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  • Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
  • Psittacine Beak and feather Disease (PBFD)
  • Aspergillosis
  • Gout
  • Lead or Zinc Poisoning


Psittacosis (parrot fever)

From: Understanding Psittacosis (Parrot Fever) by Alan K Jones B.Vet.Med, MRCVS

Psittacosis is a common and potentially serious disease occurring in both the birds that we keep and the humans that keep them... 
The organism will survive outside the host for approximately one month if protected by cell debris and protein material (i.e. droppings, nasal discharges). An important aspect of control of the disease is therefore cleanliness and disinfection to remove such debris...
Natural occurrence of infection is world-wide and it is estimated that 1% of wild birds are infected and act as carriers. Many birds can hold the organism in their bodies in a latent state without showing signs of disease - these birds are carriers, and are a persistent risk to other birds - more later. This appears to be especially common in collections of budgerigars where infection rates have been reported as high as 30%.
birds are stressed and weakened, the individuals carrying Chlamydophila start to shed the organisms in their droppings and birds in these situations are often in closer confinement and proximity than in nature, and contagion occurs rapidly. The spread of infection is largely airborne in feather and faecal dust which is then inhaled by susceptible animals. A bird which looks perfectly bright and healthy to both seller and purchaser at the time of sale, but which nevertheless infected as a carrier, could therefore become unwell with this disease after it moves to the new premises. Worse it could infecting established birds in the new home which it comes in contact.
The incubation period, (this is the time from infection with the organism to the onset of visible clinical signs) however, is extremely variable, and this can cause considerable confusion and distress when attempting to pinpoint a source of infection. The minimum interval is still being documented at 42 days, but it is possibly only 10 days. At the same time an infected bird will start shedding Chlamydophila (thus passing on the infection) 10 days before it shows signs of illness itself, thus being a risk to adjacent birds while it still appears "healthy". The maximum incubation period is almost open ended, times from nine months to one and half years have been recorded.
... The ideal test is to culture the organism from dropping samples or cloacal swabs...
... the disease as it affects humans; ... so far as I am aware these species are at the end of an infection chain. This means that although we can acquire infection from diseased birds, we cannot pass on that infection to either other birds or other people... Symptoms of 'psittacosis' in humans resemble those of severe 'flu' but particular signs are head and neck pain, fever, aching joints, chest tightness and pain, and a dry cough. Provided precise diagnosis is made quickly enough, treatment with Tetracycline or Erythromycin usually produces a rapid response. However, if the illness is confused with 'flu or pneumonia, and appropriate therapy is not instituted for a while, the disease can progress rapidly, and deaths have been recorded. The risk is greatest in the old, young or those with chronic breathing difficulties. Recovered individuals may have some permanent weakness in the lungs or heart. Although antibodies to the organism can be detected in the blood of both birds and humans, these merely indicate exposure to infection, and apparently they have little protective effect. Thus there is no lasting immunity produced, and individuals (avian and human) can be re-infected almost as soon as they have recovered, if exposed to the organism again. For similar reasons, there is at present no way of vaccinating to prevent the disease, because of the lack of any ability to stimulate immunity. 
Hygiene, disinfection, quarantine and isolation of all new stock are of paramount importance in controlling the disease...

From: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Psittacosis

...50 confirmed cases were reported in the United States each year. Many more cases may occur that are not correctly diagnosed or reported...
Infection is acquired by inhaling dried secretions from infected birds. The incubation period is 5 to 19 days. Although all birds are susceptible, pet birds (parrots, parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels) and poultry (turkeys and ducks) are most frequently involved in transmission to humans.

From: Chlamydia psittaci by Avian Biotech

... Transmission of this organism from one host to another is primarily through the air. The bacteria is shed from an infected bird in the nasal and or ocular secretions, fecal material, and feather dust. The organism remains remarkably stable outside the host body and dries as a dusty substance. This dust or aerosol contaminates the air that is then inhaled by another possible host...
Preventing the organism from entering your facility is the best method of prevention. Test and quarantine all new birds before entering them in your aviary; avoid bird marts and bird fares where the disease can spread. Commonsense hygiene includes the removal of fecal material, and quality air circulation...

Ask us how to get your parrots tested!


Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (pbfd)

From: Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease by Avian Biotech

... Causes fatal infections, primarily in young birds. Older birds may overcome the disease with few lasting affects. Some believe that these surviving birds become carriers able to shed the disease at a later date. The virus that causes PBFD can also affect the liver, brain, and immune system causing diminished resistance to infections. Consequently premature death usually occurs from these secondary bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral infections.
Transmission of the virus from one individual to another is primarily through direct contact, inhalation or ingestion of aerosols, crop-feeding, infected fecal material, and feather dust. The virus can also be transmitted via contaminated surfaces such as bird carriers, feeding formula, utensils, food dishes, clothing, and nesting materials. The viral particles, if not destroyed can remain viable in the environment for months, long after the infected bird is gone.
Symptoms include irreversible loss of feathers, shedding of developing feathers, development of abnormal feathers, new pinched feathers, and loss of powder down. Other possible symptoms include overgrown or abnormal beak, symmetrical lesions on the beak and occasionally nails. 
Immuno-suppression, rapid weight loss, and depression are also possible in later stages of the disease. 
Secondary viral, fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections often occurs as a result of diminished immunity caused by a PBFD viral infection. Additional symptoms not mentioned above including elevated white cell counts are generally due to secondary infections and may not be directly related to PBFD virus infections. 
Strict isolation of all diseased birds to halt the the spread of the disease. DNA testing of all birds of susceptible species to rule out latent infection. DNA testing of aviary equipment and environment to test for possible contamination.
No known treatment. Experimental vaccines are being developed.

From: PBFD Review 2005 Discover what this bird disease is, what birds it affects and what can be done about it. By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP

...PBFD, is considered to be a disease of young psittacines, usually up to 3 years of age. However, older birds, often up to 20 years of age that had been clinically normal throughout most of their lives, can also suddenly break with all the signs of PBFD. It is thought that birds are usually exposed to the PBFD virus at a young age, when their immune systems aren’t as strong, and they may appear normal for years before finally developing signs of PBFD. It is suspected that these birds are infected and eventually break down with illness, perhaps years later.
If a bird contracts PBFD prior to developing its feathers, they will often show the classic abnormalities as the feathers grow out. However, if a baby bird contracts PBFD after it has already grown out its feathers, the abnormal feathers may not show up until the bird molts and the normal feathers are replaced with abnormal ones. Occasionally, a young bird that contracted PBFD would die before developing feather lesions at all...
There is currently no preventative vaccine against PBFD, so our methods for controlling the disease involve testing susceptible birds and culling any that test positive twice, 90 days apart, if they have no lesions of PBFD. Any birds that test positive that have feather lesions should be considered to be infected. Birds that test positive twice, yet show no signs, should be considered to be infected and will most likely break with the disease at a later date or the bird is being persistently exposed to the virus...
more than 40 species of psittacine birds have been documented as having developed PBFD from PsCV-1... Today, in the United States, we are primarily diagnosing active PsCV-1 infections in lovebirds... It is possible for an infected lovebird to shed the virus and spread PsCV-1 to other susceptible young birds in a pet store nursery, home or aviary.

Ask us how to get your parrots tested!


From: Aspergillosis: Aspergillosis is condition that develops from a group of fungi,Aspergillus sp. By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM

This is a condition developing from a group of fungi,Aspergillus sp. It develops as a respiratory disease, usually in pet birds with a weakened immune system... contracting the disease from exposure to excessive numbers of fungal spores. The aspergillosis fungus is commonly found in soil, dust, molded grains, eucalyptus bark and wet cage litter. This disease can develop in pet birds after long-term treatment with immunosuppressive medications, after extended illness, traumatic injury, long-term antibiotic therapy or smoke inhalation.
A pet bird may inhale the spores when a surface growing the fungus is disturbed. A dusty room and inadequate ventilation can make a pet bird more prone to aspergillosis. “Signs of aspergillosis may include a change in voice, reluctance to talk, respiratory click, and difficulty breathing, depending on where the lesion is,” said Margaret Wissman, DVM, in the July 2001 issue of BIRD TALK. “A bird may show exercise intolerance, increased respiratory rate, weight loss, muscle wasting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, increased urination, depression or lethargy,” she said.

Additional Reading:

Are Peanuts Safe For Birds? Should you feed peanuts to your pet bird? Find out why peanuts may be bad for your birds. Susan Chamberlain

Aspergillus – Are Peanuts Safe for Parrots

Contact your veterinarian ASAP if you suspect your parrot has Apergillosis



What Causes Gout In Pet Birds? Malnutrition can lead to renal disease and problems in birds By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP

Gout in Birds: How to Recognize the Signs in Your Bird by Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff

Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your parrot has gout


lead and zinc poisoning

Signs Of Lead And Zinc Poisoning In Parrots: Know how to recognize signs of lead and zinc poisoning in your bird before it’s too late. By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP, Avian Practice

Heavy Metal Poisoning in Birds

Poisons and Parrots

Contact your veterinarian ASAP if you suspect your parrot has Metal Poisoning