Your bird was chirping, seemed to be eating well and acting like himself yesterday but this morning you’ve found him in distress at the bottom of the cage. What happened, you asked?! Odds are, he was trying his best to appear healthy until he couldn’t fake it anymore. Why would he do that? Simple: birds (and reptiles) are notorious for hiding their illnesses.
In the wild, a bird or reptile that appears ill will be the first to be preyed upon. As domestic pets, this instinct for survival is still well ingrained. If your exotic pet is not healthy, he will try to “fake” wellness for as long as he can, until he can’t do it anymore (meaning he has become very ill). Because of this, birds and reptiles that finally show signs of illness have often been sick a lot longer than they’ve let on. If you suspect that your pet is not feeling well, contact your exotic vet as soon as possible.
If you have a pet bird or reptile, make sure to monitor the following closely:
For Birds: Don’t overfill food dishes. Offer your bird daily what they would eat only in one day – it is much easier to monitor exactly what he/she is eating this way. Sick birds will even take seeds/pellets into their beaks and pretend to eat so watch closely!
For Reptiles: Did he/she not eat their usual amount of crickets, mealworms, etc?
For Birds: Is your bird spending more time at the bottom of the cage? Is he/she more quiet than usual (not chirping as much)? Any weakness? Loss of balance? Is he/she doing anything else unusual behaviour-wise?
For Reptiles: Is your reptile less active than usual? Is he/she hiding more? Has he/she become more or less aggressive? Showing any signs of weakness, difficulty climbing or loss of balance?
For Birds: If you’re able to handle your pet bird, fun your finger horizontally over his/her keel (chest) bone. There should be nice muscle and fat on either side. If the keel bone is sticking out into a V shape, there is a problem. If your bird is fluffed up all the time, having difficulty breathing (tail bob) or his/her eyes are closed frequently, this is not normal. Also watch for any excessive sneezing or vomiting/regurgitation.
For Reptiles: Watch for change in overall colour, any difficulty in shedding, swollen eyes or limbs, shakiness or anything else that appears unusual.
For Birds and Reptiles: Watch for increased or decreased frequency of droppings/bowel movements, change in size and solidity (are they more watery than usual?) and change in colour