Bird diseases everything you need to know

Any body who operates a rescue, needs to make sure all birds coming in seeing an avian vet. If they are not a vet, they should not make the decision as to what parrot gets to see the vet. Many avian vets give rescues discounts. Rescues that say it is impossible to take each and every bird coming in to the vet, need to believe why they rescue in the first place. With all the diseases that are out there. Most airborne, we at Freedom Flights, know it is our responsibly to make sure if we adopt out a bird, that the bird is checked by the avian vet.

Also referred to as Psittacosis, Parrot Fever or Chlamydiosis. The word Psittacosis comes from the Greek word Psittakos, meaning parrot. Chlamydia are gram negative, spherical, (0.4-0.6 micron diameter), intracellular parasites that people sometimes referred to as “energy parasites” because they use ATP (a crucial energy containing metabolite) produced by the host cell, hence, the term “energy parasites”.


Incubation periods in caged birds vary from days to weeks and longer. Most commonly this period is approximately 3 to 10 days. Latent infections are common and active disease may occur several years after exposure. The incubation period of this disease is however difficult to assess due to these chronically infected birds that develop persistent, asymptomatic infections.

*Transmission of the Chlamydial organism from birds to humans has been confirmed in a number of cases. Although psittacosis infection in humans is rare it is potentially dangerous for persons who are sick, elderly, immunosuppressed (e.g., HIV patients) or pregnant. These people should consult their doctor for more information concerning Chlamydia psittaci. Symptoms

Most treatments involve the use of tetracycline and its derivatives such as Vibramycin, Doxycycline, Oxytetracycline. The antibiotic can be given by intravenous or intramuscular injections. Antibiotics can also be given orally or mixed with palatable food. Treatment periods generally last about 45 days varying slightly depending on the treatment.

This disease is caused by a number of closely related members of the herpesviridae. Herpesviruses are 120 to 220 nm in diameter and their genome has a double stranded DNA structure. Replication of the virus occurs in the nucleus of a cell. These viruses primarily infect lymphatic tissue (B or T cells), skin (epithelial cells) and nerve cells.

Birds can be asymptomatic carriers of Pacheco’s virus. Some believe that any bird that has survived an outbreak of the disease should be considered as a possible carrier. PDV can be reactivated when the bird is under stress such as during breeding, loss of mate, or change and environmental changes. Once it is reactivated the virus is shed in large numbers in the feces of the infected bird. Symptoms

A killed virus vaccine is available and can be given in a series of two injections, 4 weeks apart (yearly booster shots are required). Some species, such as cockatoos and Eclectus parrots, have had vaccination reactions such as granulomas and paralysis. Additionally, the vaccine may not protect against all forms of PDV. Only birds with high risk of exposure, such as pet store birds, should be vaccinated.

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. Others believe that a percentage of birds are able to eradicate the disease from their system leaving them with a natural immunity that can be passed on to their offspring.

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

This should be considered in any bird suffering from abnormal feather loss or development. A biopsy of the abnormal feathers including the calimus (shaft) of the feather can be examined for signs of virus. However, since the PBFD virus does not affect all feathers simultaneously this method of evaluating a sample may have a high degree of error. Additionally, birds with PBFD can have normal feathers and the PCR test is the most effective method available for detecting the virus in birds before feather lesions develop.

Some birds infected with the virus, test positive, but never show clinical signs. Other birds which test positive may develop an immune response sufficient enough to fight off the infection and test negative after 30-90 days. Therefore, it is recommended to re-test all PBFD positive birds 60-90 days after the initial testing was completed. If the second sample remains positive, the bird should be considered permanently infected and can be expected to show clinical symptoms of the disease. Sample

To test an individual bird a whole blood sample is recommended in conjunction with a cloacal swab or feathers (especially abnormal or suspicious-looking feathers) when possible. If the sample tests positive the bird should be placed in quarantine and re-tested after 4-6 weeks. If the bird tests negative the second time a third test after 4-6 weeks is recommended.

This pathogen is considered one of the most significant threats to cage birds around the world. This highly infectious disease effects most if not all parrot species. Polyoma seems to be most problematic among neonates (young birds) between the ages 14-56 days. Young birds often die, while adult birds can develop a certain level of immunity. Polyoma is believed to have an incubation period of approximately two weeks or less. Transmission