The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Birds are majestic creatures that have become our beloved pets, so it is essential to know any problems your pet bird might face in its lifetime. You need to know what to watch for with certain illnesses to ensure the safety and health of your pet bird. But can birds have strokes?
Birds can suffer from different types of strokes that will vary in severity. Symptoms that you may see in a bird that signify a stroke are paralysis, falling, odd vocalizations, blindness in one or both eyes, loss of appetite, and seizures. If you see any of these, take your bird to an avian vet.
What are some things that could be responsible for your bird having a stroke? What can you do to help care for your bird that has suffered from a stroke? Let us have a look at everything you need to know about birds having strokes.
Can Birds Have A Stroke?
Birds can have a stroke; they can suffer many different kinds of strokes, just like humans. These strokes can vary in severity and can sometimes even kill the bird before anything can be done to help.
This can be a worrying experience for any bird owner to go through, and it will be scary for you and your bird. You can watch for some symptoms that can point to a stroke that will allow you to get help for your bird sooner.
Just remember that these symptoms can appear suddenly and can be server, or they can be extremely subtle. So, you need to watch your bird closely to make sure they are fine and healthy.
Symptoms Of A Stroke To Look For In A Pet Bird
There are symptoms that you should be aware of that indicate that your bird is having a stroke. You need to watch for these as a stroke can happen anytime, even while your bird is asleep or relaxed.
Some of these symptoms can be scary to watch your bird go through; remember to stay calm. If your bird presents any of the symptoms mentioned below, take it to an avian vet immediately, even if it is at night. Let us have a look at the symptoms of a stroke in birds.
Partial Or Full Paralysis
The most prominent symptom of a cerebral stroke in birds is paralysis of one side of the birds’ body. Generally speaking, with strokes, only one hemisphere of the brain is affected, so this is why only one side of the bird’s body will be paralyzed.
This means that the bird’s toes, wing, foot, and a leg on one side of their body will hang limply, and the bird will not be able to perch correctly and may fall. A bird with a stroke may not even be able to get itself up and might be flapping about at the bottom of its cage, or it may lie completely still on the cage floor.
Vocalization And Falling
A stoke can happen without warning and can even happen when the bird is asleep, so if your bird suddenly falls from its perch without notice and appears to be unable to move on the cage floor, then this could be a sign of a stroke.
Your bird may even scream out loudly or begin to make strange noises that it does not typically make. These noises may be subtle, so you will need to pay close attention to your bird, and if any noises are made before or after a fall, this is a sign of a stroke.
Blindness In One Eye
Blindness will usually occur in the side of the body that is affected by the stroke. Some signs that your bird may be blind in one eye include lurching forward, staggering, or even twirling around on the floor of the cage.
However, some birds may appear blind in both eyes, depending on how severe the stroke was. To better indicate how blind your bird is, your bird should be evaluated by an avian vet.
Loss Of Appetite
Birds that have suffered a stroke will lose their appetite, which can be of great concern as birds have a fast metabolism. If your bird does not eat for an extended period, it can starve to death quickly.
If your birds show any of the other symptoms mentioned and do not want to eat, this is a good indication that they have suffered a stroke. You will need to take your bird to an avian vet immediately, so the vet can begin emergency feedings and determine if your bird needs additional care.
If your bird has had a cerebral stroke, then your bird will most likely have a seizure. A seizure can occur as soon as the bird has the stroke, or it can happen later and develop into a condition as a side effect of the stroke.
Obvious signs that your bird may be having a stroke include falling around its cage, inability to stand, loss of consciousness, and violent muscle spasms. But the signs of a seizure can be subtle, too; your bird may seem “out of it” or could just be staring blankly.
The seizures can last a few seconds to two minutes long, and your bird will be confused and tired after the seizure. Your bird will most probably stay on the floor of its cage while it recovers.
What Causes Strokes In Birds?
Strokes in birds can happen out of nowhere due to a few causes. Some of the causes can be preventable, while others are just a part of nature.
These causes for a stroke in birds that we will be going through are only a few of the reasons why your bird can have a stroke. It is imperative to keep an eye on your bird and watch for anything out of the ordinary in their behavior, and if you spot something, take them to an avian vet immediately.
Birds have a highly sensitive digestive system, and they require essential nutrients, just like humans, for everything in their bodies to function correctly. Birds need to get a varied diet consisting of a seed mix, dark leafy greens, some yams, cooked sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, etc.
If your bird does not have a varied diet for an extended period, this can cause deficiencies of need vitamins and minerals in your bird’s body. If these deficiencies are left without treatment, this can cause neurological problems, leading to your bird having a stroke.
Age can be a contributer when it comes to birds having strokes. When birds age, their brain cells begin to damage, just like humans, and they are not as resilient as the brain cells of a younger bird.
