There are a lot of misconceptions out there about mold.
The biggest misconception is that mold can kill you.
Though you don’t want mold growing in your house, it’s unlikely to result in death, even if you breathe it in for substantial periods of time – that’s the good news.
The bad news is that mold can make you sick, especially if you already have pre-existing health conditions like asthma or COPD.
Mold exposure can also cause irritation to the eyes, nose, skin, throat, and lungs.
But though it’s unlikely to kill humans, we have to ask ourselves if the same is true for parrots.
After all, parrots are much smaller and more susceptible to irritants in the air.
So we ask the question – can mold kill parrots?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. Mold will not directly kill your parrot. With that being said, parrots have a sensitive respiratory system and if they breathe in mold they can develop a disease known as Aspergillosis, which can be deadly.
But what exactly is Aspergillosis and what are the signs and symptoms?
Today we will answer these questions along with many others including:
How does mold develop?
Where does mold hide in my parrot cage?
How can I prevent mold from building in my parrot cage?
And what should I do if there is mold in my parrot cage?
So let’s not waste another minute!
How does mold affect parrots?
As we already mentioned, breathing in mold will not directly kill your parrot, but it can cause a disease known as Aspergillosis.
Parrots have a much more sensitive respiratory tract than we do as humans.
Unlike us, parrots do not breathe in and out.
Rather, the air travels into their body and then into a posterior air sac.
Upon the exhale, the breath doesn’t leave the body.
Instead, it travels to the lungs where it sits for yet another breath before being released.
So any toxins that a parrot breathes in stay in their system longer than they do in that of a human.
The problem with this is that it makes parrots very susceptible to infections.
And when it comes to mold, Aspergillus can cause a disease known as Aspergillosis.
What is Aspergillosis?
In parrots, Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that can affect both the upper and lower respiratory tract.
This means that it can irritate the nose, sinuses, eyes, and trachea, as well as the lungs and air sacs.
This is an infection that develops over time, usually over the period of 3 weeks to 3 months.
The worst part is, however, that you usually don’t see signs of the illness until it is already too late and your parrots organs have already been affected.
Aspergillosis is caused by a mold known as Aspergillus which is microscopic and can be found on everything from your parrots soil, to their nesting material, to their foods.
If your parrot has been exposed to Aspergillosis for a period of time they may show signs of:
Where and how does mold grow?
The reality is that Aspergillus mold is everywhere.
It grows on rotting breads and foods, and can be hiding in your parrots cage under the pull out trays, on the perch, in the nooks and crannies of the cage wiring, and so on and so forth.
The good news is, small amounts of mold are unlikely to cause any harm to your parrot.
A parrot with a healthy immune system will build up antibodies to protect themselves against spores.
The bad news is that these spores can affect parrots with a compromised immune system, and can affect any parrot if there is a large exposure.
Mold spores are carried by air currents and start to reproduce when they find a suitable moist surface.
When the conditions are right, mold can grow rapidly and the greater the amount of mold, the more likely it is to affect your parrot.
How can I keep my parrot cage free of mold?
Because mold thrives in wet damp surfaces, the key to preventing mold is keeping your parrots cage free of moisture.
There are several things that you can do to prevent your parrot cage from becoming a breeding ground for mold:
Invest in a water bottle for feeding as opposed to a bowl.
This will help to prevent watery spills which can lead to moisture buildup.
Clean up droppings regularly.
Feed your parrot regularly and don’t give them more than they will eat.
Any food that is left around for a significant period of time runs the risk of developing mold.
Pick up any food droppings in and around the parrot cage immediately after feeding.
Clean and disinfect your parrots cage regularly, using special tools designed to get into the nooks and crannies that are otherwise hard to reach.
Always make sure that the cage has time to dry thoroughly before allowing your parrot back in.
If there is mold in your parrots room, move them to another room if possible.
Change the papers in your parrots cage frequently.
Ensure that the room your parrot is kept in is well ventilated at all times.
And remember, a healthy parrot is much less likely to succumb to the potential effects of mold.
By providing them with a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet you can thereby help to reduce the likelihood that they will become ill if any mold is lurking nearby.
What should I do if my parrot has been exposed to mold?
If you think your parrot has been exposed to mold, try not to panic.
Remember, if your parrot is healthy and has a strong immune system, there is a good chance it has not been affected.
With that being said, you should keep an eye out for any respiratory distress.
Remember those symptoms we mentioned earlier?
Check to make sure your parrot is not displaying any signs of lethargy, weight loss, or listlessness.
If they are, take them to a veterinarian immediately and explain that you think they may have been exposed to mold.
At this point your veterinarian can do a thorough examination to help determine whether mold is in fact the cause of your parrot’s distress, as well as how severe any damage to the system is.
Common tests can include:
a CBC (Complete Blood Count) to determine whether there is any elevation in white blood cells.
X-rays to show signs of disease including pneumonia, thickening of the air sacs, or bone deterioration.
DNA tests to determine whether Aspergillus is present within the blood or tissues.
A Tracheal Wash to determine whether Aspergillus is present in the trachea or respiratory tract
A laparoscopy to collect samples from the parrots airways.
What if mold is present in my parrots system?
Aspergillosis is a difficult disease to cure and can be deadly for parrots with a weakened immune system.
If your parrot has a strong immune system, they may be able to fight off the infection but treatment is a long process.
Treatments for Aspergillosis include topical, oral, and intravenous medications.
In some cases surgery may also be necessary to remove large areas of fungal growth.
During treatment the veterinarian may choose to keep your parrot in hospital.
They may also suggest alternative treatments like oxygen therapy and force feeding to help keep them comfortable throughout the process.
In conclusion, mold won’t kill your parrot directly but it can cause a fatal disease known as Aspergillosis.
Because Aspergillosis is a difficult infection to fight, the best protection is prevention.
Follow some of the tips above to help keep your parrot cage dry and free of moisture and remember not to panic if you find small amounts of mold in your parrots cage.
As long as your parrot is healthy, there’s a good likelihood that they will be just fine.
With that being said, if you notice signs of respiratory distress, you need to take them to a veterinarian immediately.