Category Archives: Pet Care

Selecting a Dog

Once you have decided to take on the responsibility of a pet dog, the next is to decide how old a dog you want—a six-weeks-old puppy or a grown The ideal is a newly weaned puppy about six weeks old. At this age puppy is dependent on its owner for feeding, companionship and protection, and your fulfilling of these requirements will build a strong bond between the puppy and you. If there are young children in the family an especially strong bond will be formed between puppy and children, mainly :ecause of the long periods each day they will spend in each other’s corn- :any. If possible, defer getting a pup until your family is complete, as some as become very jealous of a new baby..
There are, of course, some disadvantages to purchasing a pup. Toilet raining, for example, can be quite time-consuming (and frequently frustrating). Also, for the first eight to twelve months, during their teething phase. Puppies have a habit of chewing toys, socks, shoes and sometimes furniture.
One way to overcome these annoyances is to choose an older dog, but then ou may be getting somebody else’s problems. The dog may have irritating traits which will take considerable re-education. Tender loving care, however, will win. the hearts of most pups (and adult dogs).
Before you purchase a dog, ask yourself why you are buying it. Is it to be a watchdog, a companion or a sporting dog? How much time will you have 😮 exercise and care for it? Will it live in an urban community, or in a country area where there is plenty of territory for the dog to run free? When you have considered these factors, together with the characteristics described earlier, you will be able to select a breed of dog that will suit your particular purpose and set of circumstances.


In general, light-colored animals have weaker skin and are more susceptible to skin infections than darker-colored animals. In hot climates, they are more susceptible to sunburn and ‘hot spots’ or dermatitis.


A female desexed will make the best pet. Desexing takes place at five to six months before the bitch has her first season. Desexing makes the bitch less Likely to wander; and it eliminates the problems caused by the bitch coming :n season every six months and attracting hordes of male dogs to the house. It is an offense to allow a bitch ‘on heat’ to enter a public place, even on lead.) Desexing prevents unwanted litters and it reduces the possibility of mammary tumors and an infected womb.
Contrary to popular belief, desexing does not alter the personality of the dog, The only disadvantage is that some dogs become fat—invariably this is because the owner has not thought to reduce the dog’s diet since it reached maturity.
A male dog should be desexed if breeding is not contemplated. Domestication and confinement to urban territorial limits are completely unnatural to the male dog’s natural needs; dogs are naturally pack animals and undersexed male dogs tend to roam, gathering in public places such as schools and shopping centers where they frequently become involved in fights with other male dogs over bitches on heat in the area. A frequent consequence of this is that the dog finishes up in the pound, where it may contract diseases requiring expensive veterinary treatment. If the dog is not collected within a stipulated time, it may be destroyed at the pound.
Male dogs away from home are not fulfilling the requirement for which they were acquired—namely as a pet or as a guard dog. In addition to roaming, sexually frustrated male dogs may begin ‘riding’ children or the outstretched legs of visitors (very embarrassing to some). In order to reduce the stray dog population, it is therefore important to desex male dogs as well as female. Unfortunately, there is considerable (and illogical) reluctance on the part of dog owners to have male dogs desexed. Perhaps they should take a tip from horse owners: any male horse not wanted for breeding is always desexed (gelded) at the earliest opportunity.


It is important for a prospective owner to consider the size of the territory that will be available to the dog . Small dogs will be satisfied by urban blocks of land. while large dogs require much more territorial space. Small dogs require less food; they therefore excrete less feces. which are becoming g. a problem in inner-urban areas. They also require less medication, because it is administered on a per-weight basis. In most cases the small pet will satisfy the companionship and watch-dog needs of the average urban family.


Most dogs were bred for specific purposes, and it is only recently that many have been chosen as pets. Some breeds were developed to be aggressive hunting or work dogs. It is important to understand the temperament of a particular breed. Some breeds are prone to biting, such as Dobermans, Cocker Spaniels, Terriers, Dachshunds, Corgis, Border Collies and Cattle Dogs. It is rare for a dog to bite its owner, but it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the dog doesn’t bite visitors.

Selecting from Litter

Your own veterinary examination of your prospective purchase, particularly a puppy, is most important.
The type of care the mother received while carrying the pups—that is. vaccinations, worming and nutrition—will determine the health of her pups She should have had a vaccination booster midway through the pregnant, to confer a good immunity on the newborn pups and should have been wormed during the pregnancy to eliminate the possibility of worms in the new-born pups. A well-balanced diet—with particular attention to calcium— is important. Check the number of litters the bitch has had in the preceding couple of years. Bitches should not have more than one litter per year, as too many litters deplete the mother’s bones of essential vitamins and minerals and the puppies will therefore be weak.
At the kennels, check the surrounding area for hygiene. Check the other animals in the breeder’s establishment to ensure that they are all healthy with glossy coats.
Once you are satisfied that the breeder’s credentials are up to standard, examine the pups. Ask the breeder about their diet and the worming and vaccination program. Examine the pups at first from a distance and don’t be fooled into taking the weakest pup out of sympathy. Always select the strongest looking pup—the one with the glossy coat and bright eyes. ,Check around the anal area to ensure there is no evidence of diarrhea. If you are selecting a dog for showing, take along someone familiar with the ideal characteristics of the particular breed. Don’t select a sleepy pup. Once you have selected the pup at a distance, pick it up and feel its weight in the palm of your hand. Pick up the other puppies in the litter and compare their weight. The pup should feel firm and heavy.
Examine it for abnormalities such as a cleft palate, overshot or undershot jaw. An overshot jaw is particularly common in Collies and Whippets, and undershot jaws are common in the short-snouted dogs, such as Boxers. Maltese Terriers, and Pekinese. Check the puppy’s abdomen at the umbilicus for hernia. Count the number of digits on the toes. There should be four main digits, with a dew claw in some breeds. If the dew claw is missing, don’t be concerned as in most breeds these are snipped off when the pup is one to two days old. The puppy’s gums should be pink in color, not pale. Examine the internal area of the ear and smell this area. Some puppies have ear mites which they have contracted from their mother. Ear mites cause a smelly inflammation of the ear. In most cases this condition can be cured by the vet.
Puppies under six weeks of age should not be taken from their mother. Before taking the pup get a written copy of the diet the puppy is on. Do not change this diet for about a week to ten days, as the stresses of a change in environment are enough to upset the pup without a change of diet at the same time. Also get from the breeder the puppy’s worming history and find out when the pup should next be wormed. Collect any vaccination cards that indicate what vaccinations have been done and when the next ones are due.
If possible, obtain from the breeder a piece of cloth or blanket that has been used in the puppy’s bedding, so that on the first few nights the puppy will at least have a familiar smell around it. Make the first night comfortable for the puppy. A hot water bottle should be placed in the bed clothing, a ticking clock in his box, plus something of a smelly nature, either the piece of bedding from the breeder or perhaps a pair of used socks. And remember. nothing makes a puppy happier than a full tummy before it goes to bed.

Dog Behavior Training

You will need to integrate the new puppy into socializing with people outside your immediate family. Some of these guests may not like dogs, and could be nervous, especially if you have a large breed. This can cause complications since the dog will undoubtedly be able to sense this by jumping up at a visitor while they are sitting down. Although this may seem quite appealing behavior in a young puppy, it will be seen in a totally different light with a large adult Irish Wolfhound. Again, consistency when training is important, and it is generally better not to allow dogs on to furniture. Otherwise, cleaning the room inevitably becomes more difficult as

Instead, provide a suitable bed in a corner. of the room. it is important to teach your dog to return here when required. After an initial greeting of a visitor, tell your dog to sit in its bed using the command ‘bed’.

There are several ways of accomplishing this, and it is of the greatest importance that you teach the puppy to recognize its bed. This can be carried out last thing at night, once the puppy has been outside to relieve itself. By this stage it will be ready to sleep, and you should give the word ‘bed’ at this time, placing the puppy back in its bed if necessary.

Once the puppy is properly toilet trained it may be more convenient to move the bed out of the kitchen into another room in the house. Your dog will still identify with its bed in a new location, especially if a piece of familiar bedding is provided. Once the teething phase has passed you may want to get a new bed, rather than a cardboard box with its sides cut down. Wicker beds may look attractive, but can be difficult to clean properly, which will be necessary from time to time, especially if your dog suffers from fleas. A solid plastic bed is an ideal refuge for fleas at all stages in their life-cycle. Since fleas do jump, of course, there is no certainty that they will not occasionally land on a chair, but the likelihood is greatly reduced if the dog is kept off furniture.

If you wish to keep the dog’s bed outside your sitting room, in the kitchen for example, you can still provide a bean bag so there will be no need for your dog to climb on the furniture. Choose a brand with a removable outer cover, so this can be washed easily, while, as a precaution, the contents should be fire-retardant. Your dog can be trained to stay or sleep here while you are talking to visitors in the room or, indeed, sitting there on your own.

A dog will not be deprived if it cannot use a chair. As creatures of habit, you will find that they soon do not even attempt to climb on furniture, but voluntarily retire to their bed. Try to place this in a quiet corner of the room away from the door, especially if you have young children. The puppy can then be left alone to sleep with relatively little disturbance.

