected disturbances cause a seizure in the brain.

According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal, seizures are unpredictable. A parrot may return to normal as if nothing happened before having another seizure within 24 hours.

How To Tell If A Parrot Is Having A Seizure

You must understand the difference between a parrot shaking and trembling and 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 other reasons.

What Parrot Seizures Look Like

Seizures unfold over 3 stages:

Aural (Preictal) PhaseThe parrot may grow agitated and aggressive or stand in silence and stare into space because it’s aware that something bad is happening and feels afraid.
Ictal PhaseIt’ll spasm, jerk, flap its wings, empty its bowels, and fall from the perch. Some parrots are silent during the ictal phase, while others squawk. This lasts up to 30 seconds.
Postical PhaseThis phase follows the seizure’s symptoms and can last for hours. The parrot will come around and regain control but will be exhausted, confused, and aggravated.

The parrot must be cared for throughout the postictal phase.

Why Parrots Have Seizures

Parrot seizures can strike at any time for various reasons. Here are some 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. Concussions can cause nerve damage and bruising of the brain. The warning signs include:

  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Lack of coordination when walking or flying.
  • Struggling to grasp a perch.
  • General lethargy, including sleeping more than usual.
  • Drooping wings.
  • Inappetence and regurgitating food.

The 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 medically assess the damage.

Toxicity

Toxins can be inhaled or consumed. Common toxins that endanger parrots include:

Always keep parrots away from toxins because the consequences can be significant.

Dehydration

Some parrots are fussy about drinking water, increasing the risk of dehydration.

Dehydration is a leading risk factor 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, like natural fruit juice.

If the weather is hot and the parrot doesn’t drink often, consider adding electrolytes to the water. Use powdered supplements, although an occasional drink of Gatorade is parrot-safe.

Inappropriate Environment

Don’t allow the parrot to get too hot because sunstroke can cause seizures. This means you must ensure the parrot is housed in the right part of the home.

Parrots need lots of sleep, so partially or fully cover the cage at night. Then, locate it in a quiet area. This should be far from children and external noise sources, like windows, TV sets, or radios.

Avoid overstimulation, as some parrots are prone to stress seizures.

Nutritional Deficiency

Many avian health concerns, including seizures, can be traced back to nutritional deficiency. Sometimes, owners feed nuts and seeds almost exclusively, leading to vitamin deficiencies.

The main concern is hypocalcemia, a calcium deficiency. Seizures can follow if the parrot lacks calcium or the vitamin D3 from sunlight to absorb calcium into the bloodstream.

Low blood sugar can cause seizures in parrots, so check for symptoms of diabetes. Birds also need enough vitamin A because too much or too little adversely impacts their health.

how do I know if my parrot is having a seizure?

Infection or Disease

Common health concerns that lead to seizures include:

  • Very high or low blood pressure.
  • Liver disease.
  • Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABG).
  • Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by the inhalation of black mold.

Seizures usually arise later as illnesses progress, so be mindful of behavioral and demeanor modifications before the neurological impact becomes clear.

Epilepsy

According to Brain Research, birds can get epilepsy. Epilepsy must be diagnosed using a brain scan. A parrot with a seizure isn’t necessarily epileptic, but it’s possible.

Many of us associate epilepsy with flashing lights, but this is among the least common triggers. Stress, poor sleep, and certain medications can cause seizures.

If a parrot is diagnosed with epilepsy, it’ll need lifelong medication to live a relatively normal life.

Brain Tumors

If other explanations for seizures have been investigated, the parrot could have a brain tumor. Seizures are common, but different outcomes will likely be identified before performing scans.

According to the Journal of Avian Veterinary Surgery, brain tumors are rare in parrots. Additional symptoms and unusual behaviors typically accompany brain tumors.

Parrot Seizures And Death

A seizure is a symptom of another 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 mortality.

This doesn’t mean seizures can be ignored or considered a normal part of life. The reason for the seizure, such as toxicity or sickness, could cost a parrot its life if ignored.

Treatment for Seizure in Parrots

If a parrot has a seizure, seek immediate veterinary assistance. According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, a vet must identify and address the underlying cause.

Follow these steps to make life easier and prevent accidents:

  1. Calm the parrot with reassuring words.
  2. Line the bottom of the cage with soft bedding.
  3. Remove toys, perches, or other stimulation from the cage – leave only food and water.
  4. Place the parrot at the bottom of the cage to prevent falls.
  5. Remain with the parrot, but don’t attempt handling or physical interaction.

This is no substitute for treatment for a seizure from a vet, but it makes parrots more comfortable.