Does Your Bird Have Bad Breath?
Thus far, our posts have mentioned dogs and cats having bad breath…but never have we discussed bad bird breath. As someone who is a bird owner and avid bird fan, I thought it was necessary. Birds can have bad breath!
If a bird has bad breath, that is almost always the sign of a bacteria infection, and it needs to see an avian veterinarian. Generally, foul breath in our avian friends means that there is some abnormality in the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, or even with the oropharynx.
If a bird has vitamin-A deficiency, it may be more susceptible to bacterial or yeast infections like Candida sp. Infections like these can cause halitosis. Also, a bird’s diet can affect its breath–so don’t give it rotten food/seed.
The bacteria that normally resides in the gastrointestinal tract (like the colon of mammals) are known as coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria and other bacteria are accompanied with a fecal-type odor. If a bird is infected with one type of these bacteria, its breath (if the mouth, crop, or proventriculus has the infection) or its droppings (if the lower gastrointestinal tract has the infection) can develop a strong fecal odor.
Where Do These Bacteria Come From?
People use fertilizer frequently when growing fruits and vegetables, and this is a strong bacterial source. Soil can also be contaminated with fecal material. Fruits and vegetables need to be washed properly before a bird eats them, because the bird can ingest the bacteria.
Also, if a bird is in the bathroom when the toilet is flushed, the coliform bacteria can become aerosolized and breathed in by the bird. Also, bird owners need to wash their hands after using the bathroom before handling their bird.
Avian Gastric Yeast (AGY, formerly known as megabacteria) can be found in middle of the proventriculus and ventriculus and may also be found in other places of the gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, this is hard to track in live birds, and it can be the cause of bad breath. An ulcer in the crop, proventriculus or ventriculus that has been contaminated by bacteria can also cause bad breath.
Other Bad Breath Causes
Other gastrointestinal issues can cause halitosis, like Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD). Spirochetes, an unusual type of organism, might cause halitosis, especially in lovebirds. Both benign and malignant tumors in the gastrointestinal tract can also cause bad breath, especially if they erode or cause ulceration into the GI tract. These can be diagnosed by a combination of blood work, X-rays, endoscopy, or ultrasound. Within the GI tract, protozoal infections (i.e. trichomoniasis in the oropharynx, giardia) can be hard to diagnose and may cause bad breath. Most protozoal infections can be treated with ronidazole.
According to many avian vets, vinegar can by used to help acidify the interior of the proventriculus and ventriculus as well as treat many diseases, mostly in the GI tract.
If your bird has bad breath and any other symptoms, bring it to a vet and have a physical exam and work-up done. These include: complete blood count; plasma chemistry panel; Gram’s stains of the choana, crop, and cloaca; bacterial and fungal cultures; appropriate serological tests; full-body X-rays and maybe an endoscopy.
Depending on what your avian veterinarian tells you, you can suggest a consultation with a board-certified avian specialist (some veterinary labs will offer this). If your vet is not experienced enough, you can have them refer you to a referral center or avian specialist.
Unlike pet mammals and humans, birds do not have teeth (aside from the single egg tooth that is not made of the structures in a mammalian tooth), meaning that the cause of bad breath in birds cannot be attributed to dental and gum disease (usually caused by a bacteria infection). However, bacterial infections concerning the bird’s gastrointestinal tract or lungs can cause bad breath and impact its health.
Source: Bird Channel