Budgerigar Health Part 4 of 5 – Medicines

budgerigar medicinesThis article covers budgerigar medicines as follows:

  • Introduction: What, Why When?
  • Correct Use of Medicines
  • Wise Use of Medicines
  • Choosing a Medicine
  • Preventative Medicines
  • Curative Medicines
  • Medicine Cocktails

Introduction: What, Why When?

  • Medicines: What are they?

    Medicines are chemicals that are used to treat or prevent diseases.

    Some are given routinely to treat, control and prevent parasites including worms, coccidiosis, lice, and mites. These medicines are necessary to keep budgerigars healthy and have no undue side-effects or harmful effects on enduring immunity.

    There are other medicines – such as antibiotics and anti-canker treatments – that must be used cautiously and not on a regular basis as their incorrect or repetitive use may harm the natural immunity of budgerigars especially when they are used incorrectly. When used wisely, however, antibiotics and anti-canker medicines may be used to enhance health whilst having no harmful effect on immunity.

  • Medicines: Why use them?

    Budgerigars are particularly susceptible to environmental diseases that may cause catastrophic losses and illnesses that affect their wellness and ability to breed.

    Medicines are needed to cure and prevent these diseases such as coccidiosis, worms, lice and mites.

    Sometimes long courses of antibiotic medicines are necessary to improve breeding results when Psittacosis is the cause of this problem. Antibiotic medicines may also be necessary to save the lives during outbreaks of disease or when environmental conditions favour an outbreak or illness.

  • Medicines: When to use them?

    In order for budgerigars to remain healthy some kind of health plan is necessary.

    The simplest plan includes routine treatments against worms, lice, mites and coccidiosis.

    Some studs prefer to avoid medicines at all costs and use a system of health management that lets nature take its course and over time only the “strongest” birds survive by the end of each year. They breed from these birds to produce offspring that they feel will be naturally resistant to diseases. Over a period of time these breeders hope to develop highly resistant families of birds without using medicines.

    Unfortunately, this system has flaws because of the sudden and catastrophic effects that some diseases have on budgerigars. As well, because there is a continual flow of new breeding stock into studs, there is a constant fear that a dangerous new disease will enter to which it has no previous immunity.

    In order to manage diseases, budgerigar breeders should give routine treatments against worms, lice, mites, coccidiosis but avoid antibiotics or anti-canker treatments unless these diseases have been previously diagnosed in the stud.

Correct Use of Medicines

  • It is commonly accepted that medicines will become necessary at some time.

    The type and amount of medicine used varies from stud to stud and a correct choice is essential if the overall health and vitality of the various budgerigar families are to be retained.

    A veterinarian with bird skills must first choose an appropriate medicine and programme. The observation skills of the budgerigar breeder are then needed to determine the best time to administer medicines.

    The golden rule of medicines is to use them only when required, as inappropriate use will break down good levels of acquired immunity within the stud.

    At times, it is difficult to know when the birds really do need medicines because the symptoms of illness are often hidden. The correct identification of an illness is the only way to select the correct medicine to administer to the flock.

    Veterinary testing or the response of a sick bird to a treatment trial, are the best ways to identify the illness and a need for medicines.

Wise Use of Medicines

  • The wise use of medicines plays a most important part in developing a strong natural resistance against disease in young birds by protecting the immune systems of susceptible birds from potentially irreversible damage.

    For example, the effective control of Streptococcus or Megabacteria infections requires a plan of action involving the correct use of medicines, good stud management and an informed breeding strategy. However, the use of medicines alone, without good management or breeding strategy, will fail to eliminate either of these diseases from the stud.

    Medications should be used as little as possible in a healthy budgerigar flock.

    The common aim should be the production of healthy and robust budgerigars by natural means and without compromising immunity. In this way, budgerigars are able to become naturally resistant against infection as young birds and require less medicine treatments in later life during periods of stress.

    Quik-GelIt is difficult to maintain continuing health in the young bird flights without using some form of medication even in flocks with strong immunity. It is widely accepted that medicines must be used to protect young birds from environmental diseases and the common parasitic diseases such as Coccidiosis, worms, lice and mites.

    Products such as “Quik-Gel” may also be used to promote and strengthen natural immunity.

    Medicines used for budgerigars have been well researched, and although it is possible to improve breeding performance by the strategic administration of medicines when disease problems exist in a stud, it must be remembered that they are of no help and are in fact dangerous for a stud that is healthy.

    When there are breeding problems, the correct choice of medicine is vital if breeding performance is to be improved.

    First and foremost, the exact disease process must be identified.

    Secondly, early recognition is essential if treatment is to eliminate an infection before a loss of health occurs.

Choosing a Medicine

  • Microscopic examination of the droppings is the best method of determining if and when medicines should be used.

    Droppings may be submitted to specialist veterinarians for examination or breeders may wish to learn the technique themselves.

    Once an illness has been correctly identified, a treatment plan can be developed to effectively overcome the disease. This may or may not involve the use of medicines and breeders should consult an avian veterinarian for assistance in selecting the most appropriate medicine and treatment strategy.

Preventative Medicines

  • avian veterinary surgeonHealthy budgerigars are at considerable health risk when breeding, during weaning and in the young bird flights and may be protected from stress and environmental diseases by the prudent use of medicines.

    Medicines used in this manner are referred to as preventative medicines.

    Administration of a preventative medicine protects immunity and natural resistance.

    Consult an avian veterinarian for assistance in selecting the most appropriate medicine and prevention strategy.

Curative Medicines

  • Curative medicines are required to treat a disease outbreak.

    Repeatedly poor breeding results may indicate a need for a curative medicine with the choice of medicine being determined by the nature of the illness.

    Curative medicines, by their very name, imply a dose of medicament strong enough to destroy the disease involved.

    Curative medicines are administered outside critical times of breeding and often as part of a pre-breeding season health programme.

    The treatment interval (duration of treatment) is longer than for preventative medicines. Preventative medicines are administered in an ongoing or intermittent fashion. Curative medicines are administered continuously from 3 days to 45 days, depending on the diseases and types of medicine involved.

Medicine Cocktails

  • Combinations of medicines mixed together into a cocktail may be needed during disease outbreaks, as secondary infections are common in budgerigar illnesses.

    For example, “Megamix” is mixed with many antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. “Baytril” and “Carlox” may be mixed together with “Megamix” during a coccidiosis outbreak as secondary Ecoli and other bacterial infections become particularly troublesome for the survival of infected birds.

    An understanding of those medicines that can be safely mixed together is paramount to correctly treating and protecting budgerigars against disease.

    As a general rule, if a mixture of medicines remains clear in drinking water, then the medicines are compatible. This rule however, should be followed with some hesitation, and whenever unsure about the compatibility of different medicines, it is best to contact an avian veterinarian.

Dr Rob’s Products

To order the products mentioned in this article, please use the links on the Dr Robert Marshall page.

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About the Author: Dr Rob Marshall B.V.Sc., M.A.V.C.Sc. (Avian Health) is arguably the finest and most experienced veterinary surgeon in the world currently highly active in the field of avian diseases. His knowledge, supported by his extensive Curriculum Vitae, plus papers and books on avian health, is unequalled. His latest publication, "The Budgerigar Book", took 12 years to produce and is undoubtedly the most extensive volume concerning budgerigar health ever produced. Dr Marshall has his own veterinary practice in Carlingford, near Sydney, Australia.

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  1. Tony Cash says:

    I use Poly Aid from Birdcare Company, what is your alternative?

    Regards Tony

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