What is it?
A rhinolith is an accumulation of debris in the nose that hardens.
Here is an amazon who came in with a “nose problem”. You may be able to see the enlarged opening and the brownish material plugging it. This abnormality had been growing and the owners weren’t sure how long it had been there.
I was able to tease it it out and you can see the result leaves a big empty hole behind.
Birds don’t have nostrils but instead have nares. That may be semantics since the dictionary definition of those 2 terms is pretty similar (or the same depending on the dictionary!). In general, I’ve always heard people use the word nostril if there is a fleshy protuberance (otherwise known as the nose) and naris for just an opening into the head. Regardless, we use the term nares (plural) or naris (singular) in birds.
Just behind the opening – whatever you want to call it – is a hardened flap of keratin called the operculum. This flap is sometimes mistaken for foreign material. It should be smooth and dry. However material can accumulate between this flap and the tissue on either side. This build-up can distort the tissue and even cause permanent damage to the bone.
What Causes This?
Quite a few things can result in a rhinolith – bacterial or fungal infections, hypovitaminosis A (or too little Vitamin A in the diet), foreign material or poor air quality.
- Good air quality – avoid smoking (any substance) and scented candles, keep fireplaces clean by hiring a chimneysweep as recommended, changing filters for heaters or air conditioners and providing an air purifier.
- Preventing hypovitaminosis A – get your bird off of seeds and onto a good quality pellet, provide a source of fresh veggies.
- You can’t eliminate bacteria or fungus from the environment but you can reduce it. Clean the food and water dishes daily, change the papers on the bottom of the cage daily (make sure they are under the wire grate) and wash the cage frequently. Use papers rather than litter at the bottom of the cage since they are easier to clean. If you must use a litter avoid walnut and corn cob – both of these substances may be contaminated with fungus that can infect and kill your bird.
What to Do?
Bring your bird to the veterinarian as soon as you see an abnormality. Once physical changes to the structure have occurred, they don’t go back to normal. Disruption of the normal structure means your bird may be more susceptible to sinus infections in the future.