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SCRATCHING

Even on the best days, feathers can be itchy. But poor nutrition, dry skin, parasitic infections, and other conditions can add to your bird's discomfort and cause scratching and feather picking. So if your budgie's occasional itch turns into a daily scratching routine, it's time to investigate.

Causes

An all-seed diet often causes vitamin deficiencies that lead to dry, scaly skin and feathers - the most common cause of scratching. And unhealthy skin is more susceptible to painful, itchy bacterial or yeast infections.

Other itchy problems include normal feather molting and regrowth, dry warm environments, and conditions that cause abnormal feather growth, such as feather cysts. And less common culprits such as avian lice and mites can trigger frantic scratching episodes as they crawl through your pet's feathers.

What You Can Do at Home

Your first step: Evaluate your pet's diet. Dietary supplements, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and vitamins, resolve most problems. Or you can gradually switch your bird to a complete pellet diet with balanced nutrition, including vitamins and minerals.

If you notice dry skin, use a humidifier to improve air quality. Remember to clean and disinfect humidifier reservoirs regularly to prevent fungal infections.

What the Veterinarian Will Do

If your bird still scratches, take her to the veterinarian. The doctor will evaluate your pet closely for skin abnormalities, parasite infestations, and nutritional deficiencies and may recommend skin and feather biopsies. Budgies or canaries with crusty growing lesions around the nose, mouth, and feet will need skin scrapings to identify knemidocoptic mange mites. If your pet's doctor suspects an infectious viral disease, she will recommend blood tests to identify the problem.

In most cases, a simple diet change does the trick. If an underlying disease is causing your bird's distress, the veterinarian will try to diagnose and treat the condition. But act fast - your feathered friend will appreciate relief from her itchy problem.