This means that an aging brain is more susceptible to certain things, like diseases and strokes, as the cells have a more difficult time fighting things off and restoring themselves. If your bird is on the older side, you need to watch for signs of a stroke as they are more prone to getting them.
Diseases And Parasites
Some diseases can attack the bird’s central nervous system, causing varied neurological problems in birds, which can lead to the bird having a stroke. These diseases can be extremely dangerous as they can be contagious and spread quickly to other birds.
For example, Psittacosis is a bacterial disease that is highly contagious among birds and can lead to neurological problems like convulsions, tremors, and head twisting. These can then result in your bird’s oxygen levels dropping, causing a stroke.
Another disease to watch for is the Borna virus, a viral disease that attacks the nerves of the bird and can result in PDD (Proventricular Dilatation Disease). As the nerves of the bird’s body are being attacked, including the neurological tissue in the brain, the bird could have a stroke.
Some migrating parasites can also cause neurological issues in your birds as they cause brain damage that can be server. This brain damage can lead to your bird having a stroke.
Parasites and diseases are why it is essential to keep up with your bird’s avian vet check-ups, as they will screen for any parasite or illness and treat them accordingly.
Birds need to get a good 12-14 hours of quiet, dark, uninterrupted sleep every night. If they get any less than this, then they can suffer from sleep deprivation.
This sleep deprivation can make them more susceptible to certain illnesses that can affect the bird’s brain. Not only do you need to be concerned for diseases with sleep deprivation, but if they go for too long without a good night’s sleep, then this itself can cause toxins to build up in the bird’s brain.
When birds sleep, their brains are cleansed of toxins that are built up throughout the day. If these toxins are left to roam in the brain due to lack of sleep, this can cause neurological issues, leading to a stroke.
Cerebral Apoplexy is a condition where small blood clots settle in the bird’s brain, causing Apoplexy. The effects this will have on the bird will depend on the brain area the small clots settle.
The blood clots can partially obstruct or even entirely obstruct blood circulation in the bird’s brain, effectively starving that area of the brain from oxygen. This will cause various neurological issues for the bird, including a stroke.
There are symptoms of this condition that will occur before the has a stroke, these include paralysis, neuromuscular dysfunctions, and the bird will not be able to perch correctly.
How To Care For A Bird After A Stroke
Even if a bird has a stroke, it can still recover and live happy lives afterward. The recovery process can be strenuous and take a long time, but if you are patient and prepared, then you can help your bird through this process better.
There are some things you can do to help your bird, and there are some things that your bird will need to make a good recovery. Let us have a look at some of these so you know what you can do to help.
When a bird is recovering from a stroke, it will need some physical therapy to help it recover from the paralysis it suffered. The physical therapy will generally begin once the avian vet finds any broken bones or other injuries.
The physical therapy will help the bird regain some function of the paralyzed part of their body and hopefully live a somewhat normal life after the stroke.
Move Bird To Box Or Carrier
Once the bird has had a stroke and is then cleared by the vet to go home, do not place it back into its cage. Your bird still has a long recovery, and avoiding anything that can cause it harm during this recovery process is the best thing you can do.
Placing your bird that just had a stroke back into its cage can cause harm to the bird as it still does not have complete control over its body, and the bird may still stumble and fall. You need to place your bird in a carrier or box with soft towels on the bottom.
There should be no perch, and the bird’s water and food bowls need to be placed where the bird can easily reach them. This carrier or box then needs to be placed somewhere dark, quiet, and warm so the bird can recover.
You need to frequently check on your bird during this time to ensure your bird does not overheat, as this can cause more issues.
Offer A Good Diet
Please do not force your bird to drink and eat but monitor them to ensure they get something in their system. While the bird is recovering, you need to give them a healthy diet so its little body has enough energy and nutrients to recover.
You can offer your bird some dark leafy greens, melon, warm cooked rice, some cornbread along with its regular diet to entice the bird to eat. These will offer an excellent variety to your bird and ensure it has everything it needs in its body.
Prepare For Another Stroke
Unfortunately, once a bird has had a stroke, they are more prone to getting another one. You need to prepare yourself and the bird for this possibility.
You may need to buy a new cage for your bird that you modify slightly to add soft padding to the floor. You also need to lower your bird’s perches so if they fall, they will not hurt themselves.
You need to ensure the bird is getting a good and varied diet to help lower its chances of having another one, and if they do have another one, this will increase the bird’s chances of recovery.
If your bird has a stroke, it can be scary to go through as you do not know what is going on or what you can do to help. This can be overwhelming, and that’s okay; remember to take your avian vet’s advice and help your bird recover.
Ensure your bird always has a healthy diet and a vet check-up annually, as this can help catch stroke-causing conditions and illnesses before they become an issue.