Conjunctivitis in Birds

Jessica Hockaday, DVM
By Jessica Hockaday, DVM on Jan. 24, 2024
Budgie eye close-up

In This Article


What Is Conjunctivitis in Birds?

Conjunctivitis in birds occurs when the eye becomes inflamed. Since eyes are vulnerable for birds in general, they can be prone to eye injuries that can lead to this condition.

Conjunctivitis is common in many pet birds. The condition may also be referred to as:

  • Pink eye

  • Blepharoconjunctivitis—inflammation of the conjunctiva and eye margin (lids)

Seek veterinary care immediately for a bird exhibiting any of the below symptoms to determine how best to approach care and treatment. If left untreated, conjunctivitis can lead to further eye problems and worsening infections.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Birds

Depending on the severity of conjunctivitis in birds, symptoms may include:

  • Discharge—thick, white, or tan in color that can become crusted

  • Eye redness

  • Swelling of the eye and head

  • Blinking and squinting

  • Cloudy eyes

  • Glassy eyes

  • Rapid head movements

  • Scratching at the eye

  • Rubbing the eye

  • Not eating

  • Lethargy

Causes of Conjunctivitis in Birds

Conjunctivitis in birds can be triggered by bacterial or viral infection, parasites, or fungal ailments. Trauma to the eye may also cause pink eye if left untreated.

Conjunctivitis in birds is most commonly caused by:

  • BacteriaChlamydia, Mycobacterium spp., Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus spp., Pasteurella multocida, and Mycoplasma spp.

  • Trauma—Physical, chemical, or fume exposure

  • Viral—Avian poxvirus or infectious bronchitis

  • Vitamin A deficiency

  • FungalCandidia

  • ParasiticOxypirura mansoni

  • Idiopathic—No cause can be identified

  • Neoplasia—Abnormal growth of tissue (very rare)

How Veterinarians Diagnose Conjunctivitis in Birds

If a bird has conjunctivitis, it’s recommended he be brought to the veterinarian with his cage (without changing the cage floor or cleaning the cage) so the vet can assess the contents of the cage for possible irritants or other causes to help with your bird’s diagnosis.

In addition to a physical examination, your vet will ask about your bird’s history and environment, especially if they are unable to examine their cage. Some questions your vet may ask include:

  • How long has your bird been experiencing symptoms?

  • Is there any history of other issues (such as respiratory illnesses) before the eye seemed to be involved?

  • Any changes in your bird’s diet?

  • Has your bird had access to any new toys, substrates, or introduced to a new part of the home?

  • Are there any new pets in the house?

  • If you have more than one pet bid, are any other birds affected?

An extensive eye examination will be performed. Your vet may utilize the following tests to help determine the exact cause of the conjunctivitis:

  • Tear test—Filter paper used to measure tear production of each eye.

  • Fluorescein staining—Stain is applied topically to the eye, highlighting any injuries.

  • Intraocular pressure test—Measures pressure of the eye (normal range varies by eye size).

  • Cytology—Swabs of the eye or cornea can be used to collect bacterial samples to help focus treatment.

  • Pupil dilation—To evaluate the back of the eye, sedation might be needed.

  • Imaging

    • X-rays—Imaging of surrounding tissues, possible traumas, or bone problems.

    • Ultrasound—Sound vibrations used to produce internal imaging.

  • Blood work—Identifies underlying infections, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.

Treatment of Conjunctivitis in Birds

Medications may be prescribed by your veterinarian to target the primary cause of the bird conjunctivitis, including:

  • Topical or oral antibiotics for bacterial infections

  • Oral or topical anti-inflammatories to limit pain

  • Antiparasitic if a parasitic infection is involved

Diet changes may be recommended to account for any nutritional deficiencies.

Sterile saline flush (eye drops) can be used on your bird’s eye(s) if recommended by your veterinarian. Make sure the solution has no additives and consult your veterinarian on the best type to purchase for your bird. Follow the directions on the eyedrops to administer them to your bird, as well as your vet's guidance.

Recovery and Management of Conjunctivitis in Birds

Recovery time for conjunctivitis in birds depends on the cause as well as the severity of the infection. Many birds with mild conjunctivitis can have relief and look much better the next day. Full recovery may take between 3–14 days, as long as the underlying cause has also been addressed and treated.

If conjunctivitis in birds is left untreated, it can lead to other medical issues such as:

  • Permanent damage to the bird’s eye

  • Blindness

  • Systemic infection (sepsis)

Good hygiene and sanitation of your bird and their enclosure are essential for preventing conjunctivitis infections. Routine veterinary examinations, blood work, and nutritional guidance are also recommended.

Conjunctivitis in Birds FAQs

How do you know if a bird has conjunctivitis?

Birds experiencing conjunctivitis will exhibit more tear production and crusting around the eye. Birds may keep their eye closed more than usual and should be very closely monitored.

What antibiotics are used to treat eye infections in birds?

Tetracycline, bacitracin, neomycin, gentamicin, and fluoroquinolones (ofloxacin and moxifloxacin) are used to treat eye infections in birds.

Is conjunctivitis very contagious?

Yes, it can be, depending on the cause. Bacterial, viral, or parasitic causes can be transmitted to other birds.  

Can birds recover from conjunctivitis on their own?

Birds with very mild infections (depending on the cause) may recover on their own. However, an eye examination by your veterinarian is warranted with any sort of eye issue in birds, even if no treatment is needed.

Featured Image: kumikomini/iStock via Getty Images Plus


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Jessica Hockaday, DVM


Jessica Hockaday, DVM


Dr. Jessica Hockaday completed her undergraduate degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, earning a Bachelor...

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