Seizures can involve involuntary muscle contractions, spasms, and losing balance.
The seizure can be mild, and your budgie might make a full recovery. Other times, the effects are severe, and your budgie’s life will be in danger.
Budgies have seizures due to physical trauma, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, or toxicosis. Common illnesses that lead to seizures include hypocalcaemia, psittacosis, and macaw wasting syndrome.
Spinal damage or head injuries can also trigger seizures, which may reoccur throughout the budgie’s life. If your budgie eats lead or zinc, convulsions may follow.
Do Budgies Have Seizures?
Seizures are fairly common in the psittacine family, affecting African greys, cockatiels, lovebirds, and budgies. Seizures are a secondary condition, so they’re caused by a different injury, illness, or disease.
The primary cause is often a neurological disorder. Seizures happen when electrical discharges in the brain cause the muscles to move involuntarily.
The result may change a budgie’s behavior long-term.
Budgie Seizure Symptoms
Seizures can vary significantly from one budgie to another because they’re not one fixed event.
Veterinarians break down seizures into three different phases:
Your budgie will manifest behavioral changes. You may notice your budgie staring off into the distance or being unresponsive.
This stage is often what people think of when imagining seizures. It involves symptoms like:
- Falling off a perch
- Losing grip
- Uncontrolled spasms
- Increased vocalization
Your budgie will be confused and disoriented, appearing weak and exhausted or restless and agitated.
How Long Do Budgie Seizures Last?
The second phase of a seizure lasts for 5-20 seconds. During this time, the budgie may spasm uncontrollably. The third phase lasts far longer, ranging from a few minutes to several hours.
Budgie Seizure Causes
According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, seizures in birds can be caused by nutritional conditions, trauma, toxic exposure, or cardiovascular conditions.
There are six main reasons for a budgie to experience a seizure:
Neurological Disorders in Birds
Neurological disorders are the most common cause of seizures in a budgie. The most common issues that lead to neurological disorders include:
Hypocalcaemia is often seen in African greys, but it’s been known to affect other birds in the psittacine family, especially juvenile birds.
Hypocalcaemia presents itself as a deformation of the long bones and vertebrae. It occurs due to a lack of calcium, so it crops up in budgies that are not fed a balanced diet.
The symptoms of hypocalcaemia include:
- Lack of coordination (ataxia)
- Falling off the perch
Treatment and Prevention
The best treatment for budgies with hypercalcemia is a change of diet, so your budgie will need vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts.
Psittacosis is caused by a bacterial infection, specifically from the family of chlamydophila psittacine.
In birds, it’s also called avian chlamydiosis. Psittacosis can infect humans, making it dangerous to pet owners and birds.
Psittacosis is caused by different strains of bacteria, each rooted in the same family. Therefore, the symptoms experienced by one bird can be different from the symptoms of other birds. Some budgies may be asymptomatic and never present any signs.
The most common red flags include:
- Dyspnea, or shallow or rapid breathing
- Bright green droppings
- Respiratory problems
Some birds, especially cockatiels, will also present neurological symptoms, including:
- Twisting of the head, body, and neck
Treatment And Prevention
Psittacosis is often treated by prescribing the medicine doxycycline for about 45 days. This long-term treatment plan allows the medication to kill any bacteria and reduce the chances of re-infection.
Budgies with bacterial conditions can be reinfected from their environment. For this reason, keeping your budgie’s cage clean is an essential part of treatment.
Psittacosis is a bacterial infection that’s spread through feces. The best way to prevent this illness is by testing any budgies that you add to the cage or aviary.
You should quarantine any birds before introducing them to the others.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease
Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) was originally called “macaw wasting disease.”
That’s because macaws were the most prevalent species to contract the disease in the early 70s. However, it’s since been known to affect more than 50 bird species, including all parrot family members.
PDD is caused by the avian bornavirus, which affects the digestive and nervous systems.
Specifically, it affects the nerves of the gastrointestinal system, stopping the muscles from moving. This halts digestion, metabolism, and the absorption of nutrients. Eventually, the budgie wastes away, providing the disease with its original name.
The symptoms of PDD include:
- Undigested food in feces
- Lack of appetite
In more serious cases, budgies may exhibit neurological symptoms, including:
- Lack of mobility
- Head tremors
Treatment And Prevention
The condition is always fatal, although birds can live for up to a year after contracting it.
Vets will treat the condition with supportive care to increase the bird’s comfort, including prescribing anti-inflammatory medication and medication that targets other existing conditions.
Because there’s no cure, budgies that test positive for PDD will need to be isolated from other birds. It’s also recommended to test every bird for PDD to stop its spread.
PDD can only be prevented by keeping your budgie away from infected birds. If you get a new bird, quarantine it immediately. Testing birds is also a good preventive measure.
Ensuring that cages remain clean will also halt the spread of the virus.
