Occasionally, any parrot will shake his head. This doesn’t need to be of concern, but if you see your bird shaking his head frequently, this could be a sign of a problem in the making. Ear infections are unusual in parrots, but they can and do happen, especially if the bird gets his head wet often or he has a suppressed immune system due to other causes. A serious ear infection will also cause balance issues, and can make a parrot prone to falls. However, you should not wait until the situation worsens before consulting with your avian vet.
If you have any concerns with the health of your parrot, it only takes a quick inspection by an avian vet to confirm or deny the presence of a problem. If the ear canal(s) show any narrowing or swelling, then treatment will be necessary. Often, the first choice in medication is Polysporin Eye & Ear drops, which are available at most drug stores for under $20. If the ears are also discharging, then the vet can take a specimen and examine it for bacteria or fungal cells.
Bacterial infections can be treated with a variety of antibiotics, such as Baytril provided in a liquid form (a sweet thin liquid). To be certain of effectiveness, a good avian vet will want to culture the bacteria so they know what drugs will work against it. This will cost extra, but in my opinion, it actually will save money by not incurring unnecessary drug usage or additional vet visits. Simply throwing any antibiotic at an unknown bacterial infection doesn’t make sense and can actually cause future problems, such as creating another drug-resistant bacterium.
Fungal infections, are a little more problematic and can be more persistent. They also require a more aggressive approach. Anti-fungal/yeast drugs are not as commonly used in birds as many are not as effective in an avian patient. Birds can pick up unusual forms of fungus and the regular drug treatments don’t always work. If your avian vet recommends a specific drug, don’t opt for the generic equivalent. Sometimes the name-brand versions work better and are easier on your bird’s digestive system because they are buffered.
Always follow the vet’s instructions carefully – frequency, duration, etc., are all important to heed to. If you are instructed to come back for a re-examination in 7 days, book that appointment before leaving the office. Delays can be very costly and tracking the progress of a sick bird can be critical to its recovery. If a medication is not working, the vet will need to get the bird onto another medication right away, delaying this could cost you a lot of money in the long run, so keep all appointments and follow instructions as prescribed. Take notes during the appointment, and don’t be afraid to ask “dumb” questions. And, if you think of something when you get home, call the vet’s office right away to clarify your concerns. A good vet will not mind.
Normal avian ear canal: