Sometimes a very sick budgie can be saved with veterinary intervention, and sometimes there’s nothing that can be done.
However, it’s important to know the signs that a budgie’s life is in danger. It enables an avian vet to treat illnesses or make them feel more comfortable during what time remains.
Much depends on a budgie’s age, how long the illness lasts, and the severity of the condition. A mild breathing issue or physical weakness doesn’t mean the end is near.
However, when paired with other symptoms, or if the condition continues without diagnosis and treatment, it can have dire consequences.
What Are The Symptoms of A Dying Budgie?
If your budgie is very sick or dying, it’ll likely display one or several of these symptoms:
1/ Problems Breathing
A sign that your budgie is severely ill or dying is breathing problems.
Check these obvious symptoms:
- 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 compromised.
They may signify a blockage that could lead to suffocation or that there’s a disease, such as:
Aspergillus is a deadly fungal infection or a growth caused by tiny microbes in the air, and this can manifest in a severe upper respiratory infection.
Vets may be able to 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 species of birds.
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/ Respirator Infections
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:
- Bobbing up and down to breathe
- A runny nose
- Noisy breathing
- Shortness of breath
The treatment of respiratory conditions depends on the underlying cause:
- Bacterial infections will normally be treated with antibiotics.
- Fungal infections, such as aspergillosis, require antifungal drugs.
- Parasitic infections, 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 accurately.
Parrot Fever (Chlamydophilosis)
Parrot fever (also known as psittacosis and chlamydiosis) can be diagnosed via a blood test or feces examination (if a budgie is already exhibiting clear 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 will need to 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 molt, Budgerigar Fledgling disease, and acute death.
Contagion is little understood, but it’s believed that asymptomatic adult budgies shed the virus through their feather dust, feces, crop milk, and eggs.
A newborn with polyomavirus typically survives for just 2-15 days.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Hemorrhagic areas under the skin
- Wet droppings
- Delayed crop emptying
- Loss of weight (anorexia)
- Hemorrhaging underneath the skin
- Difficulty breathing
Sadly, there’s no known treatment, but some budgies with mild symptoms can benefit from vitamin K injections and ongoing veterinary care.
3/ Frequent Vomiting
Parrots regurgitate to show affection and feed one another.
Also, budgies sometimes throw up when they’ve ingested something they shouldn’t, such as string, plastic, or a piece of a toy.
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 even 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 typically exhibit lower energy levels as they get older. This is a natural part of the aging process, as their joints and muscles may not be as strong or flexible as they used to be.
Lower energy levels aren’t necessarily a sign of impending death. However, if the lethargy is sudden or extreme, it can be due to the following:
- 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 they’re 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 slightly can be beneficial.
Sick birds often have trouble regulating their body temperature, so 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 eating and drinking entirely, so they won’t survive for much longer.
If your budgie is too weak to eat properly, you may need to offer assistance. Try breaking the food up into small pieces or feeding the budgie specialized formula through a syringe.
Offer soft foods, such as mashed bananas, peas, or baby food.
Limit how much your budgie is exposed to normal stressors. A dying budgie may feel upset by the sight of your house 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 wellbeing 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 contagious.
If your vet is certain that a budgie is dying for natural, non-contagious reasons, let it stay with its friends. As long as its cage mates are not too active or stressful, this will have a calming influence. It’ll be happier in a safe, familiar environment where it won’t get lonely.
If your budgie is dying from an illness or disease, keep it separated from other birds. According to The Canadian Veterinary Journal, the deadly polyomavirus can spread rapidly between budgies.