Understanding Psittacosis In Birds

Understanding Psittacosis In BirdsParrot fever, also called psittacosis, is a very rare disease in humans that can be caught by handling infected pet birds, usually parrots, parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels. Many cases occur that aren’t either reported or diagnosed. Bird owners, zookeepers, veterinarians, and pet shop employees are most at risk of infection.

At Alta Rancho Pet and Bird Hospital, we are dedicated first and foremost to caring for the health of your birds. Dr. Kathy Henderson, Dr. Reid Shufer, and their highly dedicated staff, have developed the best veterinary health care team in the area, and are happy to help you and your birds to live happily, and healthily, together.

How Can You Tell If Your Pet Bird Is Sick?

Avian chlamydiosis is the name for psittacosis in birds. Unfortunately the majority of birds might not show any symptoms. It’s possible that they may carry this bacteria for a number of months before you can notice any outward signs. This disease may be carried by your bird in a dormant stage, and can then be activated by a stress factor like moulting, weather condition extremes, transportation, or other illnesses. Here are a number of symptoms to look out for which will let you know that birds might be infected:

  • Infected birds may have problems breathing or may shiver frequently
  • There may be a discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Infected birds may have diarrhea or discolored droppings (both feces and urine) in a variety of shades of green
  • Weight loss caused by eating less or stopping eating completely
  • Sleepiness, lethargy, and depression
  • Birds may have red, inflamed eyes
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Seizures or other neurological symptoms
  • What Can Our Vets Do?

    The veterinarians at Alta Rancho Pet & Bird Hospital can do lab tests that will confirm the presence of psittacosis. When diagnosed, your birds will be given either an oral course of doxycycline or weekly injections for a period of 42 days. Sometimes drinking water medication is given, although many birds won’t drink medicated water. Most birds treated for 42 days will recover from the disease. Unfortunately, your birds can become re-infected in the future.

    How Can You Reduce Your Chances Of Getting Parrot Fever?

    It is very important for bird owners to clean out bird cages daily. They should feed birds properly, give them a decent amount of space (they should not be crowded together in a cage) and they should be checked for symptoms of sickness and taken to the vet promptly if any symptoms are discovered. If you have several cages, make certain that the cages are far enough apart so there’s no danger of feces being transferred between them.

    Other Prevention Tips

  • Only buy birds from a reputable dealer or pet shop
  • Wash your hands immediately after handling birds and supplies
  • Don’t let a bird’s beak touch your nose or mouth
  • Keep all birds in an area that is well ventilated
  • Take any sick birds to the veterinarian
  • Treatment for parrot fever
  • Parrot fever can be treated with antibiotics, including doxycycline and tetracycline, for 10-14 days after any fever resolves. This illness is generally either mild or moderate. Please contact Alta Rancho Pet & Bird Hospital if you have come into contact with infected birds.