Why Did My Cockatoo Have Diarrhea?

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Oh no! If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you’ve found some unpleasant wet and stinky surprises around your cockatoo’s cage lately. As a loving cockatoo owner myself, I totally understand how worrying this can be. Diarrhea is no fun for anyone – bird or human! But don’t panic, this happens more often than you might think and there’s usually a reasonable explanation.

What is Diarrhea and What Causes It?

Diarrhea simply means your bird is passing abnormally loose, watery droppings rather than solid waste. There are a few possible causes:

Diet Changes

Has anything changed about your cockatoo’s diet recently? Even a small tweak can upset their digestive system. Things to look out for include:

  • New food treats
  • Different brand of pellets/seed
  • Spoiled produce
  • Too many fatty nuts

If the change was recent, try taking the new food away and see if the diarrhea clears up.


Stress, bacteria, viruses, or parasites can also cause loose droppings. Some possibilities are:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection
  • Parasites like roundworms or giardia
  • Common avian viruses
  • Feather picking stress

Other Factors

Keep these other diarrhea culprits in mind too:

  • Overheating on a hot day
  • Exposure to hot cooking fumes
  • Ingesting objects like toys or cage parts
  • Side effects of medication

Seeing the common thread? Usually something introduces an irritant, toxin or stress to the gi tract environment. Understanding the cause is key to treating diarrhea properly.

How to Treat Cockatoo Diarrhea

Now that we’ve covered some reasons why your cockatoo has diarrhea, let’s talk solutions! Here are some helpful steps:

Call Your Avian Vet

If diarrhea persists more than 24 hours, springs up “out of the blue”, contains blood, seems to cause pain, or goes hand-in-hand with other symptoms (fluffed feathers, lethargy, weight loss etc.) it’s essential to have your bird examined by an avian vet ASAP. Catching illnesses quickly dramatically improves treatment outcomes.

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Make Dietary Changes

In milder cases of diarrhea caused by diet, remove any new human foods, fatty nuts or dubious bird foods. Stick to plain pellets and healthy fruits/veggies for a few days. Then slowly reintroduce former items one at a time to see if the diarrhea returns. This helps pinpoint the trigger food.

Also provide more natural purifying foods and supplements like papaya, apple cider vinegar, garlic, oregano oil or ginger. These can help rebalance gut bacteria and resolve loose droppings. Probiotic supplements are another great option for supporting healthy digestion.

And make sure your bird has unlimited access to clean drinking water to avoid dehydration. In severe diarrhea cases, pedialyte or an oral rehydration solution might be recommended.

Adjust Environment

To reduce stress-related diarrhea causes, try to identify and eliminate household changes or irritants that could be affecting your cockatoo. For example, move their cage away from recently painted walls, don’t let them fly around during cooking with Teflon pans, make sure they aren’t chewing toys painted with lead paint, get HVAC vents cleaned if needed etc. Providing abundant fun foraging opportunities can also lower stress.

Practice Good Hygiene

Quarantining your cockatoo at the first sign of diarrhea helps prevent household spreading through food/water contamination or further cage soiling. Be sure to thoroughly scrub and disinfect the cage too. Using white butcher paper or newspaper along the cage bottom also helps monitor poop changes. Practicing great hygiene protocols protects both birdy and human housemates!


When to Worry About Diarrhea

As mentioned earlier, mild, temporary diarrhea is often no big deal. It happens! But more serious cases demand an urgent vet visit to diagnose and treat the underlying issue. Red flags to watch out for include:

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Dehydration Signs

  • Dry skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Wobbly stance
  • Lethargy
  • Sticky saliva

Dehydration can happen fast with diarrhea and makes birds prone to illness/organ damage. At the first dehydration sign, ask your vet about supplemental fluids so electrolyte imbalances don’t turn critical.

Other Concerning Symptoms

On top of loose droppings, also watch for these simultaneous symptoms:

  • Labored breathing
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Discolored urates
  • Blood in droppings
  • Straining to pass stool

Any of these warrant immediate vet assistance to diagnose and tackle what’s causing the systemic imbalance as soon as possible.

When to Breathe a Sigh of Relief

As anxious as diarrhea episodes make us, try not to panic at the first sign of loose poop (easier said than done, I know). Stress can worsen tummy troubles! So once you’ve made that vet appointment for persistent or worsening cases, here is what might indicate your bird is rebounding:

  • Return of hearty appetite
  • Bright, alert and active
  • Solidifying dropping consistency
  • Colorful skin indicating good circulation
  • No more concerning secondary symptoms

You know your feather baby best of all. If their diarrhea seems to resolve and leave them no worse for wear, thank your lucky stars! Just keep monitoring and head back to the vet if it returns or other red flags pop up.

Here’s to hoping this bout passes quickly so you both can relax! Diarrhea is zero fun, but try not to worry excessively. In most cases, some TLC and a little gut reboot gets cockatoos bouncing back healthier than ever. Just stay vigilant for those red flag signs demanding urgent vet intervention. Now give that sweet bird a reassuring scritch from me and here’s to brighter days ahead!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long can diarrhea last before it’s serious?

As a general rule, diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours warrants a veterinary visit to identify the cause and treat any underlying issues. Closely monitor for signs of dehydration or additional symptoms in the meantime.

How do I get my cockatoo to drink more during diarrhea?

Try offering tastier “treat waters” like diluted fruit juices or herbal teas. Shallow dishes allow easier drinking access too. In extreme dehydration cases vets may administer subcutaneous or IV fluids.

Can cockatoos recover from viruses on their own?

It depends on the virus. Many mild viral infections will resolve without treatment as the immune system ramps up, much like the common cold does for us. But fast-acting vet assistance is vital for dangerous infections like polyomavirus causing more severe symptoms.

Are seeds more likely to cause diarrhea than pellets?

Yes, seed-heavy diets raise odds of loose droppings since seeds lack key nutrients for proper digestion and can harbor bacteria leading to upset stomachs. Pellets provide more balanced nutrition for intestinal health. But sudden pellet switches can also cause upset, so transitions should be gradual.

How do I know if my cockatoo has parasites or other pathogens?

You can’t definitively diagnose the specific cause without veterinary lab work. A fecal float test checks for parasite eggs while a culture identifies various bacterial or fungal pathogens. Swab and blood tests can also sometimes detect viral culprits. Any symptoms point to illness so always see your vet.

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