Never forget that small puppies can grow into large dogs, as shown by this Pyrenean Mountain dog. There is little space left to sit down here, while the dribbling habits of some dogs will not improve your sofa’s condition. You may prefer to discourage your dog from sleeping on the furniture, even while it is a puppy.

If the dog fear, he may respond aggressively. At first you may well have to put the puppy on its leash and keep it close to you if it is not to be an annoyance when visitors call. Obviously the puppy will be curious and should be allowed to meet your guests. However, it should not be allowed to continue making a nuisance of itself
hairs are shed over the chair covers, and there is an increased risk of flea infestations.

These troublesome parasites, which now thrive throughout the year in centrally-heated homes provided that the humidity level is not too low, can bite people as well as dogs and cats. The crevices at the sides of chairs provide

Bean bags of various types are now used widely for dogs. They are ideal for large breeds, or individuals which have a back ailment of any kind and may find it painful to curl up in a basket.

Dogs large and small will frequent the bedroom if they have an opportunity, but this should be discouraged. You may otherwise find yourself being badly bitten by fleas.

Pet Reptiles


All lizards can and will bite. If bitten by a lizard, do not pull away until the lizard releases its grip. To avoid being bitten, hold the lizard behind the head with one hand and the base of the tail and hind legs with the other.
Give lizards a good drink before transporting them, so that they do not dehydrate. When transporting a lizard long distances, place it in a box, with absorbent padding between the bag and the box. Secure the box firmly after making sure that it has adequate ventilation holes.
If transporting the lizard by any kind of public transport, label the box with the name, address and telephone number of both the sender and title receiver. Attach another label describing the contents of the box, and giving any special instructions for care during the trip.


All snakes bite. When handling a snake, support the body evenly, and never make any sudden movements near the head. When picking up a snake always pin its head down with a forked stick, then grasp it behind the head from above. Remember, when a snake decides to strike and bite, it does with extreme rapidity.
If a snake wraps itself around your arm, unwind it while continuing hold the head. When releasing a snake, always let its head go and withdraw your hand quickly.
Snakes should be transported in the same manner as lizards.


When handling tortoises, beware of the sharp claws. Most small tortoises can be picked up as you would hold a sandwich. To transport a tortoise, put it in a moist cloth bag or in a box lined with moist towels. Avoid overcrowding. Always give the tortoise a good soaking before and after the trip to avoid dehydration.


Healthy reptiles can fast for long periods without effect. In good condition,they may fast for several months. Reptiles are normally intermittent feeders. Snakes eat twice weekly or less. Lizards eat daily. Scent, particularly for snakes, is important in food selection.
Feeding activity is temperature dependent, and sub-optimal conditions are commonly the cause of fasting. To rectify the situation, increase the environmental temperature or give the reptile warm baths. Or change the diet, change the environment or increase the light. Temperature reduction,vibrations or disturbance of any kind will cause regurgitation.
For carnivores the best diet is a whole animal, since this reproduces their natural diet in the wild.


Lettuce, clover, grass, tomatoes, fruit and cucumber are suitable foods. Some will eat raw fish and meat, which should be supplemented with calcium carbonate at the rate of 1/2 teaspoonful (0.5 gram) per 100 grams of meat fed. Cereals, bread, Farax and tinned dog foods can be tried. However, bread and other cereals should not form the major part of the diet of land tortoises,as they might cause liver disease.


Terrapins will eat chopped meat, heart, liver, fish (whole or in pieces), snails,shrimps, worms, insects, frogs, tadpoles, mealworms and baby mice. Vegetables such as lettuce can be given on alternate days. As with tortoises, meat should be supplemented with calcium.

Small Lizards

The usual diet is earthworms, grasshoppers, slugs, fly larvae and mealworms.

Large Lizards

Feed young mice, small lizards, chopped meat, dog food and raw egg.

Herbivorous Lizards

Provide lettuce, fruit, plants and insects.


All snakes are carnivores, and most eat small vertebrates. Some will eat only live prey.

Force Feeding

When force feeding is called for, use a small, 2-millimeter-diameter polyethylene tube attached to a syringe. Gently introduce it into the mouth an:pass it into the food pipe. (It is impossible to go into the windpipe try mistake.) In this way you can feed pulverized whole animal, or canned doe food, minced with egg, or infant foods.


The type of housing you should provide for a pet reptile depends, of course,on the species you plan to keep. However, there are essential features common to all.
Housing for reptiles must provide a healthy environment, enough space and ventilation for the type and number of specimens and it must be escape-proof. The enclosure must provide privacy and yet be easily accessible for cleaning. Provision should be made for heating and adequate lighting.
Most reptiles will live in an unadorned enclosure with absorbent paper on the floor and a branch and a water bowl. However, if you do wish to a reptile’s environment more natural, a wide variety of substances can be used, such as coarse sand, gravel, large pebbles, pieces of bark, leaf bracken, hollow logs or small branches (to provide privacy). ‘Plants can either be grown in the enclosure or can be grown in pots outside it therefore can be rotated). Make sure plants are non-toxic. Monstera Philodendron are quite suitable.
Water containers should be wide based and of a depth appropriate to animal. Keep the water clean and well away from the heat source.
Have on hand some implements for removing such things as dishes, and uneaten food from the enclosure, such as long tongs or a scoop.
A glass aquarium is very suitable as a reptile enclosure and can be required in various sizes to suit the smaller reptiles. Enclosures made of wood are also suitable, though wood (including chipboard) should be coated with a waterproof varnish for ease of cleaning.
An outside pit gives reptiles some variety. For snakes or monitors the should be 1.5 meters high with a 30-centimeter overhang (of tin. example) projecting horizontally into the centre of the pit. The walls can be made of any material that is escape-proof, such as bricks, concrete, metal or wood. They must be vertical and smooth. To prevent snakes or lizards escaping by burrowing underneath, the walls should extend 60 centimeters into the ground.
Always have a portable cage for quarantining new or sick animals.
Since most reptiles will bathe, the ideal situation is an enclosure contain-ing a large removable shallow dish that will accommodate the whole body of the reptile without overflowing. This may also provide drinking water.
Light Light is very important in the control of activity and physiological function,especially of reproduction, as is explained below.

Special Requirements for Amphibians

Most amphibians are small animals with smooth, moist skins which reproduce by laying eggs in water or moist areas. The eggs hatch from their soft gelatinous covering to a larva stage and later undergo metamorphosis to the adult stage. The commonly kept amphibians include frogs, toads, newts and salamanders (axolotl).
The axolotl is actually the larval form of the Mexican salamander. 20 centimeters in length. It ranges in color from pink to brownish-black. When purchasing an axolotl, ensure that it swims upright and that it uses its gills actively.
Most amphibians do not like to be handled and can be very slippery. The best way to handle them is to place your middle finger between the hind legs and wrap the rest of your hand around the body. Axolotls should be grasped around the head and fore body.
The skin of amphibians should be kept moist and the animal should have access to water at all times. Many amphibians, especially toads, secrete poisonous substances, so it is important to wash your hands after handling.
If amphibians are to be transported it is important that they are kept damp, and have plenty of space and adequate ventilation. Polystyrene boxes containing dampened pieces of moss, grass or foam will retain the moisture and provide protection. Axolotls can be transported in a sealed plastic bag containing one-third water, two-thirds air.
Axolotls can be kept in an aquarium filled to a depth of 20 centimeters with fresh water and kept at 23°C. The aquarium should also contain some rocks or vegetation to make the axolotl feel secure. Newts and frogs can be kept in the . same sort of environment, but it should also contain a half submerged stone, piece of bark or sturdy vegetation for them to climb on.
Axolotls will only feed in the water. Axolotls and newts will eat worms,insects or dog food. Young ones will eat water fleas, white worms, tubifex and sometimes fish food.
Frogs and toads usually like their prey to be moving. They love insects and worms.
A good supply of insects can be caught by hanging a light globe over a funnel which has been placed in a jar. The insects are attracted by the light and fall into the jar via the funnel. (This method is particularly effective on summer nights).


Breeding seldom occurs in captivity because the reptile never truly adapt. Breeding activity is dependent on normal environment for species, light, correct temperature, absence of stress and balanced nutriticare all important.

Pet Parrots

The more common cause of illness in parrots is incorrect feeding and general management, particularly lack of exercise from too small a cage. Other factors are poor hygiene from placing perches over food and water, cluttering the cage with feeding utensils and toys, and exposure to draughts or marked fluctuation in temperature. In addition, marked variations in the length of time the bird is exposed to light and/or solitary confinement for long periods produce boredom and self-plucking of feathers. Exposure to direct sunlight for long periods without shelter, failure to remove stale food and provide plenty of water, and failure to provide green food are further causes of illness in the parrot family.
Parrots are capable of inflicting skin wounds and should be handled with gloves. When grasping the parrot always try to hold it by the neck with one hand allowing the head and beak to protrude through. The two legs and wings should be held by the other hand.


