Sinusitis can occur in almost all animals including humans. Birds are also not immune to acquiring this type of infection which can be deadly to our feathered companions. Sinusitis is more common among larger psittacine birds and is rare in smaller species like parakeets. But when it does occur, the ailment is difficult to treat no matter the size.
Birds have air sacs that connect with the sinuses. These sacs or chambers can become infected either from an injury or from a respiratory infection. The infections can be associated with bacteria including mycoplasma or Chlamydia. In rare cases, fungal infections can lead to sinusitis. The progression can be slow with pus that gradually accumulates which becomes thick and dense. When the signs are left unnoticed for a period of time, the treatment with antibiotics alone may not be successful.
Birds that are affected will have swelling either above or below one or both eyes. A discharge may be excreting from the eyes and/or nostrils. In extreme cases, the eye or both eyes can be swollen shut. A bird with sinusitis is a sick bird and often will not eat, the feathers may stay fluffed, and the bird's overall behavior will change. Without treatment, the bird can die from the infection.
If the swelling is yielding, the pus may be removed with a needle via the bird's nostril. The nostril can then be cleaned with antiseptic medication and the bird will be given antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. This procedure may need repeated more than once. If the pus buildup is firm or what is referred to as "cheesy", the bird may need the blockage removed surgically. If the infection was caught in its early stages and swelling is not evident, the bird should only require antibiotic treatment.
Because birds require Vitamin A, infections can occur when this important nutrient is missing from their diet. A lack of Vitamin A can change the sinus lining (epithelial surfaces) which causes secondary infections. Birds that are fed a diet rich in sunflower seeds are often prone to a Vitamin A deficiency. Birds suffering with a respiratory infection generally benefit from a Vitamin A therapy regime.
There are no sure-preventative measures that can be taken to prevent sinusitis in birds. It can occur in large groups or a single-housed bird. It's important that bird owners provide their birds with a proper diet and a clean environment which can prevent some type of infections. Most importantly, owners should seek veterinary care at the first signs of illness.
POPULAR PARAKEETS, by Dulcie and Freddie Cooke, copyright 1993.