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Bird Dehydration: The Signs, Treatment and Avian Life-Saving Tips

Bird Dehydration

Have you ever spotted a bird lying flat on the ground due to dehydration? Or is your captive bird looking lethargic and grumpy, weak, panting, and wrinkled?

Bird dehydration usually occurs when the temperature is soaring, and even pet birds inside their cage can experience water loss which leads to dehydration.

If your bird is one of them, what should you do to help your pet?

In this guide to bird dehydration, we’ll discuss:

  • What causes dehydration in birds
  • What are its signs and symptoms
  • And how to treat your dehydrated bird

Since time is crucial for dehydrated birds, you need to respond promptly if your bird is dehydrated.

Whether you’re a newbie birdkeeper or you’ve been raising birds for a long time, you can benefit from this article.

So, What is Bird Dehydration?

Like humans, bird dehydration happens when a bird loses more fluid than it takes in, thus causing your feathery friend to become weak and lethargic.

If not treated promptly, this will not only cause loss of electrolytes but also kidney damage and failure and, in worse cases, death.

It’s a serious problem, especially among baby birds, because they’re sensitive and need immediate medical attention.

There are three different stages of dehydration, namely:

Mild Dehydration

If a bird is less than 5% dehydrated, then its case is considered mild, and it can be rehydrated at home.

Providing fresh and clean water is the key, and if possible, offer them fruits and veggies with high water content, like watermelon and cucumber.

Moderate Dehydration

If his condition progresses to 5 to 9%, that’s moderate dehydration.

At this point, you may need to bring your pet to your vet to get fluid therapy.

Severe Dehydration

If a bird is 10% dehydrated, all the signs and symptoms of dehydration will be visible throughout her body.

You need to bring her to your vet immediately to get fluid therapy. Otherwise, your feathery pet might lose to death.

But you may be wondering about how to tell if a bird is dehydrated.

Well, that’s what you’re about to discover below.

Signs of Bird Dehydration

Dehydration in birds is highly fatal, but if you’re aware of the symptoms you need to look out for, it’d be easier for you to deal with this health crisis.

Here are the common signs of a dehydrated bird that needs immediate help:

Sunken Eyes and Wrinkled Appearance

One of the most common and obvious signs of bird dehydration lies in their eyes.

A bird with sunken or dull eyes and wrinkled skin surrounding the eyes is 6% dehydrated.

Sadly, you can’t rehydrate a parrot at home once it reaches this level, so you may need to call your avian vet for assistance.

Birds have delicate skin, but pinching the skin around their eyes can help you determine if they’re dehydrated or not.

If the skin becomes baggier and takes time before returning to normal, that means she’s short of water.

However, you need to do it very gently to avoid hurting your sick pet.

Dry or Sticky Mucous Membrane

It’s also worth noting that dehydrated birds often have sticky or dried-out mucous membranes inside their mouth.

So if your bird tolerates you checking their mouth, try to look for this warning sign.

Skin Elasticity

Another proven way to tell if your bird is dehydrated is through their skin.

If your bird has a featherless area in her skin, try to pinch it gently, lift a section of their skin, and release it.

If the skin goes back into place in just a second, your bird is healthy.

But if it takes more than a second, that’s a red flag because reduced skin elasticity is a common bird dehydration symptom.


Does your bird wobble and lack energy and mobility?

Lethargy and weakness are among the earliest signs of dehydration.

So if your bird stops chirping, flying, singing, or playing, that could indicate sickness or dehydration.

Furthermore, birds love to fly, so if your feathery pet stays on the floor and stops perching and flying, that means she’s sick and not just simply exhausted.

Behavioral Changes

Sick birds tend to be grumpy. So, if your bird, who used to be happy and talkative, suddenly becomes silent or has sudden voice changes, your bird is probably ill.

Another factor you should watch out for is its breathing patterns, vocalizations, and self-grooming habits.

If your feathery pet is breathing faster than normal or labor breathing and doesn’t groom herself anymore, that means she’s not feeling well.

She may also hide and turn aggressive when forced to play, and their mood changes can lead to depression.

Altered Eating Habits

You must also consider your avian pet’s eating and drinking habits.

Oftentimes, those who are healthy eat more often due to their fast metabolism, while sick, dehydrated birds eat less pelleted chicken feed.

However, in some cases, dehydrated birds may eat more fruits because of their water content.

Still, overfeeding them with fruits can also be risky because it can indicate polydipsia or excessive thirst.

Since birds can’t survive more than 48 hours without eating or drinking, you must entice her to eat her favorite foods or give her sugar water if you can’t bring her to a vet immediately.


Drastic changes in your bird’s dropping could indicate sickness or dehydration.

If your feathery pet’s dropping is super loose, that could indicate mild dehydration, but if it continues to dry out, that means they’re losing uric acid and may stop eliminating.

Basilic Wing Vein

You can also test if your bird is dehydrated by pressing their basilic wing vein, but you need to ensure that your bird is tame and used to handling.

If it takes more than one second after pressing before the blood refills, that means the parrot is dehydrated.

Additionally, all these symptoms may also accompanied by panting.

But how about chicks?

How to tell if a chick is dehydrated?

You’ll know if your baby bird is dehydrated if:

  • their skin is reddish instead of looking pink
  • they get constipated and constantly do poping jobs with little to no poop out
  • and their skin is dry and not as springy as usual

But what causes dehydration in birds?

Causes of Bird Dehydration

In this section, we’ll discuss the main culprit of dehydration, which is too much heat or dry food.

Rise in Temperature

If the air temperature exceeds the bird’s normothermic body temperature, which is around 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, she’ll lose 5% of her body weight to dehydration per hour.

Most captive birds aren’t kept in homes with such a high temperature, but they may overheat when placed in a suntrap.