A suitable feed for parrots is sunflower seed 5 parts, oats 3 parts, plain canary seed 1 part, panicum seed 1/2 part, white millet 1/2 part. Parrots purchased as youngsters are often being fed from a teaspoon on a porridge-like mixture of powdered milk and cornmeal. The new owner must continue with this until the parrot is old enough to dehull its own seed. For cockatoos an ideal feed is sunflower seed 5 parts, whole oats 3 parts, corn 1 part and wheat 1 part. Canary seed and linseed may be added if the bird enjoys them. Parrots will also eat green foods and peanuts. Smaller parrots may be fed with the mixture recommended above for budgerigars. All parrots can handle sunflower seed.
Beaks that are distorted or overgrown need to be ground back with sandpaper. Cuttlefish bone should also be supplied in the cage for the birds to do this naturally. Parakeets are inquisitive and eat almost anything placed in their cage. Parakeets need canary seed, millet seed and steel-cut oats in a ratio of 1:1 for young birds, and 1: 2 :1 for adults. Grit is essential for all caged birds. Pulverised eggshell and 1 per cent iodised salt are also beneficial.


Sexing the parrot family is very difficult and depends on the species of parrot. As there are hundreds of different species, it is impossible to describe the male and female colour differences in this book. Check with a parrot breeder, or with one of the reference books specialising in this subject.


Breeding parrots is a specialised job. Parrots usually nest in shafts inside hollow trees. For the larger parrots these shafts are up to 2 metres deep. In captivity parrots’ nesting logs should be lined with sawdust or wood shavings. Smaller parrots will use hollow logs suspended from the aviary roof or a larger version of a budgerigar nest.

Guinea Pig Pregnancy

Problems Associated with Pregnancy

Pregnancy Toxemia

Fat sows in late pregnancy are especially susceptible to toxaemia. The animals become lethargic, refuse food and usually die within twenty-four hours.
This disease is nutritional in origin and better-quality food will prevent deaths.

Dystocia (Difficulty Giving Birth)

This is not a common cause of mortality in guinea pigs, though it does occur, particularly with large single fetuses. It has been suggested that it is more common in sows that are first mated at six to eight months of age.


This occurs in varying stages of pregnancy. Examination of fetuses has not revealed a common cause though several bacteria have been incriminated. If abortion becomes a common problem it is best to cull the sow.


The most important cause of mortality in the peri-natal period in many colonies is smothering, common in large litters when the sow fails to clean the newborn, and the baby’s nostrils are blocked by the fetal membranes. Prevention can only be by supervision at the time of birth.
Smothering can occur at any age if sudden loud noises occur and they all rush to the far corner of the cage and huddle up to five deep until the threat has passed.

Losses from Injuries in Suckers

Injuries to suckers (baby guinea pigs) are usually caused by adults disturbed by overcrowding. The injuries most frequently are seen as subcutaneous abscesses, often in the thoracic region. Remove some of the adults from the pen to prevent recurrences.


These are rare except where there is gross inbreeding.

Small weak suckers

Runts are seen on odd occasions in litters of all sizes and are associated with feeding poor-quality green food to the sow some two to three weeks before birth. Control is by paying more attention to the diet of the sow.


Farrowing (giving birth) seems to be one of the more common worries by owners, yet it rarely causes problems. Internal palpation is readily done, as the pelvic size is relatively large. Manual delivery can be successful due to the large size of the pelvis.
A good indicator of viability for the mother is that one or more live babies are already out. Where all previous have been dead, manual delivery does not always save the mother. The membranes of the newborn look like small kidneys when passed.
The average litter is three or four young, but depending upon the strain o guinea pigs Iitters may vary in number between one to ten. The first litter of a young female is usually quite small.
The sow at the prime of her reproductive life—from six months of age to four years—can have as many as four or even five litters per year, but if you want strong young you should not allow the sow to bear more than three litters in the year.

Postpartum Heat

Sows come into heat very soon after giving birth—between ten to twelve hours later. Some commercial breeders leave the boar with the pregnant sows so that they can mate during the post-partum heat, but for the home breeder it is best to remove the pregnant sow to her own cage and prevent this post-partum heat mating. This allows her to rest between litters.
From the time the young begin to nurse until they are weaned, the sow will not have other heat periods. Except for the post-partum heat it is usually safe to leave the suckling sow with the boar.
Only in the rarest instances will the boar bother or injure the young. Males have been known to eat the young.
Young guinea pigs (suckers) are born fully haired, toothed and with their eyes open. They begin walking and running within an hour after they are born. In two or three days they begin to eat solid food in addition to nursing from the mother. The guinea pig is communal in its rearing of the young. The sow will allow any sucker in her pen to suckle. However, groups of more than twelve sows (with thirty-five to forty-five suckers) can suffer from overcrowding, with losses due to fighting and starvation. Smaller groups of four to five sows are best. Where a number of sows are having litters it is best to keep the sows with similarly aged litters together.

Nest Boxes

Some breeders recommend that each cage be provided with a nesting b7 A small box 30 centimeters square with a door through which the guinea pig can enter the main cage area is suitable. It can be made of wood or cardboard, but the top should be removable for easy cleaning.

Growth After Weaning

Suckers should be weaned at eighteen to twenty-one days of age. If they are left any longer, some of the young sows will he mated b y the adult boar.
At weaning time the young should weigh about 250 grams. Growth continues until about eighteen months of age, when the boars will average 25 centimeters in length and about 1 kilogram in weight. The sows. unless pregnant, average slightly less.
Guinea pigs will generally breed up to their fifth year, but after the third or fourth year breeding becomes irregular and litters are smaller. Very few guinea pigs live beyond seven years of age. Five or six years are considered a very full life.

Guinea Pig Health


Abscesses are most commonly found around the jaw, neck and feet. They usually need to be lanced and hence require veterinary treatment. Abscesses are generally the result of fights, so the best method of prevention is to ensure no overcrowding and to segregate boars.

Dietary Diseases Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Guinea pigs, unlike other animals. cannot make their own vitamin C. They are rapidly affected by vitamin C deficiencies, and will survive for only twenty-five to thirty days on a diet of pellets alone (vitamin C has a short life in prepared foods). Death is preceded by loss of condition. dermatitis, scouring, slobbering and bone fragility. On other diets low in vitamin C. the same symptoms will develop. but not so rapidly. The problem can be readily cured by the provision of good green food.


Slobbers is a disease of lactating sows, usually when they are having their first or second litter. The first sign. often unobserved, is a loss of condition associated with enlargement of the jaw hones. Overgrowth or malocclusion of the teeth occurs at this stage and is followed by slobbering.
Examination a the animal at the slobbering stage will reveal overgrown incisor or molar teeth. In severe cases the bottom molar teeth may meet over the top of the tongue. Symptoms can occur any time after the sow farrows. There is no treatment. The condition can be prevented b y providing cereal straw or ha y to the sows. This is thought to allow even wear of the teeth. An y guinea pig in poor condition should be checked to ensure there is no malocclusion.
Affected guinea pigs should he destroyed before they starve to death.

Fluoride Slobbers

Slobbers due to excess fluoride in the diet has been observed in several colonies of guinea pigs. This differs from slobbers in lactating sows in that it also affects animals other than lactating sows. The upper incisor teeth tend to he overgrown with a backward curvature and there is often tartar and abnormal wear. There is no treatment and affected guinea pigs should he destroyed before they starve to death.


This is associated with a sudden change in diet when the guinea pig refuses to eat the new food. It can be prevented by always ensuring the animals are given a diet to which they are accustomed when they are moved to a different environment. Any dietary change should be gradual.

Ear Disorders

Otitis (ear infection) is seen occasionally in guinea pigs. It is usually caused b y bacterial infections, rather than mite infestations. Suitable ear drops can be obtained from the veterinary surgeon. It is important to continue treatment of the ear for two to three weeks, as the quick relief afforded by the drops may deceive you into thinking that the infection has cleared.
Ensure that any debris or discharge is cleaned from the ear using a 50 per cent methylated spirits/ water mixture before administering the medication to the ear. Ensure that the drops go into the ear canal and the guinea pig does not shake its head immediately after administration.

Eye Disorders

Guinea pigs can he affected by any of the eve disorders suffered by dogs and cats. However. the most common conditions in guinea pigs are corneal ulcers and keratitis.

Feet Disorders

The most common foot problem in guinea pigs is peeling of the skin and thickening of the hock, with or without ulceration. It seems to be associated with unsuitable bedding and the presence of moisture. Hard damp straw will cause the problem. Mercurochrome or triple dye should be applied to the affected area of the foot three times daily until it clears, and old clean toweling should be placed on the floor during treatment. To prevent the condition recurring, switch to a different type of bedding and change it regularly.


Fighting between boars will occur where there are three or four boars with a group of sows. The boar at the bottom of the social order is savaged and may develop abscesses on its back. The answer here is to remove one or two of the boars. If fighting occurs in a pen of boars, check the sex of these animals again to ensure that there are no sows present. If not, reduce the overcrowding in the pen.


