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Why Does My Parrot’s Breath Smell Bad?

Last Updated on: 1st October 2023, 07:24 am

Parrots breathe through nostril-like openings called nares, so you should seldom notice an odor. If you detect an unpleasant smell when a parrot breathes, it may have a bacterial infection.

Bacteria can spread in a parrot’s crop (called sour crop) or the intestines due to a blockage.

Sour crop can usually be resolved by withholding food temporarily (for 24-48 hours) until the crop empties, but intestinal blockages require the intervention of a veterinarian.

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

If a pet 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 in parrots 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 nutrients needed to thrive in captivity.

What Causes Bad Breath in Parrots?

Here are the most common reasons for fish, garlic, and poop breath in parrots:

Wrong Diet

There are several dietary explanations for halitosis, including the following:

  • All-seed diets frequently lead to smelly breath.
  • 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 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 the following:

  • 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 within 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 notice favorable results.

bad breath in parrots

Vitamin A Deficiency (Hypovitaminosis A)

Another explanation for bad breath in parrots is hypovitaminosis A.

Vitamin A is essential to oral health in birds, and an absence can lead to bacterial and fungal infections. Hypovitaminosis A is often caused by feeding a parrot an all-seed (or mostly seed) diet.

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

A vitamin A deficiency compromises a parrot’s immune system, leaving it susceptible to illness and disease. Dietary changes and supplements will soon correct a vitamin A shortfall.

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 it’s digested.

The function of the crop is to ensure the parrot has food to eat later. A parrot can steadily process its meal because the crop softens and moistens food to assist the digestive process.

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

This arises when the crop isn’t emptied appropriately, leaving food to spoil within. If food remains in the crop for a long time, bacteria will breed and multiply.

Food can also become trapped in a parrot’s intestine, which can happen if it has swallowed a foreign object, meaning 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 manually.

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 multiply quickly 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.

Preventing an overgrown beak by providing wooden toys to peck on is recommended. 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). A vet can wear down the beak with a grinding stone if you have a large parrot, like an African grey or cockatoo.

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 in the body.

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 a parrot’s 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 get a complete blood count (CBC) to check for elevated uric acid levels, which indicates that the kidneys are no longer functioning well.

How Can I Make My Parrot’s Breath Better?

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

  • Mint will freshen the parrot’s 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, like carrots, peppers, and peaches.
  • Remove stressors to reduce the risk of candidiasis.
  • Provide chew toys so a parrot can keep its beak worn down and sharp.

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