Placing birdcage blankets for too long can also raise the temperature and cause heat stress in avian creatures.

Water Loss

Birds also lose water through their skin when temperatures rise above 24-29 degrees C. 

65 to 70% of their water loss occurs in the skin, and it’s five times more than the water they lose through urine and feces.

Since baby birds have little to no feathers, they are at a higher risk of suffering from dehydration because their skin is exposed to heat.

Another reason why birds get dehydrated is having a high pellet diet with little to no accessible water and fruits or veggies.

They get hydrated through these foods, so they’re crucial to keep your avian pet happy and healthy.

Bird dehydration treatment

Bird Dehydration Treatment

Since time is crucial for your bird’s survival, you need to rehydrate your bird ASAP to help her recover.

So in this section, we’ll talk about how to help a dehydrated bird.

However, it’s worth noting that dehydrated birds need special care, treatment, and fluids, so it’s best to consult your avian vet before anything else.

So gently pick up your bird using a towel and place her in a bird hospital cage or ventilated box.

The container must be large enough to accommodate her while preventing her from flapping her wings.

It should also be secure to ensure the bird won’t be able to escape when they recover.

If possible, darken the container to make her feel comfortable and reduce stress, and place them in a noise-free area away from extreme vibration, temperature, and direct sunlight.

If your bird is mildly dehydrated, you can offer her water or rehydrated fluid made of 1 pinch of sugar, 1 pinch of salt, and 1 cup of water.

Make sure the water dish is accessible, and if you have multiple dehydrated birds, provide a dish for each of them.

Then, try offering fruits and vegetables, like apples, tomatoes, watermelons, or cucumbers, because they have high water content.

You may also reduce their pellet food consumption until they recover.

Now, let’s talk about baby birds.

How to Hydrate a Baby Bird?

You can try making a homemade Pedialyte solution for your chicks by mixing 1 tablespoon of sugar with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt in one liter of water.

Then, simply dip your finger into the solution and place it on top of your bird’s beak so he can suck the drops from your finger.

However, too much sugar and salt can also cause death in baby birds. So you must limit it to a few drops each time to avoid adverse health effects.

You also need to ensure that your baby bird is in a warm and humid place to avoid dehydration and place a cup of water nearby.

If your bird, whether adult or baby, refuses to eat and drink water or any solution, you must talk to your vet ASAP.

Your bird may be more than 5% dehydrated, and no home remedies can cure them.

Fluid Therapy for Severe Dehydration

Some vets use Gatorade, but Avian Medicine recommends giving a 5% dextrose solution to rehydrate birds.

Your vet may also supplement that with an isotonic solution called Lactated Ringer’s Solution (LRS), but the dextrose is usually enough for rehydration.

They may administer it through the mouth. But if your bird is too dehydrated, they may need to inject it subcutaneously or intravenously for 24 to 48 hours.

If your bird starts recovering after 48 hours, you may start administering maintenance fluid in a span of days or weeks.

Bird drinking water

How Often Do Birds Drink Water?

Birds drink water at least twice a day to stay hydrated. Of course, it varies depending on the bird’s species.

But small birds tend to lose more water relative to their mass; that’s why they need constant water replenishment.

During extreme weather conditions, birds lose even more water which leads to severe dehydration and salt concentration imbalance.

How Long Does It Take For a Bird to Die From Dehydration?

According to Vet Exotic, dehydrated birds have a higher chance of developing renal disease.

It then leads to hypovolemia which refers to the lack of enough blood to pump throughout the body. And that causes increased heart rate, weak pulse, and loss of consciousness.

But how long can a bird survive without water?

Well, it varies depending on the bird’s size and species.

For tiny birds like finches and warblers, severe temperatures can occur in as fast as 2 to 3 hours when the temperatures peak.

But larger birds, like pigeons, can survive for more than 48 hours at mild temperatures, even without water.

Prevention Tips for Bird Dehydration

Prevention Tips for Bird Dehydration

One of the most effective ways to prevent dehydration is to provide accessible fresh, clean water to your feathery pet.

Furthermore, organic fruits and vegetables with high water content can also help.

But you need to control their fruit and vegetable consumption because overfeeding may lead to adverse health effects as well.

You must also ensure that the room temperature of your pet is spot on, not too hot or too cold.

However, it’s worth noting that bird dehydration is a symptom of a larger, underlying health problem.

So, you must keep up with your bird’s regular health checkups to ensure it’s healthy.

FAQs About Bird Dehydration

How do you know if a bird is dehydrated?

You’ll know if your bird is dehydrated by gently pinching a featherless area of their skin. If it takes more than one skin before the skin returns to normal, that could indicate dehydration.

That, along with having sunken eyes, wrinkled appearance, lethargy, behavioral changes, and altered eating habits, could mean your bird is sick.

How do you treat dehydration in parrots?

The best and most effective way of rehydrating a bird with moderate to severe dehydration is by administering intravenous or intraosseous fluids.

What happens if a bird drinks too much water?

If a bird drinks excessively, that’s one of the beginning signs of an underlying medical issue like diabetes or liver or kidney disease.

But that could also mean that she’s dehydrated and wants to rehydrate.

Caring for a Caring for a dehydrated birddehydrated bird

Final Thoughts on Bird Dehydration

Bird dehydration is highly fatal, especially to young birds.

However, it’s not easy to diagnose bird dehydration since some birds are good at hiding how they truly feel.

Furthermore, dehydration could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.

So, if you notice that your bird is dehydrated, it’s best to bring her to a reputable avian vet where she can be tested and physically examined.

It requires a considerable amount of money, time, and effort. But it’s worth it if it can save your bird’s life.

READ NEXT: Egg Binding in Birds—The Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment?

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