Seizures In Cockatiels: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Seizures In Cockatiels

Seizures are a concerning neurological condition that can affect any bird, including cockatiels. That may occur due to a variety of reasons and can signal an underlying severe illness or traumatic experience. In some cases, they may also indicate a neurological disorder. In this article, we will talk about seizures in cockatiels, including their symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Seizures in cockatiels can be a frightening experience for both the bird and its owner. These seizures are a relatively common neurological condition that can result in uncontrolled movements, leg twitching, wing flapping, tremors, and convulsions. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and are a result of spontaneous disturbances in the brain’s electrical activity.

There are numerous potential causes of seizures in cockatiels, including tumors, toxicity, trauma, infectious disease, and nutritional deficiencies, and they are often hard to isolate. During a seizure, the bird may lose consciousness or become disoriented, leading to injuries and a considerable amount of stress.

Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that the birdcage has a layer of soft padding on the bottom to protect the bird and minimize injury.

Cockatiels can experience various types of seizures including grand mal seizures, focal seizures, and absence seizures.

Grand mal seizures are the most common type and involve loss of consciousness and convulsions. On the other side, focal seizures affect a specific part of the bird’s body, while absence seizures involve brief periods of staring and inactivity.

Always seek vet care as soon as possible to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of the seizures in cockatiels to prevent further unwanted consequences.

What Causes Seizures In Cockatiels?

What Causes Seizures In Cockatiels?

There are several potential causes of seizures in cockatiels, including:

Trauma (Brain Damage)

Physical trauma can happen to both wild and pet cockatiels. However, if you own multiple cockatiels, they may sometimes fight or play aggressively, leading to injuries. Additionally, injuries can also occur if the cockatiel is suffering from night frights.

When this happens the cockatiel will attempt to escape from its cage by panicky flight inside the cage. All of these can result in wounded wings, damaged blood feathers, and head trauma.

Improper handling by children or exposure to larger pets like dogs or cats can also result in physical harm. Unfortunately, cockatiels are small, and even minor injuries can damage their central nervous system, leading to seizures.

There are two main areas where physical injuries can lead to seizures: spinal damage and head trauma.

Spinal cord damage

Spinal cord damage affects the movement of the whole body. It can cause muscle weakness, an inability to feel pain, paralysis (especially in the lower body), and seizures in cockatiels.

Head trauma

Head trauma is a common occurrence in both wild and pet cockatiels. The bird may accidentally collide with windows, fall from perches or great heights, flying into solid objects or ceiling fans, leading to serious injuries and seizures.

Therefore, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of head trauma, which include:

Prompt treatment is essential for the successful recovery of cockatiels with head injuries. However, those with displaced spines may not fully recover. In any case, physical trauma is an emergency, regardless of the severity. Even minor head or spinal cord injuries can cause other areas to have fractures.

If you suspect your cockatiel has suffered from physical trauma, you should examine it immediately. Check for signs of broken bones, bleeding, or bruising.

Move it to a dark and quiet location, keeping it warm and free from hard objects that may cause further injury. Remember that your cockatiel’s health and well-being are your top priority, so don’t hesitate to seek professional help if necessary.


Toxicity is a common cause of seizure in cockatiels. There are several common toxins to be aware of, including heavy metals, fumes from cleaning products, and certain foods.

One of the most significant risks to a cockatiel’s health is exposure to heavy metals such as lead and zinc. These can be found in various household items, including cage bars, toys, and even food dishes. Ingesting these metals can lead to heavy metal poisoning, causing a range of symptoms, including seizures in cockatiels.

In addition to heavy metals, airborne toxins can also harm your cockatiel. The respiratory system of this bird is particularly sensitive, making them more susceptible to fumes from:

  • Air fresheners
  • Cleaning products
  • Tobacco products
  • Candles
  • PaintOpens in a new tab.

Exposure to these toxins can lead to respiratory issues and other health problems.

Certain foods can also be harmful to cockatiels. Foods that are toxic to birds include onionOpens in a new tab., garlic, caffeine, and alcohol.

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid feeding your cockatiel any human food and stick to a diet of commercial bird food and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tumor (Brain tumor)

When a cockatiel develops a brain tumor, it can cause seizures, which are sudden and uncontrolled movements of the body. Tumors can form in different parts of the brain, and their location can affect the type of seizure a cockatiel experiences.