Other Causes of Seizures
A budgie may have seizures due to issues that are easier to treat, including:
A budgie may have seizures due to vitamin deficiencies, low blood sugar, or dehydration.
Providing enough water and a balanced diet sounds like the answer. However, nutritional deficiencies are often just symptoms that result from pre-existing conditions.
For example, low blood sugar may be a sign of diabetes. Vitamin D deficiencies may be due to diseases that affect the preen glands, which a lack of vitamin A can cause.
Physical trauma is common in wild birds, but it can also happen to pet budgies.
If you own several budgies, you may find your pets fighting or playing aggressively. Improper handling by children or exposure to larger pets, like dogs or cats, may also result in injuries.
Because budgerigars are so small, it can damage their central nervous system.
There are two main areas where physical injuries lead to seizures:
The spinal cord affects the movement of the entire body. Because of how involved it is, damage can present itself in different ways, such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to feel pain
- Paralysis, especially in the lower body
Head trauma is common in wild birds, which may fly headfirst into windows. Pet budgies can fall off of perches, fly into ceiling fans, or fall from great heights.
The symptoms of head trauma include:
- Unfocused eyes
- Head nodding
- Head tilting
- Periods of eyes closing
Budgies can recover from head injuries as long as they’re treated immediately. Unfortunately, birds with displaced spines may never fully recover.
Physical trauma is always an emergency, no matter the case. Even if there’s little damage to the head or spinal cord, other areas may still have fractures.
If your budgie appears to have suffered physical trauma, check it immediately.
Examine it for broken bones, bleeding, or bruising. Transfer your budgie to a dark and quiet environment. Keep the location warm and free from any hard objects that may cause further damage.
Heavy metal poisoning is fairly common in pet budgies, often due to lead or zinc. That’s because budgies chew non-food items, such as cage bars, which may be coated in heavy metals.
Your budgie may also ingest heavy metals from its food. Improper handling or unsanitary feeding practices can contaminate the food dish.
According to Poultry Science, a budgie’s respiratory system makes it sensitive to toxins in the air. For this reason, your pet can breathe in toxic heavy metals, especially lead, from the room around it.
Household chemicals, candles, and tobacco products are compounds that can lead to toxicosis.
Can Budgies Die From Seizures?
Seizures aren’t always fatal, but there’s a chance that the cause of your budgie’s seizure will be.
In some cases, the jarring effect of a seizure may trigger harmful reactions in a budgie’s system, leading to death. There are two main theories as to why:
Seizures can cause apnea, which is a long pause in breathing.
This happens when the airways are constricted during convulsions. If a seizure continues for too long, the body can run out of oxygen.
Irregular Heart Rhythms
Seizures may also trigger an irregular heart rhythm, which could cause the heart to stop.
What To Do If Your Bird Has A Seizure
Seizures are scary events to witness, but you needn’t feel helpless. There are many ways you can intervene if your budgie is having a seizure:
During The Seizure
When the seizure occurs, don’t touch the budgie as it may lead to further physical injuries. Give the bird space and remove any objects that it may hit.
If possible, surround the budgie with soft padding to lessen the chances of injuries.
Line The Bottom Of The Cage
Before your vet visit, help your budgie feel safe and comfortable by preparing for a second seizure. The convulsions themselves are frightening, but the main issue is physical injuries.
Losing their grip and falling is common in birds having seizures. You can line the bottom of your budgie’s cage with a soft blanket or towel to prevent accidents.
Also, cover the hard corners of its perches and cage bars with padding.
Remove Hard Objects
Whether your budgie is thrashing on the ground or falling off its perch, there’s a danger of harming itself on toys or other decorations in the cage.
For now, it’s best to remove these items and hard swings, hammocks, or lofty perches. If your budgie needs somewhere to rest, set a perch at the lowest part of the cage, so it won’t fall far.
If possible, replace toys with softer alternatives, as long as they cannot be chewed up or eaten. Good alternatives include rope toys and rattan balls.
Keep The Environment Comfy
Ensure that its environment is conducive to healing. Its cage should be placed somewhere quiet, calm, and has dim lighting. The ideal temperature is 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep A Record
It can be hard to remember details later on, but any information about the seizures will be important to your vet. Keep a record of when the seizures happen and how long the convulsions last.
How To Treat Seizures In Budgies
Levetiracetam can be used to treat seizures in birds.
However, to comprehensively treat them, the underlying cause of the seizures needs to be addressed. Tests include a CBC or complete blood count.
This comprehensive blood test will provide information about:
- Hydration levels
- Toxins in the blood
- Organ health
X-rays can examine bone health, the size of organs, and metal poisoning.
Also, electroencephalograms, magnetic resonance imaging, and CT scans can help determine the presence of harmful compounds in the body.
However, conditions like PDD are incurable. Managing seizures and reducing discomfort will be the recommended treatment plan for these life-ending conditions.