Fractures of the legs most frequently occur in guinea pigs kept in cages with wire bottoms. If the guinea pig’s legs are protruding and the cage is pulled across the lawn rather than being lifted, damage is inevitable.° Minor fractures at the ends of the limbs may be repaired by splinting, but breaks in major bones require major surgery, which is not always an economic possibility.


The salmonella bacteria can cause heavy losses in guinea pig colonies, usually attacking suckers from five to fifteen days of age. In bad outbreaks losses have also occurred in adult sows and growing stock. Infection is by ingestion of contaminated feed, litter or milk. The disease can be controlled by weaning all animals in the infected pen, including suckers even though they may be only seven to fourteen days old. In the subsequent two to three days, up to 10 per cent of the young in that pen may be lost.
Prevention may be difficult because the cereal and lucerne hays used in most colonies may have been exposed to germ-carrying rodents. Losses in an outbreak in large establishments can be controlled by using a killed vaccine. This vaccine is made during the outbreak from affected guinea pigs and used on healthy ones, particularly pregnant sows. The sucker is able to absorb antibodies in the sow’s colostrum for two to three weeks after birth so that suckers can be protected against the infection.


In large colonies, sows suffering from mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands) should be culled. In smaller groups, individual treatment with antibiotics can be administered under veterinary supervision.

Lip Disorders

Scabbing and ulceration in the nasal fold are common possibly caused by mechanical damage due to the diet. Try mercurochrome or triple dye in the nasal fold three times daily for four days. If there is no improvement, seek veterinary treatment. It is also helpful to use more hay in the diet and take the guinea pigs off pellets for seven to ten days.

Skin Diseases


Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin and in guinea pigs can be caused by scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), bacterial infections, parasites or ringworm.

External Parasites

Guinea pigs may be attacked by various external parasites such as fleas, ticks, lice and mites, which feed on their blood or skin products. Guinea pigs can be treated in the same way as are dogs or cats, but it is preferable to try an insecticidal powder first.
The infested animals’ cage and food utensils should be disinfected using an insecticidal wash. Be sure that the utensils and cage are thoroughly rinsed and dry. When the cage is dry, dust the cracks and corners with an insecticidal powder. Leave this for half a day, and then shake out or remove the excess powder. Place clean fresh bedding inside and only then return the guinea pigs to their cage.


The signs of ringworm include loss of hair and scaling of the skin. Usually there is mild to severe itching, often leading to secondary scabbing and bleeding. It may affect only one guinea pig in a group or all of them. The treatment is by bathing the guinea pig all over twice weekly in an iodine-based scrub or solution. The animal can be dunked up to its neck in water and then rinsed in the same manner in fresh water. Most cases improve dramatically within seven to ten days. If there is not sufficient improvement, use griseofulvin tablets, available from your vet.

Stripping (Barbering)

Stripping of hair occurs in some colonies, especially in animals reared on wire. It is thought to be due mainly to boredom and can be prevented by allowing access to hay. It can be self-inflicted or mutually inflicted.

Teeth Disorders

Broken incisors are common. There is no need for treatment, as guinea pigs’ teeth (in common with those of other rodents) keep on growing. Keep roughage and chewing wood available. In young cavies malocclusions due to jaw deformities are quite common. Old cavies have malocclusions due to a failure to wear down the teeth correctly.
Be careful when trimming teeth not to cut back long incisors unless you are sure the molars are not meeting. If you cut the incisors too short, the guinea pig cannot close them to bite and will starve.

Urinary Problems

The most common urinary problem is cystitis, evidenced by pus and blood’ passed when the animal’s bladder is pressed. The guinea pig is slightly lethargic and may be off its food and be drinking more water than usual. (This should not be confused with the slightly thicker urine that is occasionally passed and which is quite normal.) The cystitis does not seem to cause pain and responds well to veterinary treatment


Worms do not seem to cause any problems in guinea pigs and are not health hazards to humans.


Minor cuts and scratches may be treated by applying mercurochrome or triple dye to the affected area. Boils can be treated by cutting away the hair around the infected area and hot-poulticing with a warm cloth three times daily until the abscess is ripe. Wash with a mild antiseptic such as 50 per cent peroxide and water, then lance the boil with a razor blade that has been sterilized in a flame. Use a pad of gauze to pick up the material that oozes out of the infected area when you gently press the sides of the boil. Irrigation with the 50 per cent peroxide solution should continue three times daily for three or four days. Veterinary attention is frequently necessary

Rabbit Health

Rabbits are prone to illness which is usually caused by poor management or unsanitary living conditions. Sore hocks, for example, result from rough or wet floors. In this condition, the pads of the rabbit’s hind feet become inflamed, producing an unhappy rabbit who loses vitality and weight if the condition is not cared for immediately. Change the bed frequently or run the rabbit on dry soil to correct the problem. Severe cases can be treated by cleaning the pads with soap and warm water and then, after drying, dabbing the area with iodine.
Small mites which invade the external ear of the rabbit produce ear mange. Fluid released from infected areas hardens into irritating scabs. An animal infected with ear mange will continually scratch the infected ear with its hind leg, thereby scratching open the scabs and causing further infection. A solution of one part camphorated oil and five parts heavy mineral oil should be applied to the area daily until the infection heals.
Vent disease, or inflammation of the sex organs, can be controlled by applying a lotion of one part calomel to three parts lanolin. The disease will not afflict healthy animals if they are bred with care.
Colds and pneumonia may be caused by raising animals in drafty environments. It is wise to consult a vet about these and other serious ailments. Below is a list of some rabbit health problems.


Abscesses are most commonly found around the jaw, neck and feet. They usually need to be lanced and hence require veterinary treatment with antibiotics.


Constipation is a frequently encountered problem. Feed only moist greens for two or three days and add liquid paraffin


The most common urinary problem is cystitis, evidenced by pus and blood passed when the animal’s bladder is pressed. The rabbit is slightly lethargic and may be off its food and be drinking more water than usual. The cystitis does not seem to cause pain and responds well to veterinary treatment with Penicillin/Clavulox.


It may be caused by too many greens in the diet, but is usually the result of coccidiosis. Treat with Thiabendazole(injection) 5 milligrams per 100 grams body-weight, or 0.1per cent Sulphamethazine in drinking water for two weeks or preferably a coccidiocide.

Ear Disorders

The usual sign of an ear problem is that the rabbit raising its head and scratching its ears. Sometimes the the ear will have a red, yellow or whitish scale on the surface, and it may smell because of a discharge ear. The ear infections are usually caused by mites. If can, clean the rabbit’s ears out with cotton buds an apply them with a lukewarm 50 per cent peroxide water solution before using ear drops available from your veterinarian.

Eye Disorders

A reddened and protruding eye is usually caused b an infection (or abscess) below the eye or by conjunctivitis. Treatment includes lancing and antibiotics.

Head Tilt

The cause is trauma or middle ear infection. Treatment is by cat or dog ear drops and injection of Gentamycin 5 milligrams per kilogram body weight.


Skin mange is also caused by mites. The rabbit will itself fuss continually about the infested area until raw lesions appear. The lesions can take various forms; some will be a wet, moist area with a yellowish crust or there may be just loss of hair with no apparent on of the skin. These areas can be treated with benzyl benzoate=lotion to a third of the body daily until the whole body has been treated. Repeat weekly for two or three weeks best to clip away the hair for at least 2 centimeters on the lesions. A new product called Ectodex is proving successful. In serious cases the veterinarian will take a scraping to determine the type of mite causing them. A grayish or yellowish crust on nose, face and also be caused by ringworm. Apply Thiabendazole K1 solution twice daily for ten days. Griseofulvin tablets rate of 2 milligrams per 100 grams body-weight can give good results. Ivermectin is also useful.


This is a highly fatal viral disease which is transmitted mosquitoes and the rabbit flea. After a short period there is a fever, followed by a reluctance to eat as ears become hot and swollen. The eyes become and red and begin to weep. Death invariably occurs within seven days.

Pregnancy Toxemia

This can account for deaths occurring suddenly during late pregnancy. The toxemia is usually nutritional in origin and may be caused by the intake of food failing in quantity or quality or both towards the end of pregnancy.

Respiratory Diseases

When the rabbit develops a cold it sniffles and sneezes just like a human being with a cold. To identify cases early, put your ear to the rabbit’s chest and listen for the typical rattling sound. Take the rabbit to the vet at this stage.
Sometimes pneumonia may develop in very young rabbits or nursing does. If this happens, the rabbit will lose its appetite, be very thirsty and have a fever. The normal body temperature is 39°C. Fever temperature is above 40°C. The breathing will be labored and heavy in near terminal cases. The pneumonia may be complicated and associated with diarrhea. In these cases it is best to take the rabbit to a vet who will prescribe an antibiotic. A good antibiotics Ampicillin orally 10 milligrams per kilogram body-weight twice daily for seven days.


Excess production of saliva, difficulty in eating and getting overgrown teeth caught on the wire cage are all signs of overgrown or ingrown incisors or molars.
It usually occurs in mature rabbits who are not provided with hard objects to gnaw. However, the greatest cause is malocclusion or failure of the opposing teeth to meet. The only effective treatment is to cut overgrown or ingrown incisors or molars.


