Nutrition for your Birds.
Of Course, we all believe that we are giving our bird the best.
But Are We?
That is a very big question mark. Are our parrots getting the proper nutrition?
Do we actually Know?
The answer is: YES WE DO!
Why do we know? Why are we so sure?
Because we feed our birds a controlled Pelletted Diet.
We are stockists of: Harrison's, Zupreem, Kaytee & Pretty Bird Quality pelleted food
We all know that our parrots will eat anything that we have, and we all know what not to give them. But when it comes to their main diet, perhaps, we are all a little nieve as to the real requirements, perhaps it may be worth another look.
A well nourished bird, is always a happy bird. Good nutrition also reduces the risk of disease. A bird fed on an inadequate diet may survive but won't thrive.
Harrison's bird foods, along with other products such as, Zupreem, kaytee & Pretty Bird supply a very good quality pellet food.
So, how much do you know about pelleted foods, go on tell me, " we tried our parrot on pellets but they didn't like them" So the question is why did you give in, if one of your children wanted to eat nothing else but crisps and chocolate, what would you do? Of course we all know the answer to that one, so why did we not ensure that the parrot stopped eating rubbish? because it was easier to give the bird what he wanted rather than think " You are going to have a healthy diet, my friend ". as you did with the child.
Fruit and vegetables are healthy foods for us and them, and the following are a list of various foods we have tried successfully with our feathered friends:
Fruit such as: Banana, Apple, Pear, Melon, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cherry, Apricot, Peach, Nectarine, Pineapple, Mango, Grapes (although tasty, grapes have very little nutritional value).
Vegetables such as: Potatoes (either boiled or dry roasted, Chips or French Fries (as we call them today) are loved by our birds but are not really healthy, (but we all like a treat now and again!), Swede or Turnip (try mixing it with carrot if you want), Cauliflower, Spinach, Kale, Cabbage, Pumpkin (seeds as well), Vegetable Marrow & Courgette, Baked Beans, Butter Beans, Sweet Potato (boiled in water, then baked), Green Beans (boiled or steamed), Bean Sprouts Onions or Garlic (either fresh, dry roasted or boiled but not fried), Whole Wheat, Brown Rice, Pearl Barley, Oats.
Other foods such as: Natural yoghurt sweetened with fresh fruit is a very good source of beneficial bacteria and promotes optimum conditions within the digestive tract for natural, healthy flora.
Low fat or hard cheese can be a beneficial source of protein and oils if used with caution.
Why not try flavouring food with sparing amounts of cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, scrambled egg (with the crushed shells for calcium).
We own 28 Parrots, and ......
We use a complete diet as the main diet of all our birds.
We all know that like ourselves, birds don't always choose a healthy diet.
A lot of birds, if given the choice will choose a high fat diet.
( Know all about that, don't we !!!!)
Just as we do when we choose high calorie snacks.
How often do we have to clean up the around the birds cage or eating area.?
That is because your bird will often pick out the seed that he wants even although it is doing him no good at all and leave the nutritious food behind.
Very much like you or I do with a box of chocolates, we pick out all the soft centres and leave the ones that we don't want.
Our Parrots do exactly the same with their food.
Our advisor, who is one of the countries leading avian vets, tells the story of the young child at the wedding reception, every time he goes to the buffet table he comes back with a plate of crisps and a sausage on a stick. All the wrong food for the child
Our parrots are just like that.
Hopefully that is something we think about when we feed our feathered companions.
A seed diet lacks many important vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Seed diets are also deficient in important nutrients.
Of course we also feed seeds to our birds but the main diet is pelleted food.
A nutritionally deficiency diet can lead to obesity, lower immune response to infections and even premature death.
Too many fatty foods can also lead to breathing problems and blocking of their nasal cavities.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables are important to a birds diet, however they should not take up any more than 15% of the birds daily diet.
Some are very high in sugar and carbohydrates and also lack important nutrients. Because they add bulk and fibre, the bird will feel satisfied and again not eat the nutritious food.
Make sure that when changing a birds diet that it is done gradually,
Birds that we have rehomed have been moved over onto a complete food diet over a period, we have continually checked their weight and droppings. Some take longer that others to make the move.
