Hi! My name is Amadan. I'm here to share information with you about bird health. We will talk about bird diseases, bird check-ups, and general issues to help us birds live long and happy lives! Let's learn some things, share some stories, and teach those humans how best to take care of us!
Birdsafe.com is very interested in featherpicking birds. While many featherpicking birds are thought to be behavioral in nature, we believe through our research that the percentage of behavioral featherpicking is much lower than traditionally thought, and that a larger percentage of them can be treated medically to stop picking. We are currently working through our Giardia Clinic and through other sources to help the featherpicking community.
One of the best sources of information on featherpicking now can be found at www.featherpicking.com.
When you bring a new bird into the home, one of the first things you should do is make an appointment with an avian vet to have a "new bird exam." What is performed during a new bird exam varies from vet to vet, but major illnesses and disease should be ruled out, especially when you are bringing a new bird into a home with other birds. Below we are recommending tests to be performed, but you should talk about it with your vet. You can also obtain more information from the Association of Avian Vets (www.aav.org) about testing and exams. We also advocate telling your vet that money is not an object, no matter what type of bird, from Budgie to Macaw.
Psittacosis (AKA chlamydia and
PBFD is caused by a relatively simple virus which infects and kills the cells of the feather and beak. The virus also kills the cells of the immune system. Consequently many diseased birds succumb to bacterial and other infections.
PBFD has distinct features and in most circumstances a diagnosis can be achieved by veterinary examination alone. PBFD generally affects young psittacine birds. However, birds all ages can succumb to the disease.
Chronic PBFD is insidious in its development and progression; dystrophic feathers replace normal ones as they are molted. In this manner, a PBFD-affected bird can gradually lose its plumage without other signs of illness.
In cockatoos the powder-down feathers are often the first feathers affected. PBFD-affected feathers are fragile or develop an abnormally thickened outer sheath. Destruction of powder-down feathers creates bare areas of skin like that in the photograph and the decreased production of powder causes the plumage to become dull and the beak to become glossy.
The pattern of feather abnormality which develops is related to the stage of molt that the bird is in when the disease first begins and is usually slowly progressive. Abnormal feathers are usually short and have one or more of the following characteristics; fault lines; a thickened or constricted feather sheath; clotted blood attached to the formed feather quill. The first clinical sign in birds with green plumage (such as Princess parrots) may be the development of yellow feathers which otherwise appear normal. This is probably the result of microscopic changes in the feather structures.
Secondary disease problems commonly exist. These include bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Most birds with chronic disease eventually have difficulty eating, lose weight and die.
Acutely affected birds often have mucoid or green diarrhea. These signs are often clinically diagnosed as secondary bacterial or chlamydial infections. However, the virus can cause acute hepatitis, particularly in cockatoos. Some birds may die of acute hepatitis without obvious feather lesions.
What is Giardia?
Giardia is a parasite that is found in the small intestine of infected birds, dogs, cats, humans, and other mammals. It is shed in the feces and is able to survive outside of the animal, with birds in such places as perches, food bowls, cage bars, play gyms, and water. People, birds, and other animals become infected when they ingest the parasite. Giardia occurs frequently in budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds, African Grays, and Grey Cheeked Parakeets, although other species also become infected when ingesting the parasite.
Can I tell if my bird has Giardia?
Birds will often appear without symptoms, but can show signs of loose droppings, weakness, anorexia, depression, yeast infections. Some birds will start itching as a result and may tear out their feathers, sometimes screaming as they do, or act like they have fleas, most likely in their flank and leg areas. They can also exhibit what is known as "pica", which is appearing as if they are licking non-food items, like toys, perches, etc.
Testing for Giardia
There are several tests for Giardia available and in use by avian vets, such as the fecal trichrome, the ELISA test, Crypto/Giardia IFA, fecal mounts, plus others.
Note: We believe that the fecal trichrome test is the most reliable test for diagnosing Giardia. We have evidence of birds that have tested negative under other test methods and then test positive using the fecal trichrome. We also believe that collection of the first morning feces will provide the best opportunity to detect the parasite, since Giardia is not consistently shed in the feces. (For most larger birds this will be the "morning big one." For smaller birds, such as budgies and cockatiels, they don't have a "morning big one," so the important issue is to make sure that the sample is collected fresh, within minutes.) Collection of THREE samples over a period of 3 days is optimum for catching the organism, since it is intermittently shed in the feces.
The Merck Veterinary Manual , 8th edition, recommends: "Because Giardia are excreted intermittently, several fecal examinations should be performed if giardiasis is suspected. Samples from three consecutive days should be examined."
Another advantage to using the fecal trichrome is that the lab will also be able to detect things in addition to Giardia, such as:
Birdsafe.com is offering a mail-in Giardia Screening Test. Click test link below.
The good news about Giardia is that it is treatable. If your bird tests positive, seek assistance from your vet. Any treatment should ALWAYS be done through your avian vet.
We encourage you to talk to your vet about Giardia, the various tests used, and treatment. We invite your vet to call or write us to discuss the issue.
For your convenience or distribution, this information on Giardia is available for download in Adobe Acrobat format. Click Here for File
Disinfecting for Giardia
When you begin treatment for
Giardia with proper medications
through your vet, you also need to
disinfect. At the beginning
of treatment, I suggest washing the
cage and disinfect using a solution
of 1/2 cup bleach to a gallon of
warm water and 1/4 cup Oxyfresh
Cleansing Gelé. Allow the
solution to stay wet on the cage
for 15 minutes. You may also
wash the cage with soap and then
apply the bleach solution for 15
minutes after that. Either way,
rinse, rinse, rinse, and dry before
putting the bird back in.
There is certainly a lot of controversy over leg bands. Bands have some merit when it comes to identification of birds when stolen, or in the important role in preventing illegal importation of birds. For the most part, though, it is advisable for most bird caretakers to remove leg bands as they can be very dangerous, particularly if not sized correctly. If you are concerned about being able to identify your bird(s) should they get lost or stolen, microchipping is a far better way.