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Most Common Diseases of Blue and Gold Macaws

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Blue and gold macaws can live for a fairly long time, even well into your own middle age. But they are prone to certain kinds of health problems. As with most other birds, those problems can be prevented by good diet, nutrition and routine health care. Annual veterinary examinations can help you to keep your pet in excellent health. Here are some of the most common diseases and problems:

  • Proventricular dilatation disease (macaw wasting disease). This is a fatal viral disease. No one is sure what, exactly, causes the disease, but we do know that the virus attacks the nerve centers of the intestinal tract, interfering with digestion. The incubation period can be as long as a year, and diseased birds can survive and shed virus over a prolonged period of time. The disease can be difficult to diagnose and at this time cannot be treated.

  • Feather picking. This behavior has many causes and can become a hard-to-break habit. Some causes include boredom, sexual frustration, skin diseases, toxicities, allergies and hormonal imbalances.

  • Chewing flight and tail feathers. This is a common behavior of young macaws, especially if several birds are kept together. To prevent this behavior, make sure you give your baby macaw plenty of chewing material and toys.

  • Oral and cloacal papillomas. These wart-like growths are probably caused by a herpes virus and can be contagious. Affected birds should not be allowed to feed their young.

  • Psittacosis (chlamydiosis). Also known as Parrot Fever, this bacterial disease can be transmitted to humans. Be sure to test any new bird entering your home for psittacosis.

  • Bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Many common bacteria and fungi can cause infections in birds. Make sure to keep your bird's cage, food and water bowls, and toys clean. Never feed your bird any food that is questionable and don't leave moist foods in the cage (preferably for more than 4 hours).

  • Constricted toe syndrome in chicks. If you notice that your baby macaw's toes are swollen, take him to a veterinarian to have them corrected. Usually, this is done surgically. Increasing the humidity in your home will help prevent constricted toes.

  • Beak malformation. Inadequate dietary calcium and some hand-feeding practices can lead to crooked beaks. Most can be corrected if the veterinarian sees the bird before the beak has completely hardened.

  • Pancreatitis. The cause of pancreatitis is unknown. However, as in other species, it appears to be related to obesity, excessive fat in the diet and breeding in females.

  • Allergies, especially to cockatoos. Blue and golds often exhibit seasonal allergies, with sneezing and nasal discharge. They can develop severe chronic allergic reactions if housed with cockatoos.

  • Kidney disease (gout). This is often seen in baby macaws. It can be diagnosed by blood tests and is treatable if caught in time. Baby macaws are very sensitive to Vitamin D, so do not add additional vitamins to a commercial hand-feeding formula.

  • Toxicity, heavy metal poisoning. Many household items can be toxic or dangerous to birds. Teflon® poisoning can occur if these nonstick pots are overheated. Birds will ingest lead objects such as fishing weights, curtain weights and old paint. Some cleaning products, some perfumes, hairsprays, scented candles could be problematic for birds.

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