Rupert our Umbrella Cockatoo will eat pelleted food as a treat out his cage but throws them out and eats seed in his cage. But then he is a Cockatoo, if you own a cockatoo you will know exactly what we mean.
Of course like going on a diet or stopping smoking, it is not easy but the benifits are well worth the effort.
The conversion may take several weeks and believe it or not we tend to give up first.
Usually we say the bird won't eat it. we need to persevere with it because we know that it is for the best.
If you have any queries in feeding your bird pelleted food then please contact us
0870 9 100 028
Foods that must be avoided
Avocado is highly toxic and fatal to your bird. Rhubarb, Olives, Aubergine (Egg Plant), Asparagus, Chocolate, are extremely toxic too. Avoid anything containing Caffeine (being allowed to partake in a regular sip of Tea or Coffee can eventually lead to cardiac problems and in certain cases can also lead to hyper-activity), Butter (because of its pure fat content), anything containing Alcohol (its not clever), Milk or Cream in large quantities.
If in any Doubt !!!! DON'T give it to your bird, there are so many good healthy foods for him/her.
Food Preparation: Use the same precautions you use for your human family members. Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria, and other food-borne pathogens can and do affect parrots.
Did You Know... Healthy Birds on a healthy diet can heal themselves in most situations.
Some facts every bird owner should know about avian nutrition
Health Care Facts
Most of us today cook using Teflon nonstick cookware because it is easier to cook with and easy to clean. In normal circumstances is safe. If however it overheats then it lets off toxic fumes that are fatal to our birds.
This next article is worth reading.
Teflon Toxicity or Polymer Fume Fever
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic polymer used as a non-stick surface in cookware. The brand names Teflon, Silverstone, and T-Fal are the best known, but PTFE-coated products are also manufactured under other trade names.
As Dr. Peter Sakas states: Under normal cooking conditions, PTFE-coated cookware is stable and safe. When PTFE is heated above 530 degrees Farenheit, however, it undergoes breakdown and emits caustic (acid) fumes.
Most foods cook at lower temperatures: water boils at 212 degrees, eggs fry at 350 degrees, and deep frying occurs at 410 degrees.
However, when empty PTFE-coated cookware is left on a burner set on the high setting, it can reach temperatures of 750 degrees or greater. Thus, if a pan is being pre-heated on a burner and forgotten, or if water boils out of a pot, breakdown of the PTFE can occur. In other words, PTFE cookware has to be 'abused' to emit toxic fumes, but this is not as rare as it might seem; many people fall asleep after they put pots or pans on the stove to heat.
Birds kept in areas close to the kitchen will usually die very shortly after breathing the fumes. Even birds kept in another room are at great risk. Severe breathing difficulties, such as gasping for breath, may be seen just prior to death.
Humans, dogs, cats, and other mammals are somewhat less sensitive to the very serious effects of these fumes.
First Aid For Teflon Toxicity
1. Remove the affected bird immediately from the home and supply lots of fresh air. Unfortunately, other than this, no first aid exists.
2. Call your avian veterinarian immediately.
Teflon Tragedy Reminds Us That It Is Best to Not Keep These Pans in Homes with Birds'On December 23rd 2004 I was using an old pot that had most of the teflon worn off of it to boil water to put a little moisture in the air. I was doing this for the people in the house as well as for my 9 year old Soloman Island Eclectus, Ruby. I do not like it when the air is real dry in the house. It was about 11:00 pm when I fell asleep. At 2:30 in the morning on Christmas eve, Ruby started screaming for me. I ran to the cage and pulled of the cover. She was on the bottom of the cage, shaking like she was freezing. I picked her up and held her to my chest. She uttered a few tiny sounds, then she was gone. I walked into the kitchen, still holding her. To my horror, I saw the empty pot on the red hot coils.
I feel tremendous guilt over killing my baby. Please, everyone who reads this and is a parent to a parrot, believe with every ounce of your being, the dangers of teflon. The pot I was using was old and worn out, but still had enough teflon left to kill my baby from 30 feet away. I was playing with her the night before, and she cried for me like usual when I put her to bed. She was gone in an instant, don't let it happen to you.' Jim in Tennessee.Learn more about Teflon and the effects on your bird. Take a moment to look at the link below and make your own mind up.