The brain tumor can interfere with the normal electrical activity of the brain, causing the abnormal and excessive firing of the neurons, leading to seizures. This condition caused by brain tumors can vary in duration and frequency and can be mild to severe.

According to the Journal of Avian Veterinary SurgeryOpens in a new tab., brain tumors in birds are rare and typically accompanied by other unusual behaviors and symptoms. Some of the unusual behaviors and symptoms are lack of coordination, tremors, and difficulty perching or flying.

Infectious disease

Cockatiels are hardy birds, but they can still be vulnerable to various illnesses that may lead to seizures. Infectious diseases attack the central nervous system (such as bacteria that secrete toxins).

The most common infectious disease that can trigger seizures in cockatiels include:

  • Viral infectious disease: Avian Bornaviral Ganglioneuritis (ABV) also known as Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) is a viral infection that affects birds, including cockatiels and other psittacine birds. It is caused by the avian-bornavirus, a type of RNA virus that primarily affects the nervous system. ABV is a progressive and often fatal disease that can cause neurological symptoms, such as tremors, seizures, weakness, and loss of balanceOpens in a new tab., among others.
  • Bacteria infectious disease: Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever, is a type of bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci. It is primarily spread either through contact with infected birds or through droppings, feathers, or secretions. The infection can also be spread through contaminated surfaces or inhalation of dust from bird droppings.
  • Fungal infectious disease: Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that can affect birds. It is caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which is commonly found in soil, decaying plant matter, and other organic material. Birds can inhale the spores of this fungus and develop a respiratory infection. Aspergillosis can also affect other parts of the bird’s body, such as the eyes, bones, and nervous system, and can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Other diseases that can cause seizures in cockatiels are abnormally high or low blood pressure and liver disease.

Nutritional deficiency

Cockatiels, like any other birds, require a well-balanced diet and adequate hydration to maintain their health. However, nutritional deficiencies can occur as a result of pre-existing conditions.

Seizures are a significant concern for cockatiel owners, which can stem from vitamin deficiencies, low blood sugar, or dehydration.

Many cockatiels’ health problems can be attributed to poor nutrition because some owners feed them nuts and seeds almost exclusively. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies, including hypocalcemia, which is caused by a lack of calcium in the bloodstream.

Without adequate calcium, or vitamin D to absorb it, seizures may develop.

Aside from nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar can also trigger seizures in cockatiels. Therefore, you should keep an eye out for any signs of diabetes in your bird, as this can be the underlying cause of low blood sugar.

Also, it’s important to note that vitamin deficiencies are often just symptoms of underlying health issues. For example, diseases that affect the preen glands can lead to a vitamin D deficiency, while a lack of vitamin A can also impact a cockatiel’s health.


Cockatiels can be picky about their water intakeOpens in a new tab., which puts them at risk for dehydration.

Dehydration is a significant contributing factor to seizures in these birds, as well as a risk factor for renal failure, according to Veterinary ClinicsOpens in a new tab..

To keep your cockatiel from getting dehydrated, ensure it has access to a water bowl. Be extra careful during the summer months. However, if your bird doesn’t drink enough, you can try adding a sweet flavor to the water to encourage it to drink more.

In hot weather, if your cockatiel isn’t drinking enough, you can also add electrolytes to its water for quick hydration. This will replace lost fluids and minerals caused by sweating or other dehydration causes.

By making sure that your cockatiel has enough water to drink, you can help prevent health problems such as seizures.

Unsuitable environment

It’s always crucial to ensure that your cockatiel is housed in an appropriate part of the home. This means avoiding housing that is damp and drafty, which can cause chills, and inflammation of nerves, muscles, and joints.

On the other hand, it’s essential to provide your cockatiel with some access to natural sunlight for vitamin D absorption. However, you should be cautious not to allow your cockatiel to get too hotOpens in a new tab., as this can cause sunstroke, leading to convulsions and even deathOpens in a new tab..

In addition, cockatiels need 8-10 hours of sleep daily. You can achieve this by covering the cage at nightOpens in a new tab. and locating your bird in a quiet part of the homeOpens in a new tab.. Keep your bird away from external noise sources like windows, TV sets, or radios. In this way, your cockatiel won’t be disturbed and you will prevent stress seizures.

