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Dyspnea in Birds

By: Dr. Barbara Oglesbee

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There are many respiratory and non-respiratory causes of dyspnea and tachypnea in birds.

Respiratory Causes Include

  • Bacterial pneumonia – including chlamydia and mycoplasma, which are potentially zoonotic

  • Aspergillosis - a fungus normally found in the environment which can cause severe, life-threatening pneumonia or air sacculitis in pet birds

  • Viral pneumonia

  • Aspiration pneumonia – accidental inhalation of food or liquids into the lungs

  • Allergic pneumonitis – seen in some bird housed with birds that produce large amounts of feather dust (cockatoos, African grey parrots)

  • Pulmonary edema – fluid accumulation in the lungs

  • Toxic – inhaled Teflon fumes, aerosol sprays, cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide

  • Tracheal obstruction – inhaled foreign bodies (esp. seeds), papillomas (warts), neoplasia (tumors), abscesses, granuloma

  • Tracheal compression – neoplasia, abscess, granuloma, goiter (in budgerigars)

  • Upper respiratory tract obstruction – tumors, abscesses or foreign bodies in the nasal cavity or choana

  • Air sacculitis – accumulation of exudate or fungus in the air sacs from bacterial or fungal infection

    Non-respiratory causes of dyspnea and tachypnea may include:

  • Compression of the air sacs – Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), neoplasia (cancer), peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity), egg binding (retention of eggs in the uterus), severe obesity

  • Congestive heart failure – may cause fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema)

  • Central nervous system disorders – trauma, brain tumors, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)

  • Anemia – blood loss or decreased production of red blood cells

  • Acid/base disorders – secondary to metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus

  • Anxiety

  • Pain

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