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Why Does My Parrot’s Breath Smell Bad?

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

If you detect an unpleasant odor when a parrot breathes, it may have a bacterial infection. Bacteria can spread to the crop (called sour crop) or the intestines due to a blockage.

Sour crop can usually be resolved by temporarily withholding food until the crop empties itself. Unfortunately, intestinal blockages require a surgical procedure from a veterinarian.

A lack of vitamin A can lead to bad breath in parrots (halitosis) as their oral health deteriorates.

If a parrot’s breath smells like sour beer, it likely has candidiasis. This yeast infection is caused by stress, excessive sugar, or unbalanced gut bacteria.

Bad breath isn’t always due to bacterial or fungal infections. You can cure the condition by changing the parrot’s diet so that it has the essential nutrients to thrive in captivity.

Causes of Bad Breath in Parrots

Here are the reasons for fish, garlic, and poop-scented breath:

Wrong Diet

There are dietary explanations for halitosis, including:

  • All-seed diets frequently lead to smelly breath.
  • A lack of dietary balance, especially an excess of fat or protein.
  • Feeding a parrot spoiled or rotten food.
  • Dairy products can take longer to digest.

Strong-smelling foods can also linger on a parrot’s breath.

Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)

A beer-like scent suggests a parrot has a yeast infection called candidiasis (thrush). An excess of fungi causes candidiasis (Candida albicans). Common explanations include:

  • Excessive sugar. Fungi feed upon sugar and thrive in a parrot’s mouth.
  • The side effects of antibiotics can unbalance gut bacteria.
  • Reduced immunity makes it difficult for a parrot to fight off fungal infections.
  • Stress due to lack of sleep, excessive noise, boredom, loneliness, or a cramped cage.

The Veterinary Journal of Mehmet Akif Ersoy University explains how Candida albicans fungi can be extracted from plaque in a parrot’s beak.

The issue can be resolved with anti-fungal medication like Nystatin. It’ll be given to the bird orally for about 5 days before you start to see positive results.

bad breath in parrots

Vitamin A Deficiency (Hypovitaminosis A)

Vitamin A is essential to the oral health of birds. This means that an absence can lead to bacterial and fungal infections. Hypovitaminosis A is often caused by feeding a parrot an all-seed diet.

Signs that a parrot isn’t getting enough vitamin A include:

A vitamin A deficiency weakens the immune system, leaving the parrot susceptible to illness.

Sour Crop

Infections often begin in the crop, a muscular pouch found just below the neck. When a parrot eats food, it’s temporarily stored in the crop before being digested.

The function of the crop is to ensure there’s food to eat later. A parrot can steadily process its meal because the crop softens and moistens food to aid digestion.

A parrot’s crop can be adversely affected by a bacterial infection called sour crop.

This arises when the crop isn’t emptied correctly, allowing food to spoil within. If food remains in the crop for a long time, bacteria will quickly multiply.

Food can also become trapped in the intestines if it has swallowed a foreign object. This means food can’t move freely through the digestive tract.

Mild cases of sour crop can be resolved by withholding food until the crop empties. Digestive blockages are more concerning, as a vet may need to remove what’s blocking the intestines.

Bacterial Infections

Coliform bacteria can enter the mouth, crop, or proventriculus, leading to breath that smells like poop.

Although uncommon in pet parrots, it can occur when fertilizer is used to grow food. Bacteria thrive in fertilizer. For example, a bird can ingest coliform bacteria if fruit and veg aren’t washed.

Overgrown Beak

A parrot with an overgrown beak will struggle to remove post-meal food remnants. Any food it can’t remove will start to rot, leading to bacterial growth and halitosis.

An overgrown beak can also cause infection, leading to abscesses and a reluctance to eat or drink.

Prevent beak overgrowth by providing wooden toys to peck on. The more the parrot grinds its beak, the less likely it is to become oversized, misshapen, or crooked.

An emery board can remove the excess beak on a small bird (budgie or cockatiel). If you have a large parrot, like an African gray, macaw, or cockatoo, a vet can wear down the beak with a grinding stone.

Kidney Failure

The kidneys are crucial for filtering waste from the blood in readiness for excretion and maintaining the right balance of water and electrolytes.

Kidney disorders have various causes, like infections (bacterial, fungal, and viral), heavy metal toxicity (lead and mercury), tumors, excessive vitamin D, and blockages.

Kidney disease leads to a metabolic problem that produces chemicals, so toxins accumulate in the body. As the toxins build up, they release foul odors through the parrot’s breath.

Other symptoms of kidney disease include weight loss, no longer wanting to fly, listlessness, fluffed-up feathers, dehydration, polyuria, and appetite loss.

A vet will take a complete blood count (CBC) to check for elevated uric acid levels, which indicate that the kidneys are no longer functioning well.

How To Make A Parrot’s Breath Better

Here are some things you can do to make a parrot’s breath smell better:

  • Mint will freshen the breath temporarily and resolve some digestive complaints.
  • Add a parrot-safe breath freshening agent to its water.
  • Offer fruits and vegetables high in vitamin A.
  • Remove stressors to minimize the risk of candidiasis.
  • Provide chew toys to keep the beak worn down.

Bad breath in parrots is rarely life-threatening, but it shouldn’t be ignored. Find out why the parrot has halitosis and make the relevant diet and lifestyle-based adjustments.