If you observe that your cockatiel is prone to seizures, it’s crucial to avoid overstimulating it. Once the seizure has passed, cockatiels will recover, but experiencing a seizure can be a frightening experience for them.

So, to prevent this, keep your bird in a calm and quiet environment and avoid exposing it to overstimulation.


As per Brain Research,Opens in a new tab. birds can get epilepsy. But, if a cockatiel is having a seizure it doesn’t mean that it’s epileptic. However, a brain scan is necessary here to diagnose epilepsy in birds, and it should not be ruled out as a possibility.

Contrary to popular belief, flashing lights are not a common trigger for seizures. Instead, stress, poor sleep, and certain medications can cause seizures in birds.

If a cockatiel is diagnosed with epilepsy, it will require medication for the rest of its life. Fortunately, with proper medication, a cockatiel with epilepsy can live a full and normal life.

Genetics predisposition

Breeding practices that focus on physical traits rather than overall health can lead to genetic disorders being passed down to offspring. Such disorders can include epilepsy, a neurological condition that can cause seizures in affected birds.

If a cockatiel’s parents have a history of seizures or genetic disorders, the bird may be at a higher risk of developing seizures.

To prevent this, breeders should prioritize their birds’ health and avoid breeding individuals with known genetic disorders.

What Are The Symptoms Of Seizures In Cockatiels?

What Are The Symptoms Of Seizures In Cockatiels?

Seizures can vary significantly from one cockatiel to another because they’re not one fixed event. However, understanding the symptoms and stages of a seizure in cockatiels can help you identify and care for their birds during and after an episode

Symptoms of seizures in cockatiels are:

  • The uncontrolled flapping of wings: During a seizure, a cockatiel may flap its wingsOpens in a new tab. uncontrollably and may be unable to stop.
  • Vocalization: A bird may vocalize or make noisesOpens in a new tab. during a seizure.
  • Temporary loss of consciousness: A cockatiel may experience a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness during a seizure and may be unresponsive to external stimuli.
  • Disorientation: A cockatiel may appear disoriented during a seizure and may be unable to perch.
  • Stiffening of the body: A cockatiel may stiffen its body during a seizure, which can be a sign of more severe episodes.
  • Twitching of the wings or legs: A partial seizure may be characterized by continuous twitching of a wing or leg.
  • Falling off the perch: A cockatiel may fall off its perchOpens in a new tab. during a seizure, which can be dangerous and cause injury.

All these symptoms of seizures in cockatiels, veterinarians categorize them into three different stages:

Aura (Preictal) PhaseThe cockatiel may exhibit a behavior change, becoming agitated or standing in silence and staring into space.
Ictal PhaseThe cockatiel will experience disorientation, lose muscle coordination, and may fall off the perch. It may also jerk, flap its wings, and empty its bowels. The phase can last up to 30 seconds.
Postictal PhaseThe cockatiel will demonstrate lethargy, confusion, and agitation, or may be exhausted. This phase can last several hours.
Stages of Seizures in Cockatiels

What To Do If Your Cockatiel Has A Seizure?

Seizures can be frightening to observe, but there are steps you can take to help your cockatiel during an episode:

During the seizure

If your cockatiel shows any symptoms of a seizure, avoid touching it as this could cause additional physical harm. Instead, create space around it to prevent injury from nearby objects. Remove any objects that could potentially harm the bird during the seizure.

To further minimize the risk of injury, consider surrounding the cockatiel with soft padding if possible.

Line the bottom of the cage

Before visiting the vet, it’s important to prepare for the possibility of a second seizure the help your cockatiel feel safe and comfortable. While the convulsions themselves can be frightening, the primary concern is preventing physical injuries.

Birds often lose their grip and fall during seizures. Therefore it’s recommended to line the bottom of the cage with soft bedding (blanket) to prevent accidents.

Additionally, covering the hard corners of the perches and cage bars with padding can provide extra protection.

Remove hard objects

During a seizure, your cockatiel may trash on the groundOpens in a new tab. or fall off its perch, putting it in danger of harming itself on toys or other decorations in the cage.

