Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental, social, and/or physiological factors. Environmental causes can include overcrowding in cages or aviaries, not enough perching space, inadequate nutrition or diet, inadequate exposure to natural sunlight or other forms of light, and stress due to changes in the bird’s environment.
Social causes can include trauma caused by excessive handling or physical contact, as well as not enough mental stimulation from toys and activities. Physiological causes can include an underlying medical condition like a vitamin deficiency, hormonal imbalance, infection or parasite infestation.
Symptoms of Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease
Symptoms of Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease may include:
- Bald patches or areas where feathers have been plucked, chewed, or broken off
- Skin redness
- Inflammation and/or scabs on their skin
Some birds may have signs of stress including pacing, feather shaking, excessive preening, and fearfulness. Ultimately, the most obvious sign of Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease is the plucked, chewed, or broken feathers.
Diagnosing Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease
Diagnosing Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease requires a complete physical examination by an avian veterinarian. During the examination, the veterinarian will check for any underlying medical conditions such as vitamin deficiency or infection. The veterinarian might also conduct blood tests to rule out metabolic or hormonal disorders. The veterinarian might perform radiographs to look for organ enlargement or tumors.
Stages of Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease
Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease typically progresses in three stages.
The first stage is termed “pre-plucking” and it is associated with excessive preening, feather shaking, pacing, and fearfulness.
The second stage is called “active plucking” and your bird will begin to pull out feathers from their body.
The third stage is known as “post-plucking” and involves your bird’s skin becoming red and inflamed. At this stage, your bird will no longer be actively plucking their feathers, but may still have signs of stress like pacing, feather shaking, and fearfulness.
Treating Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease
Treatment for Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, environmental changes such as increasing perching space or having more toys and activities may be enough to reduce stress and prevent further feather plucking.
If an underlying medical condition is present, your avian veterinarian might prescribe medications or supplements to address the issue. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be recommended to help your bird learn healthy coping skills in response to stress. It’s important to give your bird plenty of love and attention to reduce their stress and encourage feather regrowth.
Preventing Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease
The best way to prevent Avian Feather Plucking and Mutilation Disease is to give your bird an enriching environment that meets their physical, mental, and emotional needs. This includes giving them enough space, toys and activities, regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet. It’s important to monitor your bird for signs of stress or illness and address any issues as soon as possible.