Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 7, 2013, 5:45 p.m. PST
By Thomas Kimball/BowTie Inc.
A model of the bird eye.
An eye injury or infection may be indicated by a red, swollen eyelid, partial or total closure of the eyelid, squinting or rubbing the eye and side of the face against the wing. Problems with the cornea (the outer surface of the eyeball) are indicated by discoloration of the surface of the eye. The third eyelid may also be inflamed, protruding or covering the surface of the eye. Certain metabolic diseases or genetic abnormalities can result in ocular problems, such as cataracts, which cause a bluish opacity to the lens, which is behind the iris (the pigmented portion in the eye), visible through the pupil. Tumors or an abscess behind the eye can cause the eye to bulge out. The globes may be unequal in size, and this is usually due to a genetic deformity (or possibly incubation problems resulting in a developmental problem).
Injuries due to flying or falling can lead to trauma and possibly infection of the eye, as well. Harmful or caustic substances can be splashed into a pet bird’s eye(s), causing injury.
A cloudy, opaque or bluish-white cornea may indicate a corneal ulcer or infection. Injuries may occur due to mishaps while playing outside of the cage or scares, causing the bird to fall off a perch, injuring its eye. Laceration to the eye or surrounding tissue can be caused by a sharp object. Foreign bodies or sharp claws can also puncture or scratch the eye. The third eyelid can be damaged or infected, also.
Certain predisposing factors can lead to ocular problems. For example, hypovitaminosis A (vitamin-A deficiency) can result in a secondary eye infection. An abscess or tumor behind the eye can cause the eye to bulge out.
If the eyes are not the same size, this is usually a genetic or early developmental issue.
“Water, water, water,” said Sam Vaughn, DVM, Dip. ABVP – Avian Practice. “If your bird has had a liquid, powder, dust or other offensive matter splashed into the eye, flush the eye as well as possible. Flushing the eye dilutes the potentially caustic substance, and reduces the trauma to the eye from powdery substances. If possible flush the eye with sterile saline (you can use preservative-free contact lens saline) or copious amounts of tepid tap water or a commercially available eye wash.
Flushing the eye in an incident where the cornea is lacerated is also important, Vaughn said, as is holding the eye shut after flushing it to prevent further damage, he said.
“Do not panic, gently flush the eye and make arrangements to get to your veterinarian quickly,” Vaughn said. “It is sometimes amazing how this totally collapsed eyeball can be sewn back together and re-inflated. When this can happen your birds’ eye will look near normal again in 15 to 30 minutes. Many of these birds also regain 100 percent of their vision that had been loss.”
Blindness can occur for a variety of reasons, so if you suspect some vision problems, seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible.
Repeated visits to the veterinarian are required with some eye injuries, Vaughn said. “Eye staining with fluorescein stains tells us when corneal ulcers are healed and when topical drug therapy can cease,” he said.
Depending on the severity of the eye problem, the bird’s eye may be completely cured, or in the worst case, the bird may become blind in the affected eye.
Birds that are totally blind in one or both eyes can often function as a pet remarkably well. As long as the bird cage equipment, food and water bowls, toys and perches remain in the same place, the bird will be able to get around, eat and live a happy life. Birds blind in one eye will have a blind side and may be startled if approached from the blind side. Always talk to the bird and approach slowly when dealing with a vision-impaired bird.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.