People can develop painful cysts due to ingrown hairs, and a similar phenomenon can happen in birds. If your bird develops ingrown feathers, they may develop a granulomatous mass, known as a feather cyst, in the area. Here are four things bird owners need to know about feather cysts.
How do feather cysts form?
Ingrown feathers happen for the same reason as ingrown hairs. When your bird loses a feather, a new feather grows out of the follicle to replace it. If all goes well, this new feather will break through the skin, but sometimes, it gets stuck beneath the skin and curls inwards.
When feathers get trapped beneath the skin, they cause irritation. In response to this irritation, your bird's body creates a mass around the feather. This mass then fills with keratin, a type of protein, and will continue to grow until the offending feather is removed.
What are the signs of feather cysts?
If your bird develops feather cysts, you'll notice lumps on their skin. Over time, these lumps will continue to grow larger, and you may see your bird trying to peck or scratch at them. Just like the ingrown hairs that people get, ingrown feathers are painful, and affected birds may seem lethargic or grumpy until their cysts are dealt with.
Are they dangerous for birds?
Feather cysts are painful, but they can also be dangerous. If the cyst isn't treated, it will eventually break open on its own. The broken skin will then be susceptible to infection. To avoid dangerous secondary infections, get feather cysts treated promptly.
How do vets treat them?
Your vet can carefully squeeze the keratin out of the cyst. Don't try to do this yourself at home as it's not as simple as popping a pimple; the cyst can bleed quite badly after being squeezed. Once the cyst has been drained, it will eventually re-fill, so the treatment will need to be repeated as necessary.
To cure the cyst permanently, surgery is required. This surgery involves extensively dissecting the feather follicle, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Once the cyst and the ingrown feather have been removed, your vet will pack the area with styptic wadding or seal it with sutures, depending on the size of the surgical area. This procedure may not be practical if your bird has many affected feathers.
If you think your bird has feather cysts, take them to a vet, like those at Edinburgh Animal Hospital, right away.