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Sick Birds

Health Articles / Sick Birds

We have recently introduced the most revolutionary new sick bird product. Called Guardian Angel you can read about this product in this article.


Just like humans, birds can become sick for a wide variety of reasons. Common problems are infections by bacteria, fungi, yeast or viruses, or attack by parasites such as gut worms or mites and lice, or poor diet. In addition, injury can cause illness in birds. Certain specific problems are dealt with in articles listed on the navigation bar to the left. This article concentrates on the nutritional support we can give to most sick birds.

Two symptoms are present in most sick birds. The first is diarrhea and the second is a loss of appetite. These two either together, or on their own, are more likely to kill the sick bird than the initial cause of the disease.


Birds suffer from digestive system upsets quite frequently. They can be caused by infection, stress or just a sudden change in diet. When birds get diarrhea they lose large quantities of water in the droppings and as a result they dehydrate. The water lost this way also takes with it many soluble mineral salts known as electrolytes. These include potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphate and chloride. The loss of these electrolytes is life threatening and they must be replaced urgently.

Loss of appetite

Birds have a huge requirement for regular energy intake. As a result they eat about ten times as much food, compared to their body weight, as we do. Also they don't have significant fat reserves. So a bird that loses its appetite soon finds itself using more energy than it is replacing through the little it is eating. To keep its temperature up it starts to metabolize (burn up) its own tissues so it rapidly loses weight. In only a few days a bird can drop to just half of its normal body weight.

Many birds in actual fact die, not of the effects of the bug that is attacking them, but due to dehydration or starvation!

The Birdcare Company sick bird management programs are designed to counter these two killers and will not interfere with any medication that you or your vet may administer.

Minor Ailments

You know when your bird looks a little "under the weather". It spends time sitting a bit fluffed up. It is still feeding and drinking, though perhaps less than normal, but between periods of activity it appears unwell. The symptoms may be caused by infection, parasites, bad weather or simply the stress of breeding.

If the cause of the problem is not major then the bird's immune system will probably be capable of providing a cure, so long as the bird's energy and mineral salts are maintained.

Treatment of minor ailments

Both energy and mineral salts can be provided by adding Guardian Angel

to the drinking water at a dose of 1 gram per 50 ml (3 pinches per fluid ounce) of water. Guardian Angel contains the mineral salts essential to prevent dehydration and unique "long chain glucose polymers" (quite different to ordinary sugar or glucose) to provide long lasting energy.

These unique polymers enable the bird to benefit from a prolonged energy source, even if it only drinks twice per day. Other sugar-like energy sources (glucose, dextrose, etc.) can be dangerous for sick birds as they cause "osmotic diarrhea" and worsen the dehydration that the bird is already suffering.

Equally importantly Guardian Angel will help your bird to fight infections throughout the body by supplying its immune system with extra special nutrients for the job.

Guardian Angel contains the beneficial bacteria and garlic extract from out BioPlus technology. This mixture will often more quickly re-establish a healthy gut flora and so speed the recovery process. Potent Brew

could also be added as this unique "live" probiotic is even more powerful.

More Major Illnesses

Potent Brew, Guardian Angel or BioPlus are all strongly recommended if your bird has been on a course of antibiotics.

Birds that are even less well may still be eating but may have difficulty digesting their food. These birds need a food that is very easily absorbed.

Treatment of more major illnesses


contains the same essential mineral salts and "long chain glucose polymers" as Guardian Angel, as well as an easily digested protein source and a megadose of vitamins. Survive should be mixed with the bird's normal softfood to boost its energy intake. The sweet nature of Survive makes it highly palatable. Potent Brew can also be added.

Very Sick Birds

Birds that are too sick even to eat are "on the critical list". Traditionally we have placed these patients into a hospital cage or in front of a heat lamp. This is a good practice but enough water must be placed in the cage to maintain a high humidity. Remember the bird is already dehydrated and a dry heat could speed up death. The bird also desperately needs to replace its energy and its lost mineral salts

Treatment of Very Sick Birds

Stage 1: Survive

If the bird is not eating it must be spoon fed Survive or force fed Survive with a crop tube. You can add Potent Brew and medications to Survive as well if desired.

Survive is a unique product. A sick bird will often live on Survive alone for days. It will gain strength and put on weight. Most importantly Survive will stop it starving to death, often giving it time to deal with its illness or time for your medication to cure it. Because of the long lasting effect of Survive your bird will only need feeding twice a day. This minimises stress and reduces the time involved in caring for the patient.

Survive is effective for all types of birds (and reptiles and mammals). Meat eating, fish eating and nectar eating birds all recover well on Survive. A heron at the St Tiggiewinkles Wildlife Hospital was fed on Survive for 14 days before it started to eat day old chicks.

Survive is not a drug. It is purely nutrition. But if your bird needs medication Survive will not interfere with the drugs that you or your vet administers.

After its initial dose of Survive it would be wise to put the bird in a hospital cage, again - remembering the adequate water supply.

Stage 2: Weaning off Survive

As the bird recovers and its digestive system becomes more effective it can be weaned off Survive and onto its normal food, including a vitamin mix such as Daily Essentials3

. Continue to add Potent Brew.

As the bird is weaned off Survive, start to add Guardian Angel to the drinking water. This both continues the "long chain glucose polymer" supplementation (at a lower dosage) and maintains the intake of electrolytes. The change to normal food boosts the fibre intake and helps the digestive track to recover.

Birds fed on complete diets will also increase their water intake so helping to fight dehydration. So make sure they have adequate water!

As the Survive content of the diet is reduced, the frequency of feeds should increase again, since the bird is now taking in more conventional energy sources.

Supplementation with Guardian Angel should continue until you feel the bird has returned to full health.


Each patient will be different. In general you should be taking the bird through the stages at a steady pace. The brighter the bird becomes the quicker it will start to feed itself. Ensure that the bird receives adequate vitamins.

How much Survive?

Survive is such a concentrated nutrition that your sick bird requires very little. A budgie requires 5 grams (a heaped teaspoonful) per day. A large cockatoo may require ten times that much. Full dosage rates by bird weights are on the label.

Survive will not save birds with diseases that cause significant internal organ damage but it will save plenty of birds that you thought would die!