Sores can be a consequence of keeping bucks in over-crowded conditions. Fighting breaks out between the bucks and even the strongest male may suffer scratching and sub-sequent sores.
Pressure sores on hocks are common in rabbits housed in cages with wire flooring.

Teeth Disorders

Overgrowth of incisor teeth is caused by insufficient rough-age in the rabbit’s diet. The teeth should be filed down with an emery board or file. Add roughage to the diet and a wood block to the cage for chewing, so that the teeth are subjected to normal (and necessary) wear.


Vaccination against myxomatosis—a viral disease which in certain areas has been introduced to eradicate the wild rabbit—is available in some areas for pet rabbits. Otherwise rabbits do not require vaccination.

Weight Loss

Weight loss or poor weight gain, loss of strength, or stiffness in hind legs are all caused by a vitamin E deficiency. Add vitamin E to the rabbit’s diet at the rate of of 1 milligram per kilogram body-weight until symptoms disappear.

Guard Dog Training

Some breeds have been developed primarily for guarding livestock and property. Many of these, such as the Rottweiler and German Shepherd dog, are now popular as companion dogs. Yet coupled with their loyalty these dogs are likely to have a latent hint of aggression in their natures. This is sadly not appreciated by many owners, and can become a cause of problems, which may sometimes even feature in the news headlines.

There is a particular risk that children could fall victim to the misplaced aggression of a guard dog. Under no circumstances should a young child be left alone with any dog, since there is inevitably a risk of conflict. Even a very trustworthy dog may turn on a person if it is being hurt or teased. Selective breeding can also greatly heighten the aggressive response in some dogs, with American Pit Bull Terriers having become notorious in this respect.

Aggression resulting from the dog’s guarding instincts is manifested in various ways. Typical examples are attacks on postmen or aggression towards an owner when a toy or other item is removed from them. The problem can be exacerbated by a failure to teach the dog to give up items on command. Hormonal influences are important since this type of aggression is usually only apparent once the dog has reached puberty.

There is also a specific condition affecting some bitches called pseudo-pregnancy, which can result in displays of unexpected aggression. This results from an increased level of the hormone progesterone in the blood, which normally occurs as the result of pregnancy, but sometimes takes place without conception. The bitch may display all the typical signs of pregnancy, even to the extent of lactating, but actually has no puppies. Instead, she sees toys and other items, such as shoes and slippers, as her offspring. She will carry them around with her, and is likely to prove aggressive if you try to take them away during this phase. If your bitch is not neutered, you should be aware of the possibility of this behavioral change occurring soon after the time when she would normally have given birth, just over two months after her last heat. This phase should soon pass. There is a strong possibility, however, that phantom pregnancies will recur at successive heats. Spaying (sterilizing) may be the best long-term answer, especially if you have a young family, but hormonal treatment might be used when the symptoms first emerge.

According to a British study published in 1984, at least three-quarters of all dog owners look to their pets to provide some security around the home, but proper training is required to ensure that your dog does not become a dominant tyrant at home. Again, it will be much easier to achieve the desired response with a young puppy. While the sound of the doorbell or knocker can trigger the dog to start barking, this can be followed by aggression towards the caller.

You may want your dog to bark initially, to alert you to the fact that someone is at the door. As soon as you hear the dog barking though, you must tell it to be quiet, and make it sit away from the door. You should follow this by commanding the dog to ‘stay’ when you actually open the door. Apart from the risk of causing injury to your visitor, the dog might rush out into the road. This can be a particular problem with hounds, which tend to be less territorial than some other breeds.

Pet Canaries

Canaries are seed-eaters and are known as hardbills, with the typical short, pointed beak of the predominantly seed-eating bird. They have four claws, the first pointing backwards, and the second, third and fourth forwards. They weigh about 16 grams and normal body temperature is 43.3°C.

An older canary has more ragged feathers. A well-groomed young canary.

Canaries can be mated at one year of age and used for breeding for two tree years. Some have been known to breed for as long as twelve years. They can live for between six and twenty years. It is very difficult to age birds once they are over twelve months of age, except by their appearance: macula birds are well groomed, with feet and legs smooth, while the older become ragged. Leg rings give some guide to age.


When breeding time the lower portion of the abdomen and vent of the male becomes prominent and protrudes downwards. In the female the vent is is in line with the contours of the abdomen. At five weeks of cock may make feeble attempts to sing and his throat will begin to . Cocks generally sing but hens only cheep. Males have a stronger, thickly set, masculine head. When sexing birds it is easier to compare with other birds in the cage than to make decisions on single birds. Hybrids between canaries and finches (for example, the goldfinch-canary) ire known as mules. Mules are usually infertile, particularly the male.


Nests (round tins, or wooden, metal or earthenware containers) should be long in the upper half of the cage. Nesting materials that should be placed the cage include cow hair, meadow hay, grass, pieces of cotton-wool, felt moss. The incubating period is thirteen to fourteen days.

When hatching commences, give egg food or proprietary nestling food three times a day. Egg food is arrowroot biscuit and hard-boiled egg yolk. At hatching, the young are blind, and have little down. Eyes open at seven days and the nestling is completely feathered at three to four weeks of age. The young birds moult at six to eight weeks. Adult birds moult annually at the end of the breeding season. A canary under one year old that has not had an adult moult is said to be `unflighted’ and the wing feathers are paler than those of a full adult.


In the breeding season, feed plain canary seed 14 parts, rape seed 2 parts, whole oats 2 parts, linseed 1/2 part, white millet 1 1/2 parts. In addition, give them daily small quantities of fresh green feed such as thistle or lettuce. While the young are being reared, continue feeding the egg food described above (a crumbled mixture of milk arrowroot biscuits and hardboiled egg yolk); it may also be fed to breeding birds with poor mating. Grit and cuttlefish should be made available.

Bird Illness


Abscesses are common in budgerigars and are usually encapsulated and can be opened surgically. An alternative treatment is to lance the abscess and irrigate it with a 50 per cent peroxide solution in water, three times daily for three days. Any debris in the abscess should be evacuated by massaging the area.

Alopecia (Loss of Plumage)

Loss of feathers, including self-plucking, is frequently incurable and very annoying. The causes are varied and can include deficient or unbalanced diet, boredom, external parasites, exhaustion, nervousness and hormone imbalance. Some hormone imbalances are a consequence of the birds being kept in areas artificially lit, resulting in abnormal day : night ratios. The condition can affect all bird species but caged birds of the parrot family are most commonly affected. Baldness occurs on the head and neck, and usually there is no inflammation.

A white sulphur-crested cockatoo with early feather plucking.

Feather plucking at an advanced stage. It is important that the veterinarian searches for ectoparasites. In canaries, feather pecking of a cannibalistic nature may be caused by overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and sometimes parasitism. Sometimes parents may peck the nestlings. Mature canaries a month or so old may peck one another quite seriously. In these cases isolate the birds, treat the condition causing the problem (for example, worms) and remove all evidence of blood. Newly introduced and sick birds are often the subject of attack. Where a nutritional origin is suspected, diets should be varied and supplemented with green, fresh seeding grasses and insects. Vitamins can be administered in the drinking water or in the form of yeast.

Self-inflicted feather plucking is characteristic of the parrot family. This is usually the result of boredom or dietary deficiency, viruses, rarely parasites, occasionally the preen gland, but probably most often psychotic disturbances.

These conditions are rarely seen in free-ranging native birds. It should be remembered that most members of the parrot family are unfortunately kept in particularly small cages when compared to the size of the bird. Boredom can be relieved by allowing the parrot its freedom in the yard after wing clipping, or by use of a leg chain and wire runner—though there are risks that the latter device may break the bird’s leg. Alternatively place the parrot out among other native birds in the garden, use a bigger aviary, or place some green shrubbery in the cage for the bird to chew on. In obstinate cases where the cause is diagnosed definitely as boredom or neurosis, the bird may need to be released, but always make sure that it can be self-supporting. Nervous exhaustion, another cause of self-plucking, may be caused by dogs, active children, mice, rats or other sources.

External parasites should be eliminated as a cause. Various injections can be given by the veterinarian for some conditions. The red mite common in poultry yards may trouble such caged birds as budgerigars, canaries and parrots. These mites live in crevices of the cages and fittings, which should be treated with Malathion powder or solution or with other insecticides. Birds may need to be tranquillized during and after treatment to stop the self-mutilation.

Feather loss can also occur in beak rot.

Apoplexy (Coma)

This occurs fairly commonly amongst canaries and other seed-eating perch-sitting birds. Cerebral hemorrhage, possibly due to trauma or shock, is not unusual. If the bird does not die at once, paralysis and collapse may result. Apoplexy should be differentiated from the fainting fits suffered by some older canaries. The treatment for apoplexy is to place the bird in a quiet, dark box and leave it undisturbed.
Reduce the likelihood of head-on collisions by removing obstructions that tempt birds to fly into them, such as clear glass and mirrors.


