: Parrot Fever
known as "parrot fever", ornithosis, or chlamydiosis)
is a widespread disease caused by an organism called
Chlamydia psittaci. The pet bird owner may be increasingly
aware of the prevalence of psittacosis, but that is
believed due to improved diagnostic methods rather than
actual disease incidence.
PSITTACOSIS IN PET BIRDS
The chlamydial organism commonly occurs in
wild populations of numerous bird species, however,
the clinical disease is precipitated by man-made stresses
such as transport, changes in feed or invironment and
intensive breeding practices.
Transmission of psittacosis is primarily by inhalation
of infected dust from droppings or feathers, and is
enhanced by close contact with sick birds that are
shedding the organism. For this reason, the disease
is most often seen in birds that have been recently
transported, housed in pet shops or boarded with other
If psittacosis has
been diagnosed in one of your birds, your veterinarian
may recommend treatment of all exposed and potentially
infected birds. To reduce the spread of the disease
it is imperative that the patient be isolated from
other birds on the premises.
Although PSITTAVET is generally believed to be efficacious
in treating chlamydiosis, the success of the treatment
depends upon the species, age, presence of concurrent
infections and immune status of the patient. Medication
can be given by direct oral administration, by injection,
as medicated pellets or mixed in soft foods.
The specific medication and route of administration are
left to the discretion of the veterinarian. Unless
the birds are already accustomed to a pelleted diet,
the use of medicated pellets is not appropriate as
the stress involved in converting to a new diet may
exacerbate the disease. The treatment period will
last a minimum of 45 days. Depending on the condition
of the patient, other forms of supportive therapy
may be necessary. There is no immunity to the disease,
and birds are susceptible to reinfection even after
full recovery or previous treatment.
During treatment, the owner is advised to:
- Exercise caution in the handling of bird droppings
- Keep circulation of feathers and dust to a minimum
- Separate and isolate any other birds that may show beginning
signs of the disease
- Avoid contact with birds by elderly, pregnant, sick or
very young persons, especially in the early stages
of the treatment
- Reduce stresses in the birds environment.
no specific signs that are characteristic of psittacosis.
Some birds may show general "sick" symptoms - lack
of appetite, weight loss, depression and listlessness,
watery green droppings, discharge from eyes or nares
or even sudden death. Of course, these signs may be
related to diseases other than psittacosis. Many birds
carry the chlamydial organism but do not show any
signs of the disease under stable conditions. These
birds may become sick after some stressful occurrence,
or breeding birds may pass the organism to their offspring
who may die in the nest or at weaning. Young birds
are more susceptible to a debilitating infection than
are adult birds. Birds do not have to show symptoms
of disease in order to transmit chlamydia.
Positive diagnosis of chlamydiosis
in the live bird is sometimes very difficult, depending
on the species, length of time since exposure and general
condition of the bird. In addition to having the capability
of producing disease on it's own, chlamydia undermines
the immune system and opens the body to a host of other
pathogens; thus, bacterial or viral disorders may be
occurring at the same time. Because it is far easier
to diagnose a bacterial problem, the chlamydiosis may
A chlamydiosis screening test is available (CLEARVIEW TEST)-
this can be performed by an avian veterinarian . Your
avian veterinarian may be able to make a presumptive
diagnosis of psittacosis based on history, clinical
signs, X-rays, blood work or other diagnostic methods.
If psittacosis is suspected, treatment should begin at
once, even as confirmatory tests are being run.
Further testing of affected birds is advised following
therapy, as the treatment may not be fully effective,
even though clinical signs abate. In extreme cases,
especially those involving aviaries with significant
losses, euthanasia may be necessary for individual
birds if multiple tests indicate a persistent infection
after repeated treatment attempts.
The following recommendations
help prevent psittacosis in flocks or household pets:
- Take all new birds to a qualified avian veterinarian immediately
after purchase for chlamydiosis screening tests.
- Buy birds from reputable suppliers who screen for the presence
of chlamydia. An avian veterinarian in your area
may be able to recommend a quality source.
- Isolate all newly acquired birds for a period of at least
- Periodically monitor breeding flocks for chlamydiosis.
PSITTACOSIS IN HUMANS
organism is capable of being transmitted from birds
to humans, but this rarely occurs despite the relatively
high incidence of infection in birds. Although psittacosis
infection in humans is normally mild, it is potentially
dangerous for persons who are sick, elderly or immunosuppressed
(e.g. AIDS patients). Persistent "flu-like" symptoms such
as fever, chills, headache, weakness, fatigue and
respiratory signs may be experienced. Anyone who is
exposed to pet birds and who develops a prolonged
case of the flu should seek the advice of a physician
because the condition in humans may be misdiagnosed.
by Dr. Tony Gestier BVSc. (Hons.), MACVSc.
Address: 3 Bye Street Wagga Wagga NSW, 2650 AUSTRALIA Postal
Address: PO BOX 5244 Wagga Wagga NSW 2650 AUSTRALIA Phone (ISD+61)
2 69 256222 Fax (ISD+61) 2 69 256333 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Address: www.vetafarm.com.au
information please contact The Birdcare Company, 21-22 Spring
Mill Industrial Estate, Avening Road, Nailsworth. Glos GL6 0BS.
Tel Int + 44 1453 835330. Fax Int + 44 1453 834302. E-mail email@example.com
CLICK HERE for Article Index