Thursday, October 21

Chlamydia and other Zoonotic Parrot Diseases

Some of us may remember a few years ago with PetSmart birds suffered an outbreak of Chlamydiosis. One of the more alarming pieces of information about this disease is that it is zoonotic, which means it can be transferred from animals to humans or humans to animals. The elderly, and the very young (infants, toddlers) are most susceptible, and therefore it is extremely important to have your bird(s) tested before they are brought home. A responsible bird breeder should already have done the test. before you purchased the parrot. Even scarier, birds may not show symptoms of the disease themselves, but simply be carriers - giving the illusion of a perfectly healthy bird that can infect people. Chlamydiosis may also be referred to as Psittacosis, or parrot fever.

This particular disease is shared in any number of ways - with dusty birds like Cockatiels and Cockatoos, most humans inhale the particles from feather dust. The symptoms in humans are similar to that of the flu. It can be treated for both parrots and humans with a trip to the doctor or avian vet, but prevention is the best policy. Have all new stock tested and quarantined (we recommend at least 45 days) before adding to the aviary. Keep cages clean, keep an appropriate ratio of bird to cage space, feed a healthy diet, and see your avian veterinarian regularly, especially for breeding birds. The incubation period in birds for Chlamydiosis can be years, so simply quarantining a bird is not an adequate step by itself.

Another zoonotic disease parrots have is Salmonella. It's much more common to obtain Salmonella from eating an infected bird than from your personal pet bird, but there is still a risk, so it's worth mentioning. And it's not an unusual disease in pet parrots like you might think. Salmonella is treated with antibiotics, and can be difficult to diagnose in parrots, because you won't find it in every dropping. That just reiterates the idea that you need to regularly see the avian veterinarian, to establish baseline readings and to keep checking for diseases that may not show up the first time. Birds can and do die from Salmonella, and symptoms are similar to a human's, with diarrhea (bloody or not), vomiting, lethargy - pretty much like food poisoning.

One zoonosis I've had experience with is Colibacillosis, or E. coli. People tend to get themselves worked up about E. coli, but E. coli is found in the intestinal tract of animals. Including humans. It's completely natural. The problems begin when you have an overabundance or an infection of E. coli. Symptoms in birds and people generally start with diarrhea. Of the diseases I've listed, this one is probably the most common, and frequently overlooked as so many bird breeders don't properly check their stock.

Other zoonotic parrot disease of note include:
  • Avian Tuberculosis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Newcastle Disease
Most of these diseases are easier to simply prevent in the first place - checking all new stock, quarantine, routine vet visits, sanitary conditions, and avoiding overcrowding are all key in prevention. Unfortunately, mass breeders, backyard breeders, and on more than one occasion, pet stores, are unlikely to responsibly test their birds for overall health, let alone specific diseases, particularly in the case of "low cost" birds like budgerigars, cockatiels, lovebirds and canaries. It is therefore the smartest course of action, whenever bringing any new pet home, to have it thoroughly examined by a proper veterinarian, which in the case of birds, is a certified avian vet.

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