This is one of the fungal diseases that are reasonably common in parrots. including (to a lesser extent) budgerigars. Affected birds show breathlessness, but very little else. Main lesions are in the air-sacs and the trachea. Treatment is 120-300 milligrams of potassium iodide dissolved in 60 milliliters of drinking water. A very successful therapy is to nebulise Amphoteracin B and use as an inhalant.

Beak Deformities

Overgrown beaks

Budgies are frequently presented with overgrown top beaks to be trimmed. The beak can be trimmed with a pair of scissors or filed back with an emery board. It should be trimmed or filed back so that the upper mandible (the top beak) overlaps the lower mandible by 3 millimeters. There are several common causes for overgrown beaks: Overgrown beak: the top beak should only overlap by 3 millimeters.

Mite infestation of the beak and surrounding tissues. Mite infestation of the beak The burrows of the mite (Cnemidocoptes sp.) are visible with the naked eye. There are many topical treatments for the mite, such as paraffin and Dettol. Ivermectin orally or on the skin gives the best result. Sometimes long treatments are necessary to eradicate the mites. Regular trimming of the beak is necessary so that the bird can eat.

Infection Various infections of the air passages and the cere at the base of the beak result in inflammation which stimulates beak growth. There is usually either staining of the tiny feathers above the nostrils or a history of sneezing and respiratory infection.

Trauma Crash landings or flying into windows, mirrors or other obstacles within the cage can cause beak damage.

Beak Rot/Beak Split Syndrome

Beak rot/beak split syndrome of parrots and cockatoos is usually accompanied by a plumage disorder. The splitting, leads to underlying infection and impaction of food particles and eventual exposure of the hone of the mandible.

Infection of the bone, osteomyelitis. debility and inability to eat are the end results. The disease in Australian cockatoos and other parrots is manifested by progressive deformity of the beak and/or progressive feather pathology.

The commonly affected birds are the sulphur-crested cockatoo, galah, Major Mitchell cockatoo, little corella, quarion (or cockateil), especially the red mutation, the African peach-face parrot, the Australian pale-headed eastern rosella, the Australian smutty rosella and the Indian ring neck, and the blue masked lovebird mutant. There are many similarities between this disease and that commonly called French moult in budgerigars. Usually the sufferer shows diagnostic signs of the disease by or at the time of its first moult. Both beak and feathers become affected as the disease progresses but either may be deformed in early cases. The disease is thought to be caused by a virus, and may take three forms: Mortality of unhatched chicks.

Gastroenteritis, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and death. Feather loss syndrome: Note stretch lines in primary feathers.

Combined beak and feather disease syndrome In this syndrome the disease is characterized by progressive changes in the beak. In the sulphur-crested cockatoo it shows as a dark, almost shiny beak, which becomes overgrown, develops a line across it, breaks off short, may regrow several times, but eventually becomes underrun with the typical rot at the core of the beak.

The first feathers to be affected are the down feathers located over the tops of the legs. which fail to puff out. Patches of infected feathers extend backwards and across over the rump; at the same time stretch lines are evident on some of the primary or flight feathers and/or tail feathers, as well as on some of the comb feathers. Feathers that shed or fall out are progressively replaced by malformed feathers which often remain encased (in part, or totally) in their sheath. They often have bloodstains in the centre of the quill and often a deformed pointed quill. Most sufferers lose their tail and primary flight feathers before they lose their body feathers. Very few birds recover from the disease, the great majority of birds progressing to a bald stage—with some dying because they are unable to eat due to the beak deformity. Seek veterinary advice—but the condition is usually fatal.


This is a common sign of sick birds and can be due to aspergillosis (a fungal infection), canary pox, asthma, infectious bronchitis, emphysema or a thyroid condition.


This is an inflammatory condition of the lungs, usually caused by a virus. The bird looks puffed up and listless, shivers and occasionally sneezes. An early symptom is a slight watery discharge from the nose. Droppings are often white and watery. Keep the bird in a constant temperature of 30°C. Administer oral antibiotics prescribed by the vet.


Bumblefoot is caused by a localized abscess of the ball (or soft pad) of the foot, which produces lameness. The main causes are dirty cages, rough perches, toe-nail trauma through overgrowth, and toe biting by other birds. Cut nails regularly and prevent other birds biting by installing

Canary Pox

Canary pox is a viral disease. In acute cases in canaries it causes gasping, followed by death. In sub-acute cases pox lesions (warts) develop on various parts of the unfeathered body, such as the comb, legs, feet and eyes. Inflammation Birds — of the eyelids, swelling of the margins of the eyes and closure of the eyes is common. Pussy sores develop at the corners of the mouth. Scratching and rubbing the eyes and beak on the perch or bars of the cage produce typical damage.

In the canker form. yellowish plaque-lesions appear in the mouth. There is no treatment, although local lesions may be treated with antibiotic/cortisone creams. Warts usually disappear in 6-8 weeks if the bird survives.

Candidiasis (Moniliasis or ‘I-Blush’)

Birds affected by candidiasis—a fungal disease—are sick, show unsatisfactory growth, rough feathering, listlessness and could eventually die. On post mortem examination, the crop has a thin layer of whitish mucous loosely attached. Treatment involves vitamin B complex drops and a fungicide called nystatin.

Central Nervous System Disorders

Signs of nervous disease include circling and rolling, incoordination, loss of balance, convulsions, fits and paralysis of the wings and legs. Paralysis is common in budgerigars and is caused by a wide range of conditions, some of them affecting the central nervous system. Other causes include in the female a ruptured oviduct and consequent damage when the bird strains to lay an egg. In some cases budgerigars may be affected with a ‘creeping paralysis’, so-called because one leg becomes paralyzed and then the other.
This appears to be a genetically inherited defect of the central nervous system. In some cases tumor formation, particularly on the kidney, may be responsible. Curled toe paralysis may respond to a single injection of 25 milligrams of riboflavin. Concussion can be a cause of nervous symptoms.

Concussion can be due to disturbances at night resulting in a sudden fright, or other factors causing birds to fly suddenly from their perches and collide with the walls of their cages. Concussion is not infrequent when a bird flies into a clear glass window which it did not see.

Cere Abnormalities

Changes in the color of the cere—apart from the normal sex reaction—occur in budgerigars, with progressive thickening and darkening of the cere. It may occur in both sexes and must be differentiated from infestation with cnemidocoptes. In cock birds, debility and cancerous growths of the testicles may produce the condition; in hens, cancer of the ovaries may produce a similar condition. Attention should be given to management and diet, but apart from this treatment is not satisfactory.

Brownish, cheesy material may appear on the cere; it may be removed but it usually returns, because the bird usually has a respiratory infection.

Claw Overgrowth

Overgrown claws are due to lack of sufficient wear of the claws. It is common in the parrot family, especially in caged budgerigars. The claws become overgrown, curled and twisted and may become caught in the bars of the cage, leading to fractures. Treatment is to trim the nail with cutters, but avoid injuring blood vessels. Provide natural perches of varying diameters.


This condition (also known as slipped toe, or stiff claw) appears most often in the parrot family although it is also seen in other birds. Young budgerigars are most commonly affected. There is a curling of the digits in a clenched poscut back to the normal shape. One or both feet may be affected. The disease may be due to a vitamin B complex deficiency, which can be rectified by providing yeast. The condition has also been reported in birds suffering from threadworm (capillariasis) infection of the intestine.


This is an internal parasite which attacks the lining of the intestine. Birds have the typical sick look about them, with fluffed-up feathers, and they often rest on the bottom of the cage. Bloodstained droppings and diarrhea may be closely followed by death in severe cases where conditions are damp, dirty and overcrowded. Treatment is ten drops of 16 per cent solution of sulphadimidine in 30 milliliters of drinking water. Amprolium in the drinking water is also very effective.


Constipation occurs in all birds from time to time, more particularly the parrot family, and follows faulty diet. The usual signs are straining, scanty and hard droppings, and general lethargy and sickness. Prevent by providing supplementary vitamin B-complex and fresh green feed. When necessary administer oil (liquid paraffin), at the rate of two drops three times daily for a large parrot. Be careful not to overadminister, or it may lead to feather clogging and feather picking.


Convulsions can be caused by viruses, bacteria and cancerous growths—their effects on the nervous system can result in depression, tail flicking, inability to fly, ataxia, paralysis, chorea, and convulsions. In addition, heart diseases, heart failure and poisoning cause convulsions.

The bird should be kept in a subdued light. Wide-spectrum antibiotics should be given, together with prednisolone (0.2 milligrams) twice daily for three days.


The eating of feces. A normal requirement among some birds.

Cramps (Curled-Toe Paralysis)

This condition responds to B-group vitamins. Add yeast to diet, or for quick results take the bird to a vet for an injection.

Crop Impaction (Crop Bluding)

Crop impaction is seen most frequently in the parrot family, and particularly among debilitated birds. It is common in young cock budgerigars. Distension of the crop is caused by dough-like, fermented contents.

