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When a Zebra Finch falls ill ...

Due to their rapid metabolism birds are particularly susceptible to many diseases: if the illness impairs sufficient feeding they soon start ailing and die. Thus, a quick diagnosis and therapy is essential for a successful treatment. The following table therefore lists the most frequent symptoms and causes as well as promising first measures:

Symptoms First Diagnosis (Immediate) Measure
Wing is drooping, bird can't fly. Broken wing Have both wings taped to the body (3–4 weeks). Often the bird reamains unable to fly.
Leg is droopping from the perch. Broken leg Have leg splinted with a straw split lengthwise.
Bird is unable to balance on perch or resting on belly and hopping falteringly. 1. Broken leg;
2. Partial paralysis.
1. Broken leg: see above;
2. Vitamins against paralysis.
Can egg binding be ruled out?
Bird gets tangled e. g. on wire mesh when flying off or in nesting material 1. Overgrown nails;
2. Wrong or overly long nesting material.
1. Trim the nails;
2. Replace wrong nesting material.
Toes are discoloured or swollen. 1. Gangrene (due to injuries, frostbite, overly tight bands);
2. Inflamed joints, infection.
1. Avoid the cause, clean and apply a disinfecting salve to toes, amputate if necessary;
2. More movement in a spacious aviary!
Toes or legs are crooked / deformed. 1. Rickets, lack of movement or vitamins;
2. Inflammation of the joints
1. Food rich in vitamins, vitamin preparation;
2. More movement, i. e. a larger aviary!
Legs and toes are thick with prominent scales. 1. Excessive growth of keratinous tissue due to vitamin and mineral deficiency;
2. burrowing mites (mange).
1. Remove the excessive tissue carefully with a nail file, improve the diet;
2. Apply a preparation to the tissue.
The bill is deformed. see above see above
The bird is lethargic, lame, twitching and staggering, twisting the head. 1. Concussion;
2. Vitamin deficiency;
3. Infection, poisoning;

4. Genetic deficiency.
1. Let the bird rest in a hospital box and wait;
2. Improve the diet;
3. Try to find the cause, isolate the bird, have it treated (antibiotics).
4. Euthanasia
The bird is nervous, pecking at feathers, scratching itself violently, restless even at night. Ectoparasites: Red bird mites, feather mites, lice Dust or paint the plumage with a safe (!) insecticide; clean and thoroughly disinfect the aviary including perches, nests etc.
The bird is lethargic, short of breath and exhausted after a short fligt. Obesity, overly fat food and lack of movement Avoid oily seeds and animal proteins (e. g. egg yolk); more movement!
The nostrils are plugged or slimy 1. Cold;
2. Infection;
3. Poisoning by vapors.
1. Add warmth;
2+3. Isolate the patient in a hospital cage to protect the other birds; possibly antibiotics.
The bird is breathing heavily and noisily with bill wide open. 1. Cold;
2. Infections;
3. Airsac mites and other parasites.
1. Add warmth (in hospital cage);
2. Isolate in hospital cage, antibiotics;
3. Use safe insecticide strips (according to instructions!), replace soil in outdoor aviaries.
Runny droppings, diarrhea 1. Intestinal disorder;
2. Cold;
3. Infection;
4. Endoparasites.
1+2. Shine an infrared lamp on the bird;

3. Isolate in a hospital cage, antibiotics;
4. Disinfection, sulfonamides.
The female is pressing fruitlessly, exhausted, short of breath, and lame in the legs. Egg binding Use an infrared or heat lamp;
let the bird rest;
have an expert remove the egg.
Oviduct hanging out of cloaca Prolapsed oviduct Mortal danger! Perhaps the oviduct can be pushed back.

The previous table often gives only shortened and general hints and first-aid-recommendations,
thus, it does not replace the purchase of a book on bird diseases or even a visit to the vet.

ZF-Homepage  © Hans-Jürgen Martin, 1st October 1997 eMail: info@zebrafink.de TOP