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Worming your Birds (New Zealand)

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Author: Kellie Stewart

"Worming your Birds"

An overview on types of worms and worming products available in New Zealand





The importance of setting up a worming programme is crucial. Even if you have a pet bird in a cage it still requires worming.

All birds are susceptible to picking up worms, some birds more than others. Grass parrots, kings, princesses, cockatiels, budgies, kakarikis, barrabands, pigeons, cockatoos and doves appear to pick them up a lot easier than other birds. Young chicks are also prone to picking up on worms easier than adult birds. I have never seen a lorikeet with worms but I still would worm them, I think that may be the gut of a lorikeet is too acidic and the worms just don�t like it, but I still worm my lories every 6 months by adding a wormer into the lorikeet wet mix, eg panacur or combantrim. Birds that spend a lot of time on the ground especially dirt floor aviaries that cannot be hosed and cleaned regularly come into contact with worms a lot easier than concrete floor aviaries. Birds who live in this sort of aviary should be wormed 3-4 times a year and the top layer of soil or sand to be changed on a regular basis. Suspended flights can be a good way of getting round this as the birds cant get to there droppings as easy as a normal aviary set up where they have access to the floor. Concrete floors are the best solution as they can be cleaned a lot easier. I use Malt vinegar and hot water on the floors, this is a safe and effective cleaner and will kill any worm eggs that it may come into contact with without harming your birds. It is a good idea to give your aviary a good clean the day after worming.

Worming before breeding season is the best idea and some wormers may effect feather growth so worming while in moult may not be the best idea. I will outline the different wormers later in the article as they all do not have this effect.

It is recommended to change your worming product as it is possible for worms to build up a resistance to the same worming agent. Most people also don't realize but depending on the worming product you use the dose may have to be repeated again between 10-14 days later. This is to catch any stray eggs that may be left to start the worm cycle again. If you are not sure ask your supplier of the wormer.

If you notice a bird doing a lot of sleeping but still eating when food is offered normally you will find worms to be the cause, a stained or dirty vent is another good sign but this is not always be the case. I have seen birds with clean vents still badly affected with worm infestations. A sharp protruding keel bone is another good sign but you can�t always see this until you give the bird a physical examination. Vomiting is another sign your bird has worms but his tends to happen when a bird has had worms for a long period of time, or the bird is infected with a worm such as gizzard or hairworm.

When I am given a bird with a severe worm infestation, I have found this to be a good method of first aid treatment. I don't put the wormer onto an empty crop so I make up a thin mixture of handrearing food like katies I add my wormer which is usually combatrim as I find this more gentle on a sick bird than say panacur, I also add a small amount of whet-germ oil to help the passing of worms. When birds are badly infested and you administer the wormer it can block the bird up by all the dead worms trying to be passed in the droppings. This is why some birds don't recover from a bad worm problem after treatment as the worms pulling away from the intestinal wall can cause internal bleeding and the passing of dead worms blocking up their system. If the bird makes it from this point I will give top up feeds to get the birds body weight up but as soon as you see the bird eating well for himself things should be well on the track to mending and you can leave him/her to it. Repeat the dose 10-12 days after worming.

Ideas to aid a bird in recovery while treating for worms:

Supply a heat source to keep the bird warm, hospital cage, brooder, or a desk lamp with a 100-watt bulb. Do not to over heat the bird. A good temperature for a sick bird is 28 degrees also provide some humidity if using a hospital cage or brooder. If using the desk lamp have a towel between the cage and the lamp or make sure the bird can get away from the heat source if it gets too warm.
Leave a light going through the night so if the bird needs to eat at 2 in the morning he/she is able to.
If you are able top the bird up with a handrearing formula to help it gain weight faster. If the bird is very sick administer some type of electrolyte instead of solid food. Hartman�s Solution or gastrolyte available form your chemist. Polyaid or Spark produced by Vet-a-Farm. This is when crop needling or tubing a bird is so important to know, as using a syringe or eye dropper with a very sick bird can be fatal as it seams to always go into the lungs, I presume this happens as the bird is so weak and the feeding response is not happening.
If you are treating a bird with worms such as gizzard worm tapeworm or hairworm it may pay to use an antibiotic treatment as these worms can cause the birds intestine to be prone to a bacterial infections as they damage the wall of the intestines and gizzard. Consult your vet if possible to see what antibiotic would be best suited.

Types of worms.

Hairworm (Capillaria)


Not eating
Weight loss
These live in the lining of the intestine, crop or esophagus. Birds pick this worm up by eating the droppings of infected birds. The egg can live in the ground for several months. Suggested wormers are Panacur 2.5 Nilverm. These worms are very fine and sometimes can be difficult to treat. Often found in budgies, lovebirds, canaries and fowl.

Gizzard worm ( Acuaria ) 1-3mm


Sudden death in a bird
Weight loss
Droppings containing mucous
The cycle starts with adult worm laying eggs, which pass out in the droppings of the infected birds. These eggs are eaten by insects, such as slaters weevils and insects alike. While using the insect as its first host the larvae of the worm starts to develop. In turn the insect is then eaten by a bird and the immature gizzard worms move to the bird�s gizzard and burrow through the gizzard-lining wall to develop in to adults. These worms damage the gizzard lining, which then affects the proper function of the gizzard, which is to grind down food. Birds normally die due to a bacterial infection because of the damage to the gizzard lining. Finches or any insect eating bird can be at risk from this type of worm.


