Part 1: Common Pet Bird Diseases and How to Treat or Prevent Them

We may be thinking that since having pet birds enclosed in a cage in the safety of our home, we could protect them from the bird diseases. This is not always the case as most often, caged birds that we consider as pets are very susceptible to some of the common bird diseases even if they are under our care. Caging them and isolating them from their natural habitat could sometimes even trigger a disease in some cases.

pet bird diseases

Photo: Michael Verhoef | Flickr

Below are the most common pet bird diseases that your pet could possibly acquire if not prevented:

  • The Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)

This is one of the pet bird diseases that affects the parrot family. It was first discovered by avian doctor Dr. Hannis Stoddard in 1978. This bird disease is also known as the “Macaw Wasting Syndrome” as it is commonly hits the macaw species. It is a contagious and fatal disease that affects the nervous system as well as the digestive system of a bird. A group of researchers in California named the virus that causes this disease “avian bornavirus”.

Symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Undigested food in the feces
  • Ataxia, or the loss of their ability to fully control the body, thus disable them to perch and fly
  • Heart tremors and paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Gastric upset (later signs)

Prevention / Treatment: The disease can be diagnosed using radiography and blood testing. When diagnosed positively, birds will undergo non-steroidal inflammatory treatment such as meloxican or Celebrex. The bird needs to be on a special diet mostly on highly digestible bird foods. They have to be placed in a stress-free environment.  Severe form of this disease could lead to a secondary disease that is why antibiotics may sometimes be given to prevent any secondary infections. An infected bird must be isolated to prevent other birds from being infested.

  • Psittacosis
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Commonly known as the “parrot fever”. This disease is caused by the bacteria known as Chlamydophila psittaci. This bacteria mostly affects the species of hookbills. This is a highly contagious disease that can even be passed to other animals and even to humans but with low severity. This affects the bird’s organs especially the respiratory system.

Symptoms:

  • breathing difficulty
  • lethargy
  • conjunctivitis and eye infections
  • runny to watery drippings

Prevention / Treatment:  To diagnose if the bird is infected with this disease, it has to go through blood testing. Once proven, the bird needs to be treated with antibiotics. This disease is recoverable if the condition is just moderate. Severe infections may be hard to survive especially when the lungs and other respiratory organs have been contaminated. Birds diagnosed with this disease must be kept in isolation until fully recovered.

  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD)

It is a kind of fatal disease that attacks the parrot family particularly the younger ones aging 2 years old and below. This disease could devastate the health of the bird and could be life threatening. It suppresses an infected bird’s immune system making it very vulnerable to other common bird diseases. A fatal secondary disease could set in. All parrot species are highly susceptible to this disease specifically the macaws, budgies, cackatoos, the African gray parrot, lories, lovebirds, Indian ringnecks, and eclectus.

Symptoms:

  • Feather loss
  • Abnormality in the development of feathers of young birds
  • Abnormal growth of beak
  • Lesions

Prevention / Treatment: Undergoing biopsy, blood testing, or feather diagnostics could determine whether or not your pet bird acquired this disease. There is no available treatment or medication to cure this disease as of the moment but experimental vaccination has been developed though the success of the vaccine has yet to be proven. The only treatment is given to the secondary infection acquired from having the disease.

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The chance for a sick bird to recover is very rare but there are cases where the ailment affects only the feathers and the bird could still recover. If the illness spreads through the beak, veterinarians would most likely recommend having your bird euthanized. Prevention of this disease involves quarantine of each and every bird that will enter the pen the area.

For part 2 of this article, please click here.

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