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  A roundworm in a budgie's droppingRoundworms (Ascaris spp.) can settle in the intestine of budgies and many other pet birds. People keeping birds in aviaries with natural flooring should be aware of the risk that the birds can get infected with roundworms. The eggs of roundworms are kept in the ground, where they are hardy for a long time in a moist climate. Heat, dryness and direct exposure to sunlight destroy them fast. Veterinarians generally talk about so-called ascarids in connection with roundworms.

If budgies take up food from the floor of a roundworm-infested aviary or cage, the eggs can easily get into the digestive tract of the birds. Inside the intestine, the eggs turn into worms that are 35 mm long and will start to produce eggs. The eggs reach the bottom of the aviary/cage via the bird's droppings and thus pose a risk to other birds of the flock.

A budgie suffering from an infection with roundworms can be recognized by occasional diarrhoea and excessive emaciation. A closer look at the stomach of an ill bird will reveal swollen intestinal loops through the thin skin. They are also easily felt, something that is not common in a healthy bird. In especially serious cases, this can lead to an ileus because the worms become entangled. This will cause the bird's death in a very short time.

A mild roundworm infestation causes problems to the bird's central nervous system. The worms discharge metabolites that are toxic to the budgie. Over time, the bird's body is unable to cope with these toxic substances and damage to the nervous system occurs as a result. Because of this damage, paralysis or an unnatural turning movement of the head can happen.

This comparison gives you an idea of the size of roundworms If you suspect an infestation of roundworms, you have to consult a vet. The vet will analyze a faeces sample taken from the bird (or have it analyzed) for parasites. Fresh droppings should be collected from a sand-free underlay and put into a small plastic bag.

Your vet will give you a drug that you will have to give to the entire flock in order to get rid of the roundworms. After three to four weeks, the therapy needs to be repeated in order to completely kill the larvae living inside the body; i.e. the intermediate stage between egg and worm.

If the treatment is successful, the worms will die inside the bird's body whereby they cannot attach to the intestine and get discharged with the droppings. On the picture on the right side, the size of the discharged roundworms can be seen easily in comparison to the lip gloss which is seven centimetres long.

Budgies that are kept indoors can also catch roundworms! A friend bought a young male budgerigar in a pet store, which she put together with her female budgie. About half a year later, the previously healthy male budgie Flori discharged a roundworm all of a sudden. In all likelihood, the bird had been infected with the eggs and/or larvae of roundworms whilst still a nestling and had arrived at my friend's place with the blind passengers inside his stomach.

German version of this text: Gaby Schulemann-Maier,
translation of this chapter: Melanie Ebenhoch.

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