Bacterial Alert - "The Kiss of Death"
by Marilu Anderson, Bird Nutrition and Behavior Consultant
Phone: (503) 771-BIRD
Our companion parrots LOVE our mouths - to kiss us, eat from our mouths, feed us, clean our teeth (they're all budding dental hygienists!) We love them in return - and want to kiss them back, share our food, nuzzle, and bond. Unfortunately, the human mouth is a breeding ground for many nasty pathogens harmful to birds, especially bacteria, like E. Coli. I constantly remind people NOT to let their birdies come in contact with their saliva, yet it keeps happening.
I know how hard it is to resist a cute little beaker and exploring tongue on our face and lips, yet the consequences can be deadly. I've known people who routinely fed their unweaned baby parrots from their own mouths, or who prechewed nuts for their birds, or regularly let their buddy clean every single tooth in the evening as they sit and watch TV together. It seems innocuous enough - most of us don't worry about catching anything from our birds and, in fact, there are very few diseases that WE can get from THEM.
But the danger we don't think of is from US infecting THEM!! We humans have very different digestive systems and immune systems from our parrots, so many of the common bacteria in our mouths and bodies that don't make us sick can be devastating to our birds. In fact, there's not many places on earth nastier than the human mouth!! (Just ask a doctor about the seriousness of a human bite!) Last year, some friends of mine lost one of their beloved Quakers, and spent many months nursing the other one back to health, due to an E. Coli infection from human saliva.
Just recently, another friend discovered that her African Grey has a bacterial infection from - you guessed it! - SALIVA!! Fortunately, it's mild, but he has to undergo a 10 day course of antibiotics nonetheless. So, please, please, PLEASE - resist the temptation to "swap spit" with your birdie - we can share our love in much safer ways that don't put our loved ones at risk of illness, or even death!!
For lots more information on parrots visit
Parrots need a variety of foods to provide them with a healthy balanced diet.
A good quality seed blend will supply much of your pets needs, but is not enough on its own. Below are some very simple rules for a healthy pet bird.
A simple guide to feeding Parrots:
* Give fresh water daily. Make sure he has food. Don't be fooled by a full bowl, it may just be husks.
* Clean the seed tray daily.
* Always give a cuttlefish bone or similar source of calcium.
* Feed fresh fruit and vegetables - up to 50% of the total diet.
* Feed mixed pulses, once boiled, on a regular basis.
* Avoid feeding dairy products such as cheese.
* Parrots are like children - they love treats, but don't spoil them.
* If in doubt, consult your veterinary surgeon.
Make Sure Your Parrot is Happy and Healthy
It is not enough to simply feed your pet well. They are intelligent and active birds and require a number of other pointers for a healthy life.
* Don't let them get bored, they can rapidly develop bad habits. There are plenty of good toys available to provide them with hours of fun.
* Keep their feet in good condition - either get the vet to clip the claws or get a conditioning perch which has a rough surface to wear down the ends of the claws. We suggest that you get the vet to clip claws, because not only can they bleed, but also if you do it yourself, your pet might sulk for a while.
* Talk to you bird - they love conversation. You might feel self-conscious at first, but both you and your pet will soon be having long conversations.
* Let them out of the cage regularly - they love the chance to stretch their wings and explore. If your bird is destructive, simply return it to its cage - they soon learn to regard this as punishment enough, but remember, a cage is their home and not simply a punishment.
* Wash your bird regularly. Some birds like to wash in a bowl of water; others prefer a shower from a domestic sprayer.
* Don't leave the bird in a draught - this can be lethal.
* Don't let you bird be too cold, but a constant room temperature is more important than a hot one.
* Never have a parrot in a conservatory; it is cold in winter and too hot in summer.
*Most parrots will prefer one member of a household to the others, this is quite normal, so don't be upset if it isn't you.
* If you have any doubts about the health of your bird, contact your vet.
