Is Your Cockatiel Gagging? Common Reasons And What To Do

Finding your cockatiel gagging is enough to make you worried. 

After all, it is not normal to find your pet acting this way. You most certainly would rather have your cockatiel eating normally, playing peacefully, and at its normal self.

So, if you see some signs of choking with your pet, it is most certainly alarming. Most importantly, you need to seek prompt medical attention to prevent things from going downhill.

Find out more about these choking issues with cockatiels and what you can do about it. Let’s go ahead and keep reading below.

cockatiel gagging

Reasons For A Cockatiel Gagging

First of all, you may be wondering if cockatiels can choke at all.

The simple answer to that is yes – although it is quite rare. Generally, cockatiels have airways and throats that are designed naturally to prevent choking. But then again, choking does happen in some cases. This is often typical among birds that swallow a large object – something larger than what can fit in its throat.

The trachea of birds are normally longer and bigger than hours. This is why birds can easily swallow their food whole and not have to worry about it getting stuck at all. But then, these birds lack an epiglottis that serves a purpose of covering their teeth or trachea or their mastication muscles. What they do instead is to push their food down their esophagus through their tongue and mouth.

Yet, there are instances when your pet accidentally eats something that is very large, or perhaps with an odd shape. Hence, this can get stuck unless your bird is able to break the food down into smaller particles.

Interestingly, cockatiels have a habit of shelling seeds prior to eating these whole. They may also break a soft fruit or strip their vegetables using their beaks. But in case they are unable to successfully break the large food, they may choke.

Signs Of Choking In Cockatiels

There are some signs to take note of when you want to make sure your pet is indeed okay and is not choking.

Some common signs of choking among cockatiels include:

  • Wheezing
  • Gasping for breath
  • Distressed appearance
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Scratching its throat
  • Bobbing the head combined with wheezing
  • Flapping the wings

You need to pay close attention to your pet when you observe any of these signs since you have to check if the cause is a solid object or just water. In case you are certain that your pet is choking on a toy or food, you can hold the bird upside down. 

Cockatiels are naturally good at eating clunky and sharp objects without even choking. But then again, it can happen.

For instance, if the toy is broken, your pet may accidentally break a piece off and choke on it such as with discarded bones, plastic toys or wood chunks. There are some birds that do not eat these fragments, however accidental swallowing does happen. It is true with toys containing beads, rubber material, or buttons.

Even when cockatiels are in their natural habitat, they don’t normally eat bone fragments. But then baby cockatiels may not know any better and accidentally eat these sharp fragments and cause them to choke. It can even suffocate because of a large chunk stuck in its throat.

This is why you need to be cautious about not giving your pet anything hard, dry or sharp. There are some foods that are safe for your pet because they are soft such as cooked vegetables, raw fruits, cooked pasta or rice, and oatmeal. However, if you are providing fruits, make sure that there is no big seed at all that can be a choking hazard for your pet. 

Just like with humans, cockatiels may try to talk or move around while it drinks. When this happens, these birds tend to aspirate the liquid and choke. While it is most certainly not very dangerous at all, choking on water can be very uncomfortable. Your cockatiel may also be drinking too much and too quickly while moving around fast, which can cause the liquid to get locked into the throat and lead to choking.

Additionally, cockatiels are curious little creatures. They like to play and pick anything up with their beaks. This is why it is best to keep hard objects away from your pet such as jewelry, small ornaments, or buttons that may get stuck in your pet’s throat.

Choking Or Coughing?

Now, you may be confused by what your pet is doing, if it is coughing or actually choking. Both actions allow your pet to clear the respiratory pathway when there is discomfort. But coughing is due to a respiratory issue or an infection while choking is caused by an object lodged into the airway.

So, you should check the difference and observe sure signs of choking such as a gurgling noise and stretching the neck. No matter what it may be, though, whether it is coughing or choking, it is best to take your pet to the vet if you observe this happening regularly. 

Read More: Cockatiel Scratching Head With Foot – What It Really Means

What You Can Do

The best you can do is to stay as calm as possible and reassure your pet. When you panic or worry, your pet may also get even more stressed. But you need to check if your cockatiel is choking on water, plastic, wood, or food. You also need to make sure it is indeed choking since it can also be coughing.

When you notice it is a solid object that causes it to gag, hold your pet upside down to cause the jaw to open and let the object fall off naturally. 

When it is liquid, keep your pet right side up and do not at all intervene. 

And most importantly, make it a point to contact your vet right away. You can also do some quick things such as rubbing the keel bone to help clear the throat. But if you are not well-versed or confident enough to do this, it is better to just take your cockatiel to the vet to prevent further problems from developing.

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