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Know the signs of Giardia in birds and how to best treat it.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 23, 2013, 2:15 p.m. PST


Giardia is a one-celled protozoal parasite that lives in the small intestines of birds.


Weight loss, loose stool, enteritis, malnutrition, itchiness and feather picking can all result from Giardia. Feather loss underneath the wings, especially with cockatiels, may occur due to Giardia, and sometimes feather loss is noticed on the thighs, lower abdomen, shoulders and back. Some birds with feather loss are never seen picking.


Diagnosing this disease can be difficult, but if it is determined that your bird is infected, the drug ronidazole may be prescribed by your avian veterinarian. Another commonly used medication is metronidazole, which is not as effective in many cases.


By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Anastasia Thrift
Feather loss in cockatiels may be a sign of Giardia.
Your veterinarian may also recommend that you switch your bird to a water bottle instead of a dish to prevent reinfestation. Prevent the spread of giardiasis to other birds in your household by always quarantining a new bird for about six weeks and having a veterinarian perform several wet mounts or specialized tests to attempt diagnosis of this organism. In some cases, it may be prudent to treat birds suspected of harboring Giardia with an appropriate medication, such as ronidazole.

Water bottles cut down on infectious disease contamination that can be found in a water bowl. Most birds are so smart that they figure out how to use them in no time. Ensure that the water level is dropping daily and frequently scrub the bottle and tube to prevent organism growth.

Disclaimer:’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.

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