* Joining your local Parrot Club or The Parrot Society is always a good idea, as you will meet other parrot-lovers and be able to discuss any problems or concerns you may have.
Aspergillus in Parrots
Aspergullus is a common fungal infection that can be found in Parrots.
Aspergillus is a commonly seen fungal infection in the respiratory tract of birds. This infection is not contagious and is an opportunistic infection. Acute and chronic disease is possible and it is the most frequent fungal infection in birds. Aspergillus is widespread in the environment and proliferates in higher humidity environments. Thus mouldy litter, damp food sources (such as decaying fruit or poor quality seed), poor environmental hygiene or overcrowding can predispose birds to infection. Viral infections such as PBFD can also allow the fungus to take hold. Other causes of immunosuppression (such as chronic stress, malnutrition, prolonged antibiotic use or steroidal therapy) or underlying respiratory disease can lead to Aspergillus infection.
The Aspergillus spores are typically inhaled from the environment and then may cause disease within the respiratory tract. It is important to realise that many birds will be exposed to the fungus but usually will not become ill. Transmission does not occur between birds. Ingestion or skin infection is also possible.
In birds clinical signs typically involve the respiratory tract. Birds can present showing signs of respiratory difficulties and may have noisy breathing. In these cases the fungal infection is within the air sacs and lungs compromising gas exchange. Other birds can present having a change in voice and this is of concern as the infection is on the birds syrinx which can lead to a blockage of the trachea. In some cases Aspergillus may be identified in a bird which was not obviously ill, but was hiding the infection. In some cases mild weight loss is all that is seen. Disease is also possible in the upper respiratory tract of the bird. In birds which are immunocompromised the disease can be quick with many birds dying. These are typically the young birds. In older birds more long standing disease leads to a gradual progression of clinical signs.
Clinical signs alone are insufficient to diagnose the condition. Anaesthesia followed by radiography and endoscopic examination of the tracheal or body cavity is needed to identify the organism. Radiography can show thickened air sacs or overinflation. In some cases subsequent visual inspection with the endoscope is sufficient, but samples can be taken for culture or microscopic examination. Haematology can show elevated white cell counts and antibody testing is available.
Controlling exposure is difficult as Aspergillus is ubiquitous. However keeping the cage clean and using an antifungal disinfectant such as F10 will limit the numbers of spores around. Testing any birds for PBFD is wise, particularly if young birds are involved. Improving the diet and avoiding seed based diets will also reduce the risk. Providing an optimum environment will help to reduce stress effects on the birds.
Treatment is possible but does depend on the severity of the case. Birds that are suffering from respiratory distress due to a blockage in the trachea are emergency cases that require the blockage to be bypassed with an air sac tube. This is placed surgically, while the bird is under anaesthesia, into the side of the bird. Having done this the blockage can be assessed and treated.
Antifungal drugs can be given orally. Typically itraconazole is used for many birds but grey parrots have been shown to be highly sensitive to this drug and terbinafine is used as an alternative. Resistance is possible and newer agents can also be used but do have the disadvantage of higher costs. Topical treatment of lesions is possible with liquid preparations, such as amphotericin B and can be squirted onto lesions via the endoscope.
Nebulisation is also typically performed for these cases. The birds can be placed into a small cage or basket and the nebuliser fixed to the side of the container. A towel can be used to cover the cage and then the unit is switched on. In severe cases the bird will require to be hospitalised and put in an oxygen cage whilst being nebulised. If the infection is in the sinuses then injections may be given directly into these to kill of the fungus.
Surgical treatment is possible depending on the case and surgical removal of a granuloma may be suggested depending on the case.
Treatment is usually ongoing for a number of weeks and in most cases the bird requires repeat examinations to see if the treatment is working.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
What is avian influenza (bird flu)?
Influenza in BirdsBird flu is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them. Avian influenza viruses usually do not infect humans.
There are 15 different subtypes of avian influenza. Some subtypes have been isolated from caged birds such as, parakeets, parrots, cockatoos, and finches. Infection with avian influenza in these species is rare and the significance of the infection in these birds is not yet clear.
What is an avian influenza A (H5N1) virus?
