The use of psychoactive drugs in psychogenic feather-picking parrots

  • J. Gorteman
  • G. Antonissen
  • S. Croubels
  • Y. van Zeeland


Feather damaging behavior is a common problem in captive parrots (Psittaciformes). Besides medical indications, socio-environmental and neurobiologic causes may underlie the behavior, in which case it is often referred to as psychogenic feather picking. The treatment of this behavior problem is primarily based on environmental changes, e.g. enrichment activities, and behavior modification therapy. When these measures provide insufficient or lack of effect, pharmacologic intervention using psychoactive drugs may be considered. However, the correct use of these drugs requires in depth knowledge of the mechanism of action, pharmacokinetic characteristics and toxicity of the selected drug. Since specific information on the use of psychoactive drugs in birds is often lacking, the (off-label) use of these drugs will in most instances be based on empirical findings and dose extrapolation from mammals. This in turn may carry risks, as the metabolism and sensitivity towards the drug can greatly differ between birds and mammals, thereby resulting in therapy failure and/or serious side effects. Consequently, consideration of these limitations and careful monitoring of the patient are needed to use psychoactive drugs responsibly in pet birds.

How to Cite:

Gorteman, J. & Antonissen, G. & Croubels, S. & van Zeeland, Y., (2017) “The use of psychoactive drugs in psychogenic feather-picking parrots”, Vlaams Diergeneeskundig Tijdschrift 86(6), 339-349. doi:

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Published on
27 Dec 2017
Peer Reviewed