Failure to de-husk seed is a common cause. Parent birds usually de-husk seed for their young and when the young start to feed themselves they may not always do it. The condition is seen as a swelling of the crop, with severe vomiting. In bad cases the crop will need to be opened surgically for removal of the debris. Pigeons producing crop milk, however, cannot be operated on because of the vascularity of the crop at this time.
Sometimes, while the bird is under general anesthetic, the crop may be massaged and the impaction relieved. Particular attention should be paid to a bird that has already suffered crop impaction, as it tends to recur if the bird’s general condition remains poor. All that can be done to prevent crop impaction is to keep birds in good health, feed them properly and make sure adequate grit is available.

Crop Necrosis

Crop necrosis is a digestive disease characterized by regurgitation of mucoid fluid, diarrhea and general malaise. The majority of cases die within a few days but sometimes death is quite sudden and unexpected. Treatment is with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Cystic Conditions

Feather cysts are quite common in canaries and can be single or multiple. The cysts, which involve feather follicles, occur mainly on the wings, back, breast and tail, and develop mainly during the bird’s first or second moults. The cysts usually contain yellow, granular, cheese-like material. They should not be confused with cancerous conditions or skin abscesses. Their treatment is complete surgical excision under general anesthetic, rather than mere lancing

Deficiency Diseases in Birds

Because so little is known of the precise dietary requirements of many caged birds, it is likely that many disease conditions are due to deficiencies. For example, such conditions as French moult and other plumage disorders, gout, kidney disease, nervous conditions, poor hatchability, reduced fertility, failure to thrive and obesity are all influenced by diet.
Mixed vitamin supplements and increased fruit, green stuff and water intake have a beneficial effect in many conditions in canaries and budgerigars. In many illnesses the supply of live termites (white ants) can provide essential nutrients.


Normal droppings in the bird are black with a white centre. Diarrhea is usually evidenced by profuse, greenish droppings. The birds are very’ thirsty, there may be straining and eversion of the cloaca, and a craving for grit. Diarrhea can be caused by: faulty feeding; several organisms such as E. Coli, Salmonella, psittacosis and chlamydiosis; coccidiosis; access to poisonous garden plants such as violets, jonquils and gladioli. Sometimes stale wilted green stuff, or any other dirty food may induce intestinal inflammation and result in diarrhea. The bird quickly goes into shock, becomes depressed, loses its appetite, and stands about in a typical sick bird attitude with ruffled feathers. Samples of the droppings should be examined by a veterinarian and suitable medication prescribed as quickly as possible. Supportive therapy includes providing warmth, electrolytes in the water and intestinal antibiotics.

Suggested treatment is 1 gram Terramycin soluble powder per liter of drinking water for five days. Nectar-eating birds can be fed on 175 grams honey, 175 grams Complain and 175 grams of bread per liter of water. The bird should be force fed initially and treatment continued for five days. Isolate the bird and keep it warm and quiet.

A second treatment regime is a teaspoon of Spectramycin soluble powder (55 grams oxytetracycline per kilogram) per 250 milliliters of water, plus 2-3 drops Lomotil syrup twice daily. Initially injections are needed. With any of these treatments it is important to supply grit.

Egg Binding

Egg binding is common in caged birds, particularly in canaries and pigeons. It leads to excessive straining and a prolapse may occur. In canaries it occurs at the start of the breeding season and if not corrected may be quickly fatal.

It often occurs in cold weather and in unhealthy or immature birds, who will be found fluffed up in the corner of the cage. Treatment is to place the bird in a warm cage at 26-32°C (80-90°F). This alone may relieve the spasm of the oviduct. Lubricate the egg and vent area with some warm paraffin oil. If this fails, pierce the egg with a needle, remove the contents and then the shell. An owner with confidence can perform this procedure.

Eye Disorders

Irritation, inflammation and slight closing of the eye can be caused by the pox virus. Cataracts, which are often seen, may be due to inbreeding. Conjunctivitis caused by chlamydiosis is commonly seen in parakeets—symptoms are excessive drinking and partial closing of the eyes with mucous discharges. It is successfully treated with antibiotic eyedrops.
A fracture in a bird is a serious problem, and not one for home remedies. Fractures of the major bones in large birds can be satisfactorily repaired by inserting a pin surgically. Smaller bones, and the legs of smaller birds, can be splinted while the bird is under a general anesthetic with quite satisfactory results, using splints made of 12 millimeter strips of adhesive tape and fine plastic tubing. It is important that the bird be encouraged to perch, with the limb extending behind and resting on top of the perch. Fractures of the toes are not uncommon but they invariably heal well when splinted by adhesive tape to the adjacent toe.

Fractured wings are very common. The typical sign is a drooped wing. To facilitate healing, the wing should be lifted back to its normal position. In large birds pinning can be done surgically and is one of the better remedies. In birds weighing less than 50 grams surgery is generally unwarranted, and the fracture can often be treated by manipulation of the conscious or sedated sufferer and the wing strapped in its normal position against the body which serves as a splint. Adhesive tape 12 millimeters wide is used to encircle both wings just behind the wing butt and connected to another strip holding the primary flight feathers together and to the tail base by a strip along the back of the bird. Free leg movement is essential.

It takes time for the bird to learn to balance without the use of its wings. Splinting remains for twenty-one days. All primary and secondary flight feathers on the affected wing are cut off to remove any drag on the wingtip. In some cases wings may have to be amputated, but birds in captivity cope very well.


Gangrene is sometimes reported among canaries. The feet become cold, black in color, and slough off. The cause is unknown—but it may be due to bacteria ergot. The should be treated with local applications of tincture of chloramphenicol daily. Cleanse and disinfect the cage and destroy and replace the perches. The condition can be confused with canary pox or simple inflammatory conditions.


Gout is usually a sequel to a kidney complaint. A bird with gout may be restless and may lift and lower the feet alternately. Joint lesions take the form of nodules on the feet and legs (budgerigars), and sometimes on the wing joints. The only treatment that can be suggested is manipulation of the joint while the bird is under general anesthesia, the provision of narrow diameter perches and control of any kidney disease.

Gout is a complex problem. Nutritional deficiencies of riboflavin, vitamin E and manganese may all play a part.

A detailed examination of all factors such as husbandry, nutrition and evidence of disease needs to be made before specific treatment can be carried out. A change in diet to a mixed vitamin supplement, reduced seed intake, and an increased fruit, green and water intake are general recommendations in budgerigars and canaries where gout is occurring. The condition is usually progressive.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is common in parrots. The signs are fainting fits, leading to collapse, followed (in older birds) by recovery. Older birds tend to recover because they have better compensatory ability than younger birds. The fainting fits increase in frequency and eventually result in heart failure, usually due to pericarditis.

In canaries aged seven years and older fainting fits and heart failure are common. The cause is usually a fibrinous pericarditis or gout. Signs are sudden fluttering about the cage followed by partial collapse with the wings held away from the body and weakness of the legs. Death may ensue, or the bird may recover after a few hours. Keep the bird quiet and warm, lower the perches and remove obstacles on which the bird may injure itself. Treatment is glucose at the rate of 30 grams per liter of drinking water and Nikethamide by injection 0.25 milliliters. A minute amount of strychnine may be given in drinking water. No alcohol should be given.


Heatstroke can occur in any caged bird. If the cage is placed in direct sunlight without shelter, the bird becomes distressed. suffers prostration and eventually death from heart failure and shock. The bird suffering from heatstroke should be removed to a cool, shaded area or placed in a refrigerator for a minute to get rapid, dry cooling. Take care not to overdo this—some may recommend three minutes but one minute is safer. Afterwards place the bird in a cool, dark room. Taking the bird to the vet will only cause increased stress, so it is advisable to leave the bird quiet.


Hernia is sometimes seen in caged birds but most often in budgerigars. It is a fluctuating swelling beneath the skin of the abdomen. The only method of repair is by anesthesia and surgery. It may be confused with a tumor. The condition is most likely due to injury.
Injuries in Birds

Following injury to a captive bird or on capturing an injured bird, handle it as little as possible. Place the bird in a soft cardboard box and keep it dark (excepting larger parrots, which do not go into shock so easily). While maintaining a warm environment for the bird,
Race it as rapidly as possible to the vet’s surgery. External injuries of tail feathers Broken or damaged primary and secondary tail and flight feathers are removed by traction.

Re-growth time varies from eight weeks to four months depending on the species. Self-mutilation of feather wounds can be limited by fitting-an Elizabethan collar or by releasing the bird into a very large aviary. Sometimes reduction of light intensity and improved husbandry eliminates the problem. An injured feather is best to be removed and the area cauterized with ferric chloride solution to stem the bleeding.

Puncture wounds and lacerations to the skin from the environment or other birds are common. Large wounds can be sutured and/or an Elizabethan collar used to prevent pecking at the wound.

Bumblefoot is a major problem of the foot. Excess toe-nail growth and consequent snagging or toe biting by other birds are frequent. Often a nail strip occurs, but regrowth of the nail over the undamaged stump is rapid. If osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone) sets in, antibiotics are required.