Influenza A (H5N1) virus - also called "H5N1 virus" - is an influenza A virus subtype that occurs mainly in birds. It was first isolated from birds (terns) in South Africa in 1961. Like all bird flu viruses, H5N1 virus circulates among birds worldwide, is very contagious among birds, and can be deadly.
How does bird flu spread?
Infected birds shed flu virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with contaminated excretions or surfaces that are contaminated with excretions. It is believed that most cases of bird flu infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces.
What is the risk to humans from bird flu?
The risk from bird flu is generally low for most people because the viruses occur mainly among birds and do not usually infect humans. However, during an outbreak of bird flu among poultry (domesticated chicken, ducks, turkeys), there is a possible risk to people who have contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with excretions from infected birds. The current outbreak of avian influenza A (H5N1) among poultry in Asia (see below) is an example of a bird flu outbreak that has caused human infections and deaths. In such situations, people should avoid contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces, and should be careful when handling and cooking poultry.
What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?
Symptoms of bird flu in humans have ranged from typical flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress), and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms of bird flu may depend on which virus caused the infection.
How is bird flu in humans treated?
Studies suggest that the prescription medicines approved for human flu viruses would work in preventing bird flu infection in humans. However, flu viruses can become resistant to these drugs, so these medications may not always work.
Where did the current worldwide bird flu outbreak start and how is it spreading?
Beginning in late June 2004, new lethal outbreaks of avian influenza A (H5N1) infection among poultry were reported by several countries in Asia: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia (first-time reports), Thailand, and Vietnam. It has since been identified in other parts of Asia, Europe, the Near East, and Africa.
There have been 271 human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1), resulting in 57 deaths reported between January 2004 and February 3, 2007.
The avian influenza A (H5N1) epizootic in Asia is not expected to diminish significantly in the short term. It is likely that H5N1 infection among birds has become endemic to the region and that human infections will continue to occur. So far, no sustained human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus has been identified; however, the outbreak in Asia poses an important public health threat.
If these H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained transmission between humans, there is little preexisting natural immunity to H5N1 infection in the human population, and an influenza pandemic could result, with high rates of illness and death. In addition, genetic sequencing of influenza A (H5N1) virus samples from human cases in Vietnam and Thailand shows resistance to the antiviral medications amantadine and rimantadine, two of the medications commonly used for treatment of influenza. This would leave two remaining antiviral medications (oseltamivir and zanamivir) that should still be effective against currently circulating strains of H5N1 virus.
Recent research findings give further cause for concern. New research suggests that currently circulating strains of H5 viruses are becoming more capable of causing disease (pathogenic) for mammals than earlier H5 viruses and are becoming more widespread in birds in the region. One study found that ducks infected with H5N1 are now shedding more virus for longer periods of time without showing any symptoms of illness. This has implications for the role of ducks in transmitting disease to other birds and possibly to humans as well. Additionally, other findings have documented H5 infection among pigs in China and H5 infection in felines (experimental infection in housecats in the Netherlands and isolation of H5N1 viruses from infected tigers and leopards in Thailand), suggesting that cats could host or transmit the infection.
Is there a H5N1 vaccine?
Efforts to produce a vaccine that would be effective against this strain of influenza A (H5N1) virus are under way. Vaccine reference virus strains already have been made and provided to manufacturers to produce pilot lots for human clinical trials as well as to produce a larger quantity of H5N1 vaccine, but mass production and availability of such a vaccine is some time off.
If traveling abroad, what precautions should be taken?
To reduce the risk of infection, Americans living in or traveling to areas where outbreaks of H5N1 among poultry or human H5N1 cases have been reported should observe the following measures to help avoid illness:
Before any international travel:
Always educate yourself and others who may be traveling with you about any disease risks in areas you plan to visit. See Avian Flu Travel Information, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Current Travel Warnings (not limited to avian influenza) by the US. Department of State.
Be sure you are up to date with all your vaccinations and see your doctor or health-care provider, ideally 4-6 weeks before travel, to get any additional vaccinations, medications, or information you may need. CDC's health recommendations for international travel to various parts of the world can be found at: www.cdc.gov/travel/destinat.htm.