Signs and symptoms are much like the gizzard worm. They like a damp environment. Mild infections can occur but heavy infections result in the above symptoms, damaging the intestinal wall causing infection. Control of insects and worms in you aviary are crucial as these are the hosts that start the tapeworm cycle. There are many different species of tapeworm that can effect birds ranging from 2-3 mm to 50-60mm long, different types of tapeworms will infect different types of bird. The same worm that infects a galah will not be the same type that infects a grass parakeet.

Roundworm ( Ascaridia ) ~1-3cm

� Weakness
� Weight loss
� Diarrhoea

Some elements make birds more prone to roundworms.
� Young birds
� Birds under stress
� Birds that spend a lot of time on the ground.
� Wild birds getting into aviaries
� Dirt floors in aviaries

Roundworms are hard to detect in the early stages of infecting your bird. Breeding birds may stop breeding and appear listless. Roundworms are not usually seen in the droppings. Infection starts with a bird eating a roundworm egg passed from another infected birds droppings. The larva borrows through the bird's intestine and then goes into the bird's body to develop further. Then once again makes it way back to the bird's intestine to develop into a mature adult worm. The cycle takes about 6 weeks. Round worms can survive in the environment for long periods of time.

Common Wormers used in New Zealand

Ivomec: Eprinex (Eprinomectin) cattle formulation This product must also be diluted with propylene glycol before use 1ml - 10ml of ivomec or 0.15ml/100g of body weight. This is an effective treatment for airsac mite and scaly mite. This type of wormer is good for small birds up to the size of budgies, but in my experiences did not work well on larger birds, but opinions differ. 1 drop on the back of the neck for finches and canaries 2 drops on the back of the neck for budgies repeat dose for 2 days then repeat dose again 10-14 days from first treatment. For air sac mite the treatment is the same 1 to 2 drops on the back of the neck dose on every second day until the breathing is clear continue for 2 days after the breathing is back to normal. For scaly mite paint on effected area every second day the in between days paint the infected area with paraffin oil until the mite has gone. This may take up to a week or so.

Ivomec: Sheep Oral (0.8g/l) 0.1ml per 100 gram body weight no dilution required. Can be used in drinking water 20ml per litre, but crop needle is the best option. Good wormer for round worms. From different breeders feed back this is a good wormer for all sized birds. One breeder suggested these doses Neophemas 0.1ml Plumheads and mulgas 0.2mls Buln Bulns 0.25 mls Alexandrines 0.3mls. Also to make sure the ivomec has not passed its expiry date and to make sure it is the oral drench you are being sold.

Combantrim: (Pyrantel) This can be purchased at your local chemist, it is a child wormer. As I mentioned before I use this one on sick birds as I find it gentle on the birds system. This is a good treatment for round worms and capillaria. Administer 0.1 mls/100g body weight. This can be used on a wide range of birds. This treatment will not kill giardia. This will not be effective in water, best administer via beak or crop needle

Piperazine: This is sold in supermarkets and pet shops. This product does not appear to be an effective worming treatment for your birds.

Panacur 2.5: (Fenbendazole) It is effective against roundworm and giardia, this is another product that can cause feather abnormalities. Crop dose 0.2 mls/100g of body weight if the bird weighs less than 400grams and 0.1 ml/100 grams in birds weighing more than 400grams.
Repeat dose 12-14 days. Panacur will not kill hairworms. This wormer is the main drench used by aviculturist in NZ for the past 25 years, some bird keepers use nilverm for the follow up treatment in the water to help stop resistance to one type of drench being used. Panacur is a very safe wormer to use, but it may cause problems if used while the bird is in molt.

*I have looked into the concept of using panacur administer to the water and for it to be given over a period of time. The reason why it is administer over a period of 3-5 days in some cases is it appears to be less toxic but more effective especially for treating round worms. Hairworms may be more stubborn and will need to be treated for 7-10 days. The dose for water treatment is 125mg per litre of water and to stir regularly to prevent settling. It may also go in the seed 5ml /1-kilo. Treatment for 5 days and no other types of food to be feed. Dosing for finches 2ml/litre of water for 5 days, and be careful to administer correct dosage.

Nilverm: (Levamisole) this is an effective treatment for roundworm and hairworm. If you think you have a bad roundworm problem consider using a wormer that is not so harsh on the birds system. The dose has to be correct, as this is quite a strong wormer. The dose for parrots is 50ml per litre of drinking water. This is left in the aviary for a 24 period. For pigeons levamisole tablets 20 mg is a preferred treatment.

Aviverm: (Levamisole Hydrochloride) dosing 4ml/litre in drinking water for medium to large parrots and parakeets. Withhold water 2 hours before nightfall return water dishes for 8 hours. Caution with smaller birds this is another wormer you have to be careful to administer in the correct dosage. As this treatment contains Levamisole do not use for heavy roundworm infestation. This may be to too strong for smaller birds like finch's, this is what I have found from personal experience. This is a good wormer for poultry or if you have a great number of birds to worm in one lot.

Droncit: (Praquantel) Can be used for pigeons one-quarter of a 25mg tablet is safe and effective.
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