Parakeets, also called Budgies, are more susceptible to mites than other varieties of parrots. These mites live on the skin of both domestic and wild birds. An infestation can lead to itchiness and discomfort. There are many types of mites that affect Parakeets, and symptoms vary based on the type. Treating a mite infection can be challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, prompt treatment and the right medication can work wonders.
At times, a severe mite infestation can also spread to your house. The key to preventing the issue from worsening is quick diagnosis and treatment.
How Do Parakeets Get Mites?
Parakeets can get mites through infected birds, whether alive or dead. If you have a cat at home, any dead animals she brings in could contain mites. Humans can also carry Parakeet mites on their skin. Since humans are not appropriate hosts, the mites end up on the Parakeets. Also, mites hide in wooden or reupholstered furniture, so you could be unaware they are in your house.
Mites are very small, so it is difficult to notice a single mite on your Parakeet. Usually, the infection is only noticeable when the Parakeet is infested with mites. Be mindful of your Parakeet’s behavior since it is the only way to notice a mite infection in its earlier stages.
Types of Mites That Affect Parakeets
Four types of mites commonly affect Parakeets. These include scaly face mites, red mites, air sac mites, and feather mites.
Scaly Face Mites
Scaly Face mites are eight-legged mites closely related to spiders and ticks. These mites are also called Budgie mites because they generally infect Parakeets. Scaly face mites can burrow deep into the Parakeet’s skin and feed on their tissues for life if left untreated. Another issue with these mites is that they are too small to be seen by the naked eye. An avian veterinarian can use a microscope to identify the species.
You can identify a Scaly Face mite infection due to crustiness around the eyes, beak, and neck. The affected areas have a honeycomb-like appearance. These mites generally attack the face area but can also affect the feet, toes, vent, and wingtips. While itching is not a symptom of these mites among Parakeets, these mites cause itchiness in other bird species. If the infection has progressed to an advanced stage, your bird will appear “sick” and sit with his feathers fluffed out. These mites also affect the shape of the Parakeet’s beak.
Generally, Parakeets who only eat seeds are at higher risk for acquiring Scaly Face mites. Parakeets need a balanced diet with plenty of vitamin A for immune health. The mites spread through contact between birds, but they can also infest cages. A Parakeet parent can also pass Scaly face mites to their unfeathered chicks.
Treatment of Scaly Face Mites
The treatment of choice for Scaly Face mites is Ivermectin used topically. It is available as drops you apply to affected areas. A few drops of the medicine on your Parakeet’s skin should clear up Scaly Face mites if administered diligently. If you have multiple birds at home, it is best to have your veterinarian check them.
Vitamin A supplements can help build your pet’s immunity for a speedy recovery. In cases of severe infection, the mites cause lesions that will require treatment with antibiotics topically or orally. You should thoroughly clean and disinfect your bird’s cage to eradicate the mites.
Air Sac Mites
Air Sac mites are more common in canaries and goldfinches, but they also affect Parakeets. These mites live in the respiratory tract of the birds they attack. They may be present in affected birds’ lungs, larynx, trachea, or air sacs.
It is difficult to tell if your bird has Air Sac mites since all life stages can infect the respiratory tract. If your bird has the eggs of the Air sac mite in its respiratory tract, it will likely show no symptoms. Mild infections generally present few symptoms such as lethargy, reduction in speech, and poor feather quality. Severe infections can cause erratic breathing, weakness, sneezing, and coughing, among other symptoms. Your Parakeet can contract Air sac mites from infected birds. Generally, the parasite is transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or consuming contaminated water.
Diagnosing Air sac mites in a Parakeet can be challenging. The symptoms are similar to many other respiratory diseases, and the parasite is difficult to observe. An avian veterinarian can diagnose the condition in multiple ways. Still, the best indicator is the response to treatment—a swab of fluids released while coughing or sneezing can reveal Air Sac mites under a microscope.
Treatment of Air Sac Mites
The medication used to treat Air sac mites is Ivermectin. A skilled avian veterinarian can guide you on the best way to administer treatment. The dosage requires careful adjustment since too much medicine can kill many mites at once, blocking the Parakeet’s airway.
Any birds that have contact with an infected bird will require treatment. Sanitize water containers often and ensure your bird does not engage in intensive activities. Flying is usually difficult for birds recovering from an Air sac mite infection.
A severe infection with Air sac mites usually ends in death. The mites multiply rapidly and block the Parakeet’s air passages, leading to suffocation.
Red mites are blood-sucking mites that are related to ticks and spiders. These mites burrow under the feather and bite into the skin to feed on the Parakeet’s blood. They generally affect the head and vent since these areas are easy to latch on to,
These mites are very small and are difficult to detect without a microscope. However, they cause your bird great discomfort, and you will notice it preening excessively to reach the mites. Severe infection can be life-threatening since birds can develop anemia due to blood loss, compromising your bird’s immunity and leaving it vulnerable to other infections.
Red mites generally hide around the house or in the cage during the day. They are nocturnal mites, meaning they come out at night to attack your bird. These mites are highly contagious and spread from bird to bird rapidly. Generally, Red mites are difficult to diagnose since a mild infection causes no symptoms other than lethargy. A severe infection can lead to anemia and respiratory symptoms.
If you suspect your Parakeet has red mites, you can use some double-sided tape in the nooks and crannies of the cage. When the mites come out at night, they stick to the tape. By studying them under a microscope, you can have your veterinarian confirm if they are red mites.
Treatment of Red Mites
The treatment for red mites is usually a dose of Ivermectin, topically or orally. Applying it to your Parakeet’s skin is best since it kills the mites much faster. If you have multiple birds, you should check their cages and skin for mites. Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your pet’s cage is necessary to prevent reinfection.
Feather mites, more aptly called avian skin mites, can cause discomfort and injury to your Parakeet. They generally live on the skin or feather follicles, feeding on skin tissue. Compared to other mites, these are more common in outdoor aviaries. Poor hygiene conditions combined with warm, humid climates can increase the risk of mites in outdoor aviaries. These parasites cause itching, scaly or scabby skin inflammation, and skin lesions on Parakeets.
The mites commonly attach to the thighs, breast, vent, and underside of the wings. As they feed on the skin tissue, they cause sores and open lesions. Parakeets infected with feather mites can also develop bacterial infections from open wounds. These mites also feed on the feathers harming your Parakeet’s plumage. Some birds develop resistance to feather mites, so they might show no symptoms until the infestation worsens.
In aviaries, these mites spread from bird to bird rapidly. They can destroy a bird’s plumage, leaving the skin exposed if left untreated. Another species of feather mites, called quill mites, live within the hollow feather quills. They feed on the host tissue by biting into the quill walls.
Treatment of Feather Mites
A water-based insecticide is the best way to treat feather mites. It can kill existing mites with a few applications when applied to the skin and feathers. Consistent and prompt treatment is essential for a speedy recovery. Like other mite infections, you should also treat any birds that come into contact with the infected bird. Disinfecting and sanitizing the cage is key to preventing reinfection: spray perches, cages, aviaries, and nest boxes with a water-based insecticide to kill remaining mites. Check your pet’s feathers and skin regularly for any mites to prevent reinfection.