African Grey Diseases

Written by carrie terry
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African Grey Diseases
African grey parrots have specific nutritional requirements. (African Grey Parrot image by mickkid from

African greys are mid-sized parrots that excel in speaking and mimicry. Greys can live for over 70 years and are popular, affectionate pets. Like any animals, they are susceptible to certain diseases. Knowing the symptoms of the diseases most common to African greys can help you keep your pet healthy.

Respiratory Diseases

Bacteria, fungi, viruses and airborne toxins cause respiratory problems in African greys. One of the most common disorders in African greys, aspergillosis, is caused by the fungus Aspergillus. The fungus spreads more readily in environments with poor ventilation and sanitation. Acute aspergillosis is characterised by severe breathing difficulty, frequent urination, excessive thirst, blue-tinged mucous membranes, and death. Chronic aspergillosis can cause breathing difficulty, weight loss, depression, and lethargy. Other respiratory diseases, like chlamydiosis, are caused by a different organism but display many of the same symptoms as aspergillosis. Respiratory problems are aggravated by airborne toxins from smoke and household cleaners and are often treated with oral antibiotics.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBTD)

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBTD) is caused by Circoviridae virus. It is specific to parrots and strikes young African greys before their immune systems have become fully functional. The disease causes feather loss, development of abnormal feathers on the abdomen, new pinched feathers and loss of powder down. Lesions on the beak, back and feet are also common. PBTD is transmitted through contact with infected fecal matter or feather dust, bird carriers, utensils, food dishes, and nesting materials. Weight loss and depression characterise the end states of this disease, which is fatal in most cases.


African greys require higher calcium levels than some other birds and experience serious complications if these requirements are not met. Hypocalcaemia, or lack of adequate calcium, is a pathological syndrome encompassing several similar disorders. Symptoms range from bowed bones in young greys to neurological problems like ataxia and seizures in older birds. If untreated, hypocalcaemia can lead to broken bones, disfiguring and permanent disability. The disorder is treatable through calcium supplementation.

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