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Why Is My Cockatiel Sneezing: 9 Vet Reviewed Reasons

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

a blue cockatiel

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cockatiels are beautiful birds known for their friendly and intelligent personalities. They make great pets, but caring for them is much less straightforward than caring for a dog or cat because they are exotic pets.

Cockatiels have very sensitive respiratory systems, so you might be worried if yours suddenly starts sneezing. Some types of sneezes, such as those that don’t produce moisture, are completely normal. But there may be some instances where excessive sneezes or those producing mucus indicate something more serious going on in your bird’s body.

Keep reading to find nine reasons your cockatiel is sneezing, and learn when to worry about your pet’s abnormal sneezing habits.

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The 9 Reasons Cockatiels Sneeze

Like humans, cockatiels can sneeze for several reasons, such as respiratory illness, allergies, sinus infections, or exposure to dust. Let’s look closer at the possible causes of your bird’s sneezes.

1. Dust Particles

Cockatiels are notoriously dusty birds. The dust comes from the keratin surrounding each of their individual feathers. When the feather develops, the keratin layer sheds off and becomes dust. It can also come from them when preening, grooming, and flapping their wings.

Cockatiel Parakeet
Image Credit: Thomas, Pixabay

2. Chemical Use

Birds have extremely fragile respiratory systems and are very sensitive to chemicals and scents. So, if you’re using perfumes, hair sprays, or cleaning products in your home, they could be the reason your cockatiel is sneezing so often.

3. Poor Air Quality

If your cockatiel is exposed to long periods of dry air or fluctuating temperatures from heating or air conditioning systems, its nasal passageway could dry out. The dryness can then lead to sneezing. Your bird may also start sneezing if there is poor air circulation in the room that it lives in.

4. Food Stuck in Nostrils

If your bird gets seeds or food particles stuck in its nostrils, the lodged debris can irritate the nasal passageways, causing sneezing. If it cannot remove the debris on its own, you may need to take it to a vet to get it taken out.

Lutino Bronze Fallow Cockatiel
Image Credit: kikumin, Shutterstock

5. Food Allergies

Like humans, birds can be allergic to the food we’re serving. So, if you notice your cockatiel sneezing after meals, it may be sensitive to one of the ingredients in its food.

6. Mite Infestation

Cockatiels can get several types of mite infestations. Air sac mites may be the reason behind your bird’s sneezing. However, it will also likely exhibit other signs of infestation, including coughing, difficulty breathing, gasping, and clicking sounds.

7. Respiratory Disease

Respiratory diseases are a common problem seen in all species of birds. However, cockatiels are especially susceptible to Chlamydophilosis, a highly contagious infection, sometimes also called psittacosis. This condition is caused by the Chlamydophila psittaci organism and will cause signs like decreased appetite, weight loss, weight droppings, shivering, runny eyes, and, you guessed it, sneezing.

Image Credit: Mitrey, Pixabay

8. Nasal Injury

An injury to the nares may be another culprit. Cockatiels often preen one another’s feathers, especially in the parts of the body that are difficult to reach, such as the head. It is possible to scratch the sensitive skin around the nares when preening. A cockatiel that’s scratched itself or had its skin nicked by another bird trying to groom them may experience irritation in that sensitive area, which can lead to sneezing.

9. Vitamin A Deficiency

Birds deficient in vitamin A may produce excessive mucus to compensate, causing sneezing. Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system and the conditioning of the body’s soft tissues. You may also notice your cockatiel exhibiting signs such as nasal discharge, poor feather quality, feather picking, and anorexia.

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What Kind of Sneezes Do Cockatiels Have?

There are two types of sneezes your cockatiel may have: dry or wet.

Dry sneezes are any that are not accompanied by nasal discharge. They are typically caused by dryness or an irritant in your bird’s environment, like dust. Allergies or viral infections can also cause dry sneezes. This type is typically harmless and occasional.

Wet sneezes are accompanied by some kind of nasal discharge, clear, cloudy, or pus. This type of sneeze is often the result of a respiratory infection.

When Should I Worry?

If your bird has the occasional dry sneeze, it’s likely nothing to worry about. Wet sneezes should always be investigated, however. This is especially true if you notice any wet or dry discharge around the nares, as this is a sign of an infection.

If you hear your bird sneezing a lot—be it wet or dry sneezes—you should investigate the cause. Of course, it could be completely benign, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you notice any other unusual behaviors or signs accompanying your bird’s unusual sneezing, it’s worth calling your avian vet for advice.

How Can I Prevent Excessive Sneezing?

Before trying home remedies for your cockatiel’s sneezing, we recommend going to the vet for an examination. You don’t want to treat any infections at home as they will require specialized treatment you just can’t replicate at home.

If your vet isn’t worried about your bird’s sneezing, they may recommend you try one of the following techniques to help keep the sneezing to a minimum:

  • Regular cage cleans with non-toxic cleaner (white vinegar works great)
  • Avoiding using air fresheners, perfumes, or other chemical-containing air fillers
  • Providing a diet rich in vitamin A
  • Running an air purifier in your bird’s room
  • Misting baths or full showers twice a week with warm water

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Final Thoughts

Sneezing is a normal bodily function, but it can be a sign of something more serious happening in your bird’s respiratory tract. You don’t need to worry if your pet only has occasional dry sneezes. However, if your cockatiel starts sneezing more often or their sneezes are accompanied by nasal discharge or behavioral changes, it’s best to call your vet.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Birute Vijeikiene, Shutterstock

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