What are the Most Common Diseases in Canaries

  • Date: November 29, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Did you know canaries can develop tremors just like humans? Read on to find out more about the most common canary diseases.

Songbirds such as canaries are most often diseased by either bacteria, parasites, or fungi. These infections most commonly lead to gastrointestinal, respiratory, neurological, dermatologic, or eye issues, and in the worst case, sudden death.

Let’s examine a few of these diseases in more detail, looking closely at the causes and symptoms so you can spot them as early as possible in your canary.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

There are several possible diseases when it comes to gastrointestinal issues. These will likely manifest in symptoms such as diarrhea, and other forms of unusual stool including small, hard stool, constipation, or even sudden weight loss. 

Gastrointestinal issues may be caused by bacteria that create a bacterial imbalance and in severe cases, gastrointestinal disease. These may enter through the food the canary eats perhaps if the food is old or rotten. 

To remedy the situation, try feeding them basic foods such as grains of rice and oatmeal. Alternatively, you can buy probiotic supplements to help balance the bacteria in their stomach. 

Parasites and fungi are two other causes of gastrointestinal disease which vary in severity. These depend on the canary’s location in terms of which parasites and fungi surround them. As well as the sanitation of their surroundings and the food and liquids they consume. Pseudotuberculosis

One notable gastrointestinal disease is Pseudotuberculosis which is a bacterial disease that makes its way into the organs of canaries and poses serious issues such as abscesses. With this one, prevention is the best method. The cleaner the canary’s space, the less likely they are to contract the disease.

Respiratory Disease

Unfortunately, respiratory disease in canaries can be quite deadly if it comes in the form of Pox. There are several strains of Poxviruses common to canaries, these include: Dry or Cutaneous, Wet or Diphtheritic, and Septicaemic.

In their initial stages, these respiratory diseases may begin as pneumonia and bronchitis. However, they usually progress too quickly growing skin lesions and other unpleasant growths. The symptoms of some of the Pox forms include ruffled feathers, conjunctivitis, and lethargy. Canaries are known to be very energetic birds so any signs of depression such as sitting at the bottom of their cage should trigger concern. 

With these forms of respiratory illness, prevention, again, is essential. A vaccination exists and we recommend having your canary take it as Pox are contagious and are more often than not, deadly.

Neurological Disease

Neurological diseases in canaries exhibit themselves in various ways and are often surprisingly similar to humans. For instance, tremors and paralysis are indicative of neurological diseases in canaries. These may develop naturally over time however, they can also be caused by bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections. They are also caused by trauma and shock as with humans.

If you notice unusual behavior in your canary, take them to the vet immediately. Though there may not be explicit cures for neurological disease in canaries, there may be ways to mitigate symptoms. 

Dermatologic Disease

Dermatologic diseases are diseases of the skin and though they are extremely unpleasant, they do have the benefit of easy detection as compared to some of the other common diseases. 

You may notice cysts, discolorations, ruffled or matted feathers, or beak deformities, just to name a few. These can develop over time and are usually indicative of something wrong with the bird so as soon as you spot something out of the ordinary, take your canary to the vet. 

Diseases of the Eye

Ophthalmic diseases are common to canaries. Anything from Conjunctivitis to Cataracts is possible. If you notice crusty texture and goop around the canary’s eyes, it may be problematic. However, most diseases of the eye in canaries can be mitigated or even cured through antibiotics and medications.

Sudden Death

Unfortunately, immediate deaths that seemingly come out of nowhere are not uncommon in canaries. They are most likely in baby chicks as it can be difficult to detect birth defects in canaries. Death two to three days after birth is possible and is likely caused by Polyoma Virus which is a deadly infection that impacts multiple areas of the body all at once. This disease can occur in both baby and adult canaries and unfortunately, has no cure. 

Sudden death may also be caused by stressors such as exposure to toxic substances and even trauma. Again, prevention is essential. Make sure your canary’s cage is far away from any potential exposure to toxicity such as stoves and rodent deterrents. Finally, be sure to limit the risk of traumatic experiences by hanging their cage far away from children or other animals. 


Another factor to bear in mind is that of timing. Both in the sense of how long symptoms have persisted and in terms of the time of year. Let’s examine these areas in more detail.

How Long Must a Symptom Persist for it to be Concerning?

When it comes to the length of time symptoms have lasted, the severity varies. For instance, with concerning symptoms such as growths and deformities, no amount of time is normal. As soon as you spot these abnormalities, you should take your canary to the veterinarian. 

On the other hand, symptoms such as diarrhea and other unusual stool forms can be tricky as they are not always indicative of a disease or something else serious. If the problem persists for several days and stretches into weeks, then you should have the canary checked out. However, if it just lasts for one or two days, it could simply be a matter of indigestion. 

Diseases that are More Likely at Certain Times of Year

As for the time of year, it is an interesting factor in that some diseases are much more likely at certain times so you can prepare and take extra caution during these periods. For instance, during the winter months, just as with humans, respiratory diseases are far more common in canaries than in the summer months. Keep a close watch on your canary during the times of the year when they are likely more susceptible to problematic diseases.

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