Assemble a travel health kit containing basic first aid and medical supplies. Be sure to include a thermometer and alcohol-based hand rub for hand hygiene. See the CDC's page: Traveler's Health Kit.
Identify in-country health-care resources in advance of your trip.
Check your health insurance plan or get additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in case you become sick. Information about medical evacuation services is provided on the U.S. Department of State web page titled , at: Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad.
Once at your destination:
To minimize the possibility of infection, observe precautions to safeguard your health. Specifically, travelers should avoid all contact with poultry (e.g., chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) or any wild birds, and avoid settings where H5N1-infected poultry may be present, such as commercial or backyard poultry farms and live poultry markets. Do not eat uncooked or undercooked poultry or poultry products, including dishes made with uncooked poultry blood.
Frequent handwashing is important to stop the spread of disease
As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent handwashing. Cleaning your hands often, using soap and water (or alcohol-based hand gel with 60% alcohol when soap is not available), removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission.
CDC does not recommend the routine use of masks or other personal protective equipment while in public areas. Do cover your nose and mouth, though, when sneezing or coughing, and encourage others to do the same.
When preparing food:
Separate raw meat from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Do not use the same chopping board or the same knife for preparing raw meat and cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Always wash hands after handling raw poultry of any kind
Do not place cooked meat back on the same plate or surface it was on before it was cooked.
All foods from poultry, including eggs and poultry blood, should be cooked thoroughly. Egg yolks and whites should be cooked until firm. Because influenza viruses are destroyed by heat, the cooking temperature for poultry meat should reach 165°F (70°C).
Do not use raw or soft-boiled eggs in foods that will not be cooked.
Before and after handling raw poultry or eggs, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Also clean all surfaces and utensils thoroughly with soap and water.
What should you do if you become sick when traveling abroad in an avian influenza-affected area?
If you become sick with symptoms such as a fever accompanied by a cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing, or if you develop any illness that requires prompt medical attention, a U.S. consular officer can assist you in locating medical services and informing your family or friends. See the U.S. Department of State.
Wear a mask if you are sick.
Before you visit the doctor or clinic, inform your health-care provider of any possible exposures to avian influenza.
Do not travel if you are sick except to seek local medical care.
See Seeking Health Care Abroad in Health Information for International Travel for more information about what to do if you become ill while abroad.
Are there any precautions that should be taken after returning home?
Closely monitor your health for 10 days.
If you become ill with a fever plus a cough, sore throat or have trouble breathing during this 10-day period, consult a health-care provider. Before you visit a health-care setting, tell the provider the following: 1) your symptoms, 2) where you traveled, and 3) if you have had direct contact with poultry or close contact with a severely ill person. This way, he or she can be aware that you have traveled to an area reporting H5N1.
Do not travel while ill, unless you are seeking local medical care. Limiting contact with others as much as possible can help prevent the spread of an infectious illness.
What are other good sources of information on avian influenza?
The CDC's Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) website.
The U.S. Government's website http://www.pandemicflu.gov/
The World Health Organization's section on Avian influenza.
Pacheco's Disease: Parrot Herpes Virus
Also known as Parrot Herpesvirus, Pacheco's Disease causes acute viral hepatitis. First observed in the 1930's and thought to attack only Psittacines, there is one documented case of a Keel-billed Toucan succumbing to Pacheco's Disease. New World (from the Americas) parrots seem to be more susceptible to Pacheco's Disease than Old World parrots (from Australasia and Africa).
What causes Pacheco's Disease?
Pacheco's Disease is caused by a herpes virus. Often seen in shipments of imported birds, stress seems to trigger a reaction in a previously asymptomatic carrier or increase the susceptibility of becoming infected. The close proximity and stressful nature of shipping appear to contribute to the transmission of the virus.
How is Pacheco's Disease transmitted?
Usually, Pacheco's Disease is transmitted via contact with contaminated food, water, or feces. Less common is airborne transmission. The virus can be contracted from an obviously ill bird as well as from carriers, who appear asymptomatic, but can shed the virus in feces as well as through ocular and respiratory secretions. Examples of species commonly seen as carriers and seem to have a resistance to the virus include Mitred, Nanday, and Patagonian Conures; however, any bird that recovers from Pacheco's Disease can become a carrier. At risk populations include imported birds, those housed in aviaries and pet stores in large groups, and those in quarantine stations.
