Avian Emergency Alert: How To Recognize And Prevent Heat Exhaustion In Pet Parrots

With the warm weather approaching, parrot owners should be aware of the potential danger of heat exhaustion. Even the subtropical species, such as the Amazon, Scarlet Macaw  or African Grey, can succumb to heat exhaustion through extreme exposure. This situation may warrant a trip to the emergency veterinarian, or even prove to be fatal. Parrot owners should recognize the symptoms of heat stress, such as breathing through an open beak or inability to perch, and learn how to prevent this occurrence.

Symptoms of an Overheated Parrot

It may be difficult for a parrot owner to determine illness in their pet, as birds tend to "hide" their symptoms until they are extremely ill. This is a natural defense against predators, as birds exhibiting weakness are easy prey.

Fortunately, there are warnings that signal heat stress in birds. Recognizing these signs can help you save your pet's life. Some of the more common symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in parrots are:

  • Continuous open-beak breathing, commonly referred to as panting: A healthy bird does not pant or breathe through an open beak. This should alert you to respiratory distress.

  • Drooping wings or holding wings away from the body: In some cases, the bird's wings way quiver.

  • Inability to perch or difficulty balancing

  • Seizures: This may occur in extreme cases of heat stress and heat stroke.

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

If you suspect your parrot is in danger from heat stress, immediately move the bird to a cool and shady spot or air conditioned room, and offer cool drinking water. You should also mist the bird with tepid water from a spray bottle to cool it down. If your pet exhibits any of the above symptoms, you should seek emergency treatment from an emergency pet hospital at once.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Your Parrot

Concerned parrot owners know that prevention is the best course of action when it comes to the well-being of their pets. Preventing heat exhaustion or potentially fatal heat stroke can be accomplished by following these simple guidelines:

  • Do not place your parrot's cage in direct sunlight: By doing so, your pet will have no place to escape when the sun hits its cage. Also, the bird cage should not be kept close to a window. If you keep the cage covered at night, ensure ventilation by leaving one side partially open, especially during warm weather.

  • Avoid taking your parrot for a car ride in extremely hot weather: If your bird must travel for a trip to the vet or other necessity, be sure the car is air-conditioned and cool before placing your pet inside. Choose a well-ventilated travel carrier, preferably one with mesh "windows" and closure, allowing fresh air in.

  • If you keep an outdoor aviary, locate it in a shady spot: While fresh air and natural sunlight offers benefits for parrots, your pets need a place to escape from sun exposure and extreme heat. In addition to keeping outdoor cages and aviaries shaded from the sun, keep plenty of cool drinking water available in easy to access spots, including every perch level. You might want to limit outdoor time for your feathered friends, especially during the warmest hours of the day, typically between 1-3 PM. 

  • Don't allow your parrot free-flight: Indoor and outdoor pet birds should have their wings trimmed regularly, especially during the summer months. This will prevent your pet from flying and becoming over-heated through vigorous exercise. Flight feathers should be trimmed by a veterinarian or experienced individual.

As a final thought, don't wait for an emergency to search for a pet hospital staffed to treat exotic parrots. Before an emergency arises, locate an emergency avian veterinarian or pet hospital in your area. Keep the phone number and hours of operation close at hand.