vomiting in birds

Vomiting in Birds

The upper gastrointestinal tract of pet birds has several unique features.


There are many causes of vomiting in birds. Vomiting can be caused by diseases of the digestive tract or can occur due to toxicities, disease of the nervous system or metabolic diseases. There are many contagious diseases that cause vomiting, so it is important to inform your veterinarian of any potential contact – direct or indirect – with other birds. Possible causes of vomiting in birds include:

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the stomach contents through the mouth. The vomiting reflex may be triggered by irritation of receptors in the gastrointestinal tract or the brain. Birds that are vomiting are expelling food from the proventriculus, which is the glandular or first stomach. This food is usually digested or partially digested, and may contain an acidic liquid. Vomiting in birds is always abnormal.

At times, birds may regurgitate, that is, expel food originating from the crop through the mouth. But this is mainly undigested food. Regurgitation may be caused by disease processes, or may be a normal behavior.

Vomiting can be distinguished from regurgitation by observing the bird. Birds that are regurgitating will consciously and vigorously bob their head, and then bring softened, undigested food into the mouth. This food may then be re-ingested, or dropped from the mouth.

Birds that are vomiting will suddenly bring digested food containing an acidic liquid from the proventriculus into their mouth. They will then rapidly spit out the fluid, usually by flinging their head from side to side. Often, the vomitus will spray out onto the bird’s head and around the cage. Sometimes a bird will vomit stomach contents into the crop, and then regurgitate vomitus. Nevertheless, as soon as the foul-tasting stomach contents enter the mouth, the bird rapidly spits them out.

Common Causes

What to Watch For


Your veterinarian will recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on the severity of the vomiting or if other symptoms are present. In almost every case, birds that are vomiting require extensive diagnostic testing.

A complete history is extremely helpful in reaching a diagnosis. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian when the vomiting began, the consistency of the vomitus, and whether it contains digested or undigested food. Additionally, tell your veterinarian the type of diet your bird is on, describe his chewing habits and note any potential exposure to other birds.

Diagnostic testing your veterinarian may perform include:


Treatment for vomiting may include any of the following:

Home Care

If your bird is vomiting, veterinary attention is needed. Immediate attention is necessary if any other symptoms are present in addition to vomiting, or if your bird is unable to keep any food down. In the meantime, keep your bird in a warm environment if his feathers appear fluffed up. If possible, bring the cage to the veterinarian’s office with the bird, along with any toys he may have chewed.

After seeing your veterinarian, be sure to give all medication as directed, for as long as directed, even after the symptoms appear to be gone. Watch for a change in the droppings, and report any changes to your veterinarian. If improvement is not seen, report this to your veterinarian.

Diagnosis In-depth

A thorough history is extremely important in the diagnosis of vomiting. Be able to answer the following questions:

Therapy In-Depth

Until a diagnosis is made, treatment of the symptoms might be necessary, especially if the problem is severe. The following treatments may be applicable to some, but not all birds that are vomiting. Theses treatments may reduce the severity of symptoms, or provide relief for your bird. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your bird’s condition.