Soft Ttissue Injuries

Leg rings Most budgerigars and canaries bred for exhibition are fitted with closed aluminum rings on their legs, but the incidence of problems associated with these is low. If the ring is too tight the leg may be fractured and/or the blood supply to the foot restricted. The ring often becomes restrictive if there is swelling of the leg because of canary pox or. cnemidocoptes mite infestation. Removal of the ring should be undertaken with extreme care and only while the bird is anesthetized, as it is very easy to fracture a leg. As the ring is usually made of soft aluminum, it may be cut off with a pair of fine scissors, ideally by inserting one blade under the ring and cutting. If access by this technique is impossible, then a fine pair of tin snips is applied above and below the ring which is cut in two positions. The traumatized tissues of the leg are treated with local preparations and the bird is placed on antibiotics.


Emphysema is an accumulation of air under the skin. It can be caused by a penetrating wound that punctures the skin and creates a ‘bellows’ effect in the A leg ring which has restricted circulation has caused serious injury to this bird surrounding muscle tissue; air is ‘pumped’ in through the wound. Another cause is the rupture of an air sac which results in a massive accumulation of air in the head and neck region. Veterinarian treatment is required.

Crop Fistula

Commonly encountered in large parrots and resulting from internal trauma or ulceration. In racing pigeons, injuries result from external trauma from trees, power lines and birds of prey. The opening usually comes from the crop to the outside skin. Treatment is surgical.
Internal Trauma

Internal trauma results from eating a foreign body or from the migration of a sharp object (such as a needle or a piece of wire) through any part of the upper intestinal tract. Sometimes X-rays will reveal the foreign body. Part of it may be visible externally. Surgery can be done under anesthetic to remove the problem.

Gunshot Wounds

Gunshot wounds are common in racing pigeons particularly and produce a variety of lesions. Removal of pellets is difficult and often unnecessary unless they are affecting the bird’s bones.


Collapse of the walls of the oviduct, and subsequent emergence of the tissue through the vent, may occur after egg-laying in immature or geriatric females. If the prolapse is attended to quickly, lubrication or gentle restoration using a blunt instrument is all that will be needed. Prolapse of a longer duration is more difficult to reduce, but patience and gentle pressure with thorough lubrication will restore the organ to its normal position. A purse-string suture around the vent for the next seven to ten days will prevent a recurrence. Laying birds should be checked daily. Antibiotic therapy is necessary.

Leg Disorders

Swollen knees in lorikeets and budgerigars may be due to infectious arthritis or gout. Infectious arthritis can be treated with a mixture of 1: 1 sulphadimidine and chloramphenicol palmitate suspension. Give two drops by mouth every four hours for seven to fourteen days. Nodules on the legs and feet may be the result of gout. If the swelling is due to canary pox, the disease can be identified by the typical pox lesions (warts) on the skin of the body and on the feet and legs, and the usual cycle of the warts (they will disappear in about six weeks).

Light Birds

Going ‘light’ is a symptom, not a disease and is common to many diseases. The bird sits listlessly with its feathers fluffed. and it loses weight as it picks disinterestedly at its food. It flies sluggishly and with increasing difficulty as breast and pectoral muscles waste away almost to nothing. Birds affected by this condition should be taken to a veterinary surgeon.

Loss of Voice

Invariably there is some underlying problem with the bird. Observe it carefully to detect clinical signs of illness.


Moulting varies in timing, but usually occurs towards the end of summer. Canaries moult more fully than budgerigars. Parrots moult more slowly than canaries and start earlier.
Canaries may lose their song, and there is reduced activity during the moult. Vitamins, fresh greens, fruit and canary seed—so-called moulting foods—should be supplied during the moult. When moulting is incomplete and the remaining feathers are dull, the bird may be treated by ultraviolet irradiation. The lamp should be positioned 1 metre from the cage for half a minute on the first day, one minute on the second day, and thereafter lengthening the time each day by half a minute until by the thirtieth day the bird is receiving a dose for fifteen minutes. Moulting will be erratic when the bird’s diet is unsatisfactory. Some birds benefit from small pieces of raw meat, some benefit from soft corn meal mush seasoned with salt and pepper. Other diets that promote healthy moulting include slices of wholemeal bread soaked in warm milk and honey, sweet apple, fresh corn on the cob and a boiled egg occasionally French moult ‘runner’.

French Moult

French moult is a condition of young budgerigars and some other parakeets. It is a condition of faulty plumage occurring in the nest or during the fledging stage, and is thought to be a deficiency disease induced by continuous breeding. It is associated with a deficiency of protein secreted by the female. Nestlings have excessive feather growth but are subnormal in size. Continuous moulting affecting the wing or tail feathers can give rise to the so-called ‘runners’ or ‘crawlers’. The condition should be differentiated from parasitic disease or self-plucking. To prevent the birth of young that will continue the disorder, breeding adults should be rested from breeding for months. Control apart from this is dietary. Some success has resulted from using high levels of vitamin E (80 i.u. per kilogram of foodstuff). Molasses, seaweed and B-group vitamins mixed in the drinking water are also helpful. The best response is to antibiotic therapy during incubation and rearing.

Soft Moult

Soft moult is the continual moulting of a few feathers. This condition occurs in budgerigars and canaries where they are kept in cages under artificial light, such as the living room of an ordinary household. It is commonest in canaries under such conditions. The affected birds have a disheveled appearance as they continually shed their feathers and produce new growth. The birds become debilitated and may die. Treatment includes varying the diet, providing constant temperature, and exposure to normal hours of daylight. It can take up to six months for the condition to be cured.

Muscle wasting

Muscle wasting is a sign of serious illness in the bird, and particularly of cancerous growths


Cage birds as they age become susceptible to a wide range of benign and malignant tumors. The incidence of cancers is very high in budgerigars. Treatment is seldom possible, apart from surgical removal of subcutaneous neoplasms.

Neoplasms may also occur in the kidneys or in the pituitary gland, and cause a quarter of all deaths. Cancerous growths lead to a variety of symptoms but externally all produce wasting and death.

Nephritis (Kidney Disease)

Birds are commonly affected with nephritis due to the production of uric acid crystals which get caught in the tubules of the kidney. Sometimes there is associated gout. Symptoms are depression, thirst and watery diarrhea which may be whitish with urates.
Swelling of the limbs can occur in canaries. The condition is commonly caused by a virus. Treatment is to use antibiotics such as Amoxil or Clavulox and check on the dietary protein. The surrounding temperature should be maintained at 24-26°C. If the canary becomes emaciated, increase the ratio of canary seed to millet seed from 1 : 2 to 3 : 1. If its weight does not increase, consult your veterinary surgeon for antibiotic :herapy.


Obesity is a serious problem, as it affects the liver, heart, lungs and kidneys, resulting in respiratory disturbance, lethargy, sometimes abdominal rupture, reproductive disorders and collapse if the bird is excited. Flight may be impossible and walking may be an effort. It occurs in birds between fifteen months and six years of age. Control is by strict dieting on a high-protein seed ration, giving only one level teaspoonful two or three times a day for about ten days.

Oil Removal from Marine Birds

An oiled bird should be sprinkled with dry cornflour, which should be dusted off once it has absorbed oil. Repeat the dusting with fresh cornflour until the bird’s plumage is normal. Allow the marine bird a test swim in a small tub before releasing to the wild. Birds should not be degreased with a detergent-type product as this also removes natural plumage oils which keep the bird buoyant while swimming.

Ornithosis (Psittacosis or Parrot’s Disease or Parrot Fever)

This condition affects birds of the parrot family, budgerigars, canaries and other species of wild birds and pigeons. It is a danger to human beings, as it may produce respiratory symptoms that vary from mild to severe, sometimes total bronchopneumonia. The disease is readily transferred from birds to humans by inhalation, and kissing pet birds is for this reason extremely dangerous.

Symptoms in birds vary a lot and are not specific. Labored breathing is the commonest symptom. Birds go off their food, show sleepiness, roughing of the feathers, greenish diarrhea, breathlessness, discharge from the nose and eyes, loss of weight, drooping of the wings, general apathy and attacks of shivering. Treatment includes antibiotic therapy, but serious thought should be given to destroying the bird because of the danger to human health.


Budgerigars, parrots and cockatoos may suffer from osteomalacia, a gradual softening of the bones. The condition is dietetic in origin, being caused by a deficiency or imbalance of calcium and phosphorus and a deficiency of vitamin D. The bones become weak and may fracture. The easiest treatment is to feed with a commercial brand of bird seed. Seek professional advice regarding adequate and balanced calcium and phosphorus in the diet.
This condition is becoming more apparent among native birds fed by the public on bread and honey. If this diet accounts for a large proportion of a bird’s total diet it will eventually suffer from osteomalacia. Bread is very poor in calcium and very high in phosphorus

Parasites (External)

Birds are commonly affected by lice and mites which attack their legs and feathers. Several insecticides are available for painting the undersides of the perches. These insecticides are very poisonous and should be used strictly according to the instructions on the label. Painted on the undersides of the perches, the fumes rise and penetrate the birds’ feathers, killing any lice.

Other effective methods of controlling vermin are to spray or paint perches and cages with kerosene or an insecticide such as Malathion. Birds should be removed from the cages or aviaries during this procedure and not returned to the cages for two or three days. The cages should be rinsed with water after the insecticide has had time to work.