Cataracts in Birds

By Rick Axelson, DVM; Updated by Laurie Hess, DVM

What is a cataract?cataracts_in_birds-1

The normal lens in the eye of any animal is clear and colorless. A cataract is an increase in the density or opacity of the lens; it is often observed as whiteness within the pupil.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are usually age related and often involve both eyes. Other causes include nutritional problems, traumatic events, metabolic diseases (like diabetes), inflammatory problems, and infections. Cataracts are often seen in canaries and less often in Amazon Parrots, African Grey Parrots, and Macaws. In Canaries, cataracts can be inherited. Cataracts can occur in any species as a result of aging.

Are there any treatments for cataracts?

Surgical removal is possible depending on the size of the bird and should be discussed with your avian veterinarian or a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Will a cataract affect my bird's vision?

It will decrease the visual acuity of the bird and may eventually lead to blindness. Many birds continue to see, however, even with cataracts and can still live happy lives.

What should I do if my bird becomes blind?

Many owners are not aware of the fact that their bird is blind until a veterinarian points it out to them. As a general comment, a healthy pet bird that is blind will usually do very well, as long as the owner doesn’t change the cage set up or bird’s routine. It is important not to rearrange the perches, toys and food dishes in a blind bird's cage since they know exactly where everything is. Birds with cataracts may startle easily if you approach too fast, so you should verbally let them know you are there as you come near them. Talk to your veterinarian regarding any specific questions you have if your bird has cataracts.

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