9 Common Causes of Sudden Death in Pet Birds

Everyone loves their pets, and pet birds are no exception. Unfortunately, sometimes pet birds die suddenly, with seemingly no cause. What are some things that commonly cause pet birds to suddenly die?

1. Stress

When birds are stressed for a long time, they can die, seemingly with no cause. Stress, especially extreme amounts of stress, cause a bird’s heart to speed up. After a while, this overwhelms their system and causes them to die. (Source)

Birds are easily stressed, especially when they are adjusting to a new home or new people. Unfortunately, birds live fast-paced lives that can sometimes be stressful. However, you can prevent your beloved pet bird from dying from stress. Give them their space and try to get them to relax if you are worried about your pet bird’s stress levels.

2. Heart Failure

If your pet bird’s heart fails, it will die suddenly. Birds have extremely small hearts that beat extremely quickly. Unfortunately, this means that if it starts beating even faster, especially if their heart beats faster than normal for a long time, their body won’t be able to support the extremely fast blood flow and will be overwhelmed. Their heart can also suddenly fail if it can’t handle the input and output of blood.

Extreme stress levels can cause your pet bird’s heart to fail, so make sure your bird lives in a stress-free or extremely low-stress environment. Bird hearts are extremely delicate, and it will be fatal to your bird if theirs fail.

3. Lack of Food and Water

If your bird doesn’t have access to food and water for a long time, it will die suddenly. Make sure your pet bird always has access to food and water, especially if you are going to be gone for more than a few hours.

Because birds have extremely fast metabolisms, they need to eat and drink frequently. It’s why they eat multiple times a day. If they don’t eat for 24-36 hours, they will die from starvation and dehydration, even if they don’t look skinny. (Source)

If pet birds don’t eat or drink enough food and water, but they do eat and drink at least once per day, they will die slowly rather than suddenly. Make sure your pet bird isn’t losing weight unless it is necessary.

4. Exposure to Toxins

If a pet bird is exposed to high levels of toxins or small levels over a long period of time, it will die suddenly. This mainly happens when a bird is exposed to high levels of toxins suddenly, as they will show no signs of illness, but that is not always the case.

Avoid exposing your pet bird to potentially harmful toxins. Make sure all food that you give them is clean and bird-friendly, as some pesticides and chemicals are toxic to birds, especially small pet birds.

5. Genetic Disorder

If your pet bird has a genetic disorder, it will die suddenly and you won’t be able to determine the cause yourself. A genetic disorder that can potentially kill your pet bird suddenly will likely affect their organs. Most genetic bird disorders that affect their beak or mouth are visible, and owners find ways to circumvent the issues that they cause, so those pet birds typically don’t suddenly die. However, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible.

6. Organ Failure

If your pet bird’s organs fail, they will die suddenly. Unfortunately, a lack of food and water can cause organ failure, as well as genetic disorders, various illnesses, and more. If you want to determine if your pet bird died suddenly because of organ failure, have a necropsy done. A necropsy is an autopsy of a pet or animal, and your vet likely offers this service.

7. Old Age

Old age can kill your pet bird suddenly. Some birds live to extremely old ages, sometimes outliving their owners, but others only live for 2-3 years. Old age often causes pet birds to die because their bodies shut down, but it sometimes doesn’t happen slowly.

Oftentimes, bird owners know their bird is dying from old age because they are behaving abnormally, aren’t eating normally, or their feces or pee change in consistency or color.

However, old age can kill pet birds suddenly because it can cause the bird’s organs to suddenly shut down, seemingly without cause.

8. Illness or Virus

An illness or virus can kill your pet bird suddenly. Even though your pet bird shows symptoms of an illness when they are sick or have a virus, it can seem like they are getting better, but you walk out of your room one day and see that your bird has died. This is extremely sad, especially if you thought they were getting better. This is one of the reasons why frequent vet visits are important.

Here are some common illnesses that commonly affect pet birds and some of their symptoms;

  • Avian Goiter: Often seen in canaries, budgerigars, and non-domesticated birds.
  • Avian Tuberculosis: Commonly seen in birds that have recently been imported. It often causes sudden death, but other symptoms include weight loss, depression, increased amount of thirst, difficulty breathing, lack of egg production, and diarrhea.
  • Canary Pox: Although this illness only affects canaries, it causes sudden death. If your canary has canary pox, it will suddenly have trouble breathing.
  • French Molt: This mainly affects the chicks of lovebirds, budgerigars, parrots, and birds with hooked bills that are between 5 – 6 weeks old. Symptoms include tail and wing feather breakage, bruises, bleeding, feather loss, and an excessive amount of molting.
  • PDD: This illness affects parrots, macaws, African Greys, cockatoos, cockatiels, conures, Eclectus parrots, budgies, and Amazonian birds. The symptoms include chronic infections, pendulous crops, weight loss, whole seeds in droppings, lack of coordination, depression, sudden death, ataxia, seizures, and intermittent to constant regurgitation.
  • Pulmonary Sarcocystosi: Often affects cockatoos, cockatiels, and African parrots. This illness is extremely fatal, and birds often don’t show signs of illness until after they die, and it causes them to die suddenly. If your dead bird has clear fluid coming from its mouth when it is lifted, it died from this illness.

9. Accidents

Birds often die suddenly because an accident occurred. After all, accidents happen. Sometimes, people step on and kill their birds by accident because they couldn’t see them on the ground. Birds can also die by accident because they hit their head, got their head caught in the cage’s wire, choke to death, be eaten by another animal, or fall from a great height. Although accidents are preventable, they are often unanticipated.

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

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