Sometimes a very sick budgie can be saved with veterinary intervention, but sometimes there’s nothing that even an experienced avian vet can do to save a budgie’s life.
However, it’s important to know the signs a budgie’s life is in peril. It enables a vet to treat an illness/disease or make a budgie feel more comfortable during what little time remains.
Much depends on a budgie’s age, pre-existing conditions, how long the illness lasts, and the severity of the problem. A mild respiratory issue or general physical weakness doesn’t mean the end is near.
However, if a medical problem is paired with other symptoms, or if the condition is permitted to continue without diagnosis and treatment, it can have life-ending consequences.
What Are The Symptoms of A Dying Budgie?
If your budgie is very sick or dying, it’ll likely display these symptoms:
1/ Problems Breathing
A sign that your budgie is severely ill or dying is respiratory problems.
Symptoms of breathing problems include:
- Sustained, open-mouthed breathing
- Bobbing the tail with each breath
- Making clicking or gasping sounds
- Rapid and shallow breathing
Breathing problems can be deadly, indicating that a budgie’s air sacs are infected or infested. They may signify a blockage that could lead to suffocation or that there’s a disease, such as:
Aspergillus is a deadly fungal infection caused by tiny microbes in the air, which can manifest in a severe upper respiratory infection.
Vets may treat this condition with antifungal medications. In older budgies or those with advanced conditions, it’s usually deadly.
When Teflon (PTFE) cookware is heated or burnt, and the temperature exceeds 280℃ (536℉), this releases particles and gases that are highly toxic when inhaled by all bird species.
Polytetrafluoroethylene poisoning can lead to sudden death. Unfortunately, this can be the only symptom, and it’s already too late.
Budgies (parakeets) are most at risk due to their diminutive size. So, avoid using non-stick cookware, and keep your budgies away from the kitchen, especially when preparing cooked food.
2/ Respiratory Infection
While budgies don’t get colds, they can develop cold-like symptoms. The signs of a respiratory infection will depend on whether the lower or upper tract has been infected.
If the upper airway is infected, you may notice a change in your budgie’s voice. However, if the lower tract is infected, a budgie will experience more serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing.
The symptoms of a respiratory infection include:
The treatment of respiratory conditions depends on the cause:
- Bacterial infections: These will normally be treated with antibiotics.
- Fungal infections: Conditions like aspergillosis require antifungal drugs.
- Parasitic infections: Parasites, such as air sac mites, will be treated with anti-parasitic drugs.
Sometimes respiratory problems are connected to a lack of vitamin A, which is common when birds are fed all-seed diets. If so, vitamin A supplementation will be recommended.
Budgies can be infected with Mycoplasma or Chlamydophila, display no signs (asymptomatic), and pass on the infection to other birds.
A comprehensive examination and blood tests are needed to diagnose a respiratory infection.
Parrot Fever (Chlamydophilosis)
Parrot fever, also called psittacosis, can be diagnosed via a blood test or feces examination (if a budgie is already exhibiting signs of infection). The symptoms of parrot fever include:
- Loose, green droppings
- Weight loss
- Eye and nose discharge
- Breathing (respiratory) problems
Symptoms don’t always manifest, as some budgies carry parrot fever asymptomatically.
Chlamydophila psittaci can be treated with a doxycycline antibiotic orally or via an injection. Unfortunately, this drug causes yeast infections in birds, so a budgie must take nystatin.
Treatment must continue for not less than 45 days before retesting.
Baby budgies (chicks) are highly susceptible to polyomavirus (from the Papovavirdae family), leading to French moult, Budgerigar Fledgling disease, and acute death.
Contagion is little understood, but it’s believed that asymptomatic adult budgies shed the virus through feather dust, feces, crop milk, and eggs.
A newborn with polyomavirus typically survives for just 2-15 days.
The symptoms of polyomavirus include:
- Hemorrhagic areas under the skin
- Wet droppings
- Delayed crop emptying
- Loss of weight (anorexia)
- Hemorrhaging underneath the skin
- Difficulty breathing
Some budgies with mild symptoms can benefit from vitamin K injections and ongoing veterinary care.
3/ Frequent Vomiting
Vomiting is a rare and serious symptom, indicating one of the following:
- Viral or parasitic infection
- Liver, kidney, or heart problems
- Nutritional issues, such as overfeeding, imbalanced diet, or vitamin deficiencies
- Food allergies
If a budgie is vomiting and not regurgitating, it needs to be seen by a vet without delay.
4/ Feather Problems
Unhealthy feathers can signify an underlying health issue that manifests in poor feather quality. Also, a budgie may be so ill that it can’t preen and maintain its feathers.
Severe illnesses and diseases can change the color of a budgie’s feathers. Bars or stripes may appear when their immune system is low or failing.
A budgie’s feathers may look rough and messy when molting. However, if your budgie isn’t molting, or its molting process has suddenly stopped, this is a concerning issue.
You may observe your budgie deliberately damaging or plucking its feathers.
5/ Low Energy Levels
Budgies have lower energy levels as they get older. Reduced movement is a natural part of aging, as joints and muscles won’t be as strong, resilient, or flexible.
Lower energy levels aren’t necessarily a sign of impending death. However, if the lethargy is sudden or extreme, it can be due to:
- Yeast infections
- Hormonal diseases
- Liver, heart, or kidney failure
You should be concerned if your budgie is suddenly:
- Moving or flying around less
- Becoming quieter
- Struggling to groom or bathe itself
- Difficulty balancing on its perch
- Spending more time at the bottom of its cage
How To Comfort A Dying Budgie
If your vet can’t treat your budgie’s condition because it’s terminal, perhaps because it was detected too late, you’ll need to prepare for the worst.
It’s hard to learn that your pet is dying, but your priority is to ensure that your budgie’s remaining time is as happy and comfortable as possible.
Here are some ways to comfort a dying budgie:
Budgies need rest when dying, so create a calm and soothing environment. The best ways to provide peace and tranquility include:
- Move the budgie’s cage to a quiet part of your home with little foot traffic.
- Keep the budgie away from artificial lighting and noisy electronic devices.
- Play pleasant and calming music.
- Speak to the budgie in a soft and calm voice.
Turning up the thermostat can be beneficial. Sick birds often have trouble regulating their body temperature; they may feel cold, even at normal room temperatures.
Keep a dying budgie’s room temperature at 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can’t adjust the temperature, drape a cloth over the cage or install a heating light to keep them warm.
Food and Water
Dying budgies may need to eat and drink more throughout the day to keep their strength up. Unfortunately, some will stop drinking and eating, so they won’t survive for more than 24-48 hours.
If your budgie is too weak to eat properly, you may need to offer assistance. Try breaking the food into small pieces or feeding the budgie a specialized formula through a syringe.
Offer soft foods like mashed bananas, peas, or baby food.
Limit how much your budgie is exposed to stressors. A dying budgie may feel upset due to seeing your cat roaming around its cage or from loud noises from passing traffic.
Should I Quarantine A Dying Budgie?
If one budgie is sick and dying, you may be concerned about the health and well-being of its cage mates.
Budgies are social creatures, so it may be more comfortable for a dying budgie to stay near its companions. Unfortunately, many illnesses are highly contagious.
If your vet is certain that a budgie is dying for natural, non-contagious reasons, let it stay with its friends. If its cage mates aren’t too active, this will have a calming influence.
If your budgie is dying, separate it from other birds and get them checked by a vet. According to The Canadian Veterinary Journal, the deadly polyomavirus can spread rapidly between budgies.