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Air Sac Mites

What are Air Sac Mites and how can they be treated?

Air Sac Mite are a common cause of difficult breathing in Gouldian Finches. For many years these little mites have been a constant irritation to Gouldian breeders and have resulted in many deaths and poor breeding performance. But it is not just Gouldians that get Air Sac Mite, in fact Canaries are also commonly infected with this little critter and it has been reported in a host of other small birds.

The mite has the scientific name of Sternostoma tracheacolum and the nasty habit of walking up and down the respiratory system of the bird. The mite spends most of its life cycle in the bird. Interestingly, the whole cycle from egg to adult is only 6 days! The mite is transmitted between birds when they feed one another, as parents feeding babies or adults during courtship. Free living mite in the environment are also a source of infection.

Symptoms of an infection will vary depending on the species of bird and the degree of infection. A loss of voice, coughing, tail bobbing, and a peculiar “chirp” as they breathe are the common symptoms. However Gouldians and canaries that “just don’t look right” should be suspected of air sac mite.

Treatment involves using an insecticide to kill the active mites and maintaining treatment long enough to kill the newly hatched mite larvae. Household insect sprays can be used by covering the cage and giving a short burst of spray into a covered cage. This method used to be our only option, now there are much better ways to control the mite.

More suitable is the application of an Air Sac Treatment containing ivermectin. Ivermectin preparations vary by concentration so it is important to consult with your veterinarian and obtain the correct strength dose from them for your birds . As with all medications it is important to closely follow the advice and directions provided by your veterinary surgeon. The use of ivermectin in water is discouraged. Ivermectin as a chemical does not like water and starts to break down quickly as soon as it is added to the water. The variables of in water administration combined with the destruction of the chemical make this method of treatment very “hit and miss”. Response to the treatment will take a day or two and the birds will recover well. Remember to treat all birds at the same time – not just affected birds.

This information was supplied to us from our good friends at Vetafarm.

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