Birds with Overgrown Upper Beaks
1. What is an overgrown beak and when is it a problem?
An upper beak is overgrown if it is longer than normal for birds of that particular species. It is a problem if a bird cannot eat properly or has other underlying causes of beak overgrowth.
2. What are the non-infectious causes of a long beak?
Causes of a long beak can include dietary problems, particular breeding or beak damage. Occasionally it may be caused by a bird not grinding its beak correctly although this is rare.
3. What diseases can cause an overgrown beak?
Chronic liver disease is a common cause of long beaks. Affected birds often have bruises on their beaks. Other causes include diseases that affect the beak growth plate such as scaly face mites, cere abscesses and sinus infections. (The growth plate is at the edge of the skin and beak, and is the area from which the beak continually grows.)
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) and Polyomavirus are also common viral problems that may lead to an overgrown beak.
4. What diagnostic tests are needed on affected birds?
Samples may need to be taken for microscopic examination to look for mites and other infections of the beak growth plate.
For sinus infections, tests for Chlamydophila (Chlamydia) and bacteria may also be required. Blood tests are commonly performed to diagnose chronic liver disease. In some cases PBFD and Polyomavirus tests may be needed.
5. Which birds are more likely to have overgrown beaks?
Overgrown beaks are commonly seen in budgerigars, African lovebirds (Agapornis spp.), cockatoos, cockatiels, eclectus and canaries.
6. Should the beak be clipped?
The beak may be need regular clipping and remodelling. However, continued beak clips without diagnosis may miss an underlying disease or problem. In many cases chronic liver disease is involved and the birds may bruise and bleed easily. Since birds may bleed a lot after beak clipping, it is not advisable to clip beaks until tests for liver disease have been performed.
7. What treatment is available for overgrown beaks?
In most cases dietary changes will be needed. This usually includes changing to a pellet or crumble diet from seed. In many cases other diseases need to be treated either after several diagnostic tests or as a treatment trial for the most common causes of overgrown beaks.
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