To prevent injuries, it’s best to remove these items and hard swings, hammocks, or lofty perches for now. Instead, set a perch at the lowest part of the cage to provide a safer resting spot for your bird.

You may also want to consider replacing toysOpens in a new tab. with softer alternatives that cannot be easily chewed up or eaten, such as rope toysOpens in a new tab. and rattan balls. In doing so, you can reduce the risk of harm to your cockatiel during a seizure.

Keep the environment comfy

To aid in your cockatiel’s recovery, it’s important to create a peaceful environment. Choose a quiet spot for its cage with gentle lighting.

Besides this, provide your cockatiel with a balanced and varied diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and fortified pellets or seeds.

Keep a record

To help your vet determine the best treatment for your cockatiel, keep a record of seizure details. It’s easy to forget later, so jot down the date and duration of each convulsion.

How To Treat Seizure In Cockatiels

To treat seizures in cockatiels, you should determine the underlying cause to provide comprehensive treatment. Here are some key points to consider for the treatment of seizures in birds:

  1. Testing: A CBC or complete blood count can provide information about hydration levels, toxins, infections, and organ health. X-rays can examine bone health, organ size, and metal poisoning. Electroencephalograms, magnetic resonance imaging, and CT scans can also help detect harmful compounds in the body.
  2. Addressing underlying causes: Once the cause of the seizure is identified, targeted treatment can begin immediately. This may include chelating drugs and removal of toxic metals, dietary adjustments for hypocalcemia and hypoglycemia, and specific treatments for liver or kidney disease.
  3. Supportive care: Good supportive care is essential to treat a seizure in cockatiels. This includes a warm and safe home, fluids, and treatment medication. Anticonvulsants can be used to temporarily halt seizures, allowing time for treatment to take effect.
  4. Incurable conditions: Some condition like PDD are incurable. For these life-ending conditions, managing seizures for reducing discomfort will be the recommended treatment plan.
  5. Prognosis: The prognosis for birds with seizures can vary. While some birds may have rare episodes or recover completely, others may, unfortunately, get worse. Regardless, your bird will need your support and care during this time.
  6. Levetiracetam: This medication can be used to treat seizures in cockatiels, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a cure for underlying conditions that may be causing the seizures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Cockatiel Die From A Seizure?

Seizures in cockatiels are not an illness in themselves but rather symptoms of an underlying issue. Although it’s unlikely that a cockatiel will die directly from a seizure, it can lead to accidental injuries, such as broken bones or falls. Therefore, seizures should not be ignored or considered normal for cockatiels. The root problem causing the seizure, such as toxicity or illness, must be addressed promptly to avoid potentially fatal consequences.

Can Stress Cause Seizures In Cockaties?

Stress can cause physiological changes in cockatiels that can trigger seizures. When a bird is stressed, it can lead to hormonal imbalances that can affect the functioning of the brain and nervous system. This can increase the likelihood of seizures in birds that are predisposed to the condition. Additionally, stress can weaken the immune system, making birds more susceptible to infections that can trigger seizures. Therefore, it’s important to minimize stress seizures in cockatiels by providing them with a comfortable and safe environment, regular exercise, and a healthy diet.

Can Seizures In Cockatiels Be Fatal?

Underlying health conditions such as infection or tumors can cause seizures in cockatiels, which may become life-threatening. It is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if you suspect that your bird is experiencing a seizure.

How Long Do Bird Seizures Last?

Bird seizures can last for a few seconds or up to several minutes. The length of the seizure depends on the underlying cause and severity of the episode. During a seizure, a bird may experience symptoms such as muscle twitching, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and abnormal vocalizations.


If your cockatiel is showing any symptoms of seizures, it’s essential to seek immediate veterinary care. The first step in the treatment of seizures in birds is to visit a vet who can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

While some birds may experience rare episodes or resolve completely, others may suffer ongoing or worsening seizures. Regardless of the outcome, your bird needs your love, comfort, and support during this difficult time.

Understanding the symptoms of seizures in cockatiels and taking appropriate action can help your bird live a happy and healthy life.

Remember with proper treatment and care, many cockatiels with seizures can thrive.

If you are concerned about how to treat a seizure in cockatiels, always consult with your vet for the best course of action.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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