Have you ever had an ingrown hair? It's a common enough problem, often related to hair removal. Instead of growing outwards, the hair curls around and begins to grow back into the skin. The skin heals over the hair, creating a small inflammation that resembles a pimple or cyst. These ingrown hairs are usually self-correcting; however, it can take some minor exfoliation to release the hair and encourage it to grow outwards. Did you know that your pet bird can suffer from a similar predicament? But of course, it won't actually be a hair that's ingrown.
An Ingrown Feather
Birds can actually be affected by ingrown feathers. This is when the feather fails to grow outward from the follicle and instead curves back around, remaining contained within the follicle. The mass of the feather then causes an inflammation of the surrounding tissues, and this is what is known as a feather cyst. An ingrown hair is unlikely to cause any major health problems for you, but can the same be said for an ingrown feather in birds?
An Escalating Infection
A bird will sometimes take matters into their own hands (or claws). As they groom themselves, a bird can often rupture a minor cyst, which frees the ingrown feather. A larger, more stubborn cyst can require assistance. The inflammation can quickly escalate, and consider the configuration of a feather as opposed to a strand of hair. The mass of an ingrown feather can be considerably greater than an ingrown hair. And there's also the fact that your bird might not be especially large, meaning any inflammation on their anatomy has the potential to overwhelm them.
Spotting a Feather Cyst
Your bird might draw attention to their feather cyst. It may be that you notice changes to their grooming habits as they repeatedly tackle the site of the cyst without the desired results. Carefully handle your bird (if they're obliging), gently tracing your fingertips over the suspected cyst, which will feel like a small lump. The cyst might not pose a problem, but it's impossible to foresee this, and you might take the view that any risk to your bird's health is an unacceptable risk.
The Infected Feather Follicle
Take your bird to your veterinarian. They'll confirm the presence of the cyst, and treatment is quite simple — your vet will generally just remove the infected follicle. This is a minor surgical procedure, and your bird will receive pain medication. If it's thought that the infection caused by the cyst has spread, your bird may also require antibiotics.
Although you might not even be aware of minor feather cysts in your pet bird (with your bird taking care of treatment themselves), it's important that a major cyst is treated by your vet.
Contact an animal hospital like Angel Pet Hospital to learn more.