What are the symptoms of Pacheco's Disease and how is it diagnosed?
The incubation period for Pacheco's Disease is 3-14 days. Unfortunately, the most common symptom is sudden death, with diagnosis confirmed at necropsy. Other symptoms can include diarrhea with a rapid progression to death within 48 hours. One may also see regurgitation, yellow-green urates, and acute central nervous system signs such as tremor, imbalance, or seizures. Necropsy often reveals enlarged kidneys, liver, and spleen, circumscribed areas of necrosis on the liver, and hemorrhage. The skin, spleen, intestines, pancreas, and body cavity may also show signs of hemorrhage. Diagnosis is based on history (such as recent importation), clinical symptoms, and viral isolation from infected tissues.
What is the treatment for Pacheco's Disease?
Pacheco's Disease is generally considered untreatable because of its sudden onset and rapid death. There has been some success with the antiviral drug acyclovir followed by supportive treatment including fluid administration, isolation, and tube feeding (gavage). There is a vaccine available; however, its use is recommended only for those birds at highest risk because of unpleasant side effects that have been observed. Granulomas have been known to form at the injection site and paralysis has also been reported. Cockatoos, Blue and Gold Macaws, and African Grey Parrots seem to be especially sensitive to the vaccine. The best treatment for Pacheco's Disease is considered to be prevention.
How is Pacheco's Disease prevented?
Strict observance of good husbandry techniques, vaccination of appropriate populations, and quickly isolating suspected cases are the best preventative measures to take. In cases where carriers are suspected, some suggest serologic testing for the virus. However, due to problems of false negatives and the fact that all positive birds do not shed the virus, others do not yet consider this a reliable diagnostic tool.
Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)
Proventricular dilatation disease is a chronic illness in parrots. It is believed to be caused by a virus (there are a number of suggested agents) and it is a difficult condition to diagnose. It is believed that birds are infected by ingesting the virus. This then causes inflammation in the nerve supply to the digestive tract and occasionally the central nervous system leading to the clinical signs. Muscle wasting of the digestive tract reduces the birds ability to digest and absorb food.
Clinical signs can include anorexia, wasting, nervous signs, regurgitation and passing of whole seeds. When the bird is examined the abdomen may feel doughy or quite full. The severity of infection varies between species. Grey parrots, macaws and cockatoos are frequently clinically affected whereas Amazon parrots survive for much longer periods and can show minimal signs. Birds as young as 10 weeks to 17 years of age can be showing clinical signs.
It can take up to seven years for these clinical signs to become evident and as a result it is very hard to ensure a collection or your pet bird is free from the disease. When getting a new bird examined if it is carrying the infection but not showing signs it is highly likely that this will go undetected.
The diagnosis of a case can be complicated. Clinical signs and radiography may be sufficient for a suggested diagnosis and giving the bird some barium under anaesthesia can help to outline the intestines. Typically the birds proventriculus is distended but occasionally the small intestine can be involved as well. However for confirmation a surgical crop biopsy can be taken. For this a small section of the crop is taken and sent to the laboratory for histology. The infection leads to a characteristic pattern of inflammation. However a crop biopsy may miss up to 24% of cases as the disease can be quite restricted in the gastrointestinal tract. This presents difficulties when wishing to screen for this condition and prevent it from entering a collection. Biopsy of other organs increases the surgical risk and is generally not performed. Many cases are based on a presumptive diagnosis with possibly a positive crop biopsy.
Treatment can help to control the condition. Specific types of anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce the inflammation around the nerves. Celecoxib a human drug is typically used and has been shown to lead to regression of the signs of PDD. Improving the digestibility of the diet by feeding the bird a pelleted diet can also help it to maintain bodyweight.
Post mortem examination of diseased cases is usually fairly typical with a distended J shaped proventriculus that is thin walled and packed with food. Histopathology of the bowel and nervous system should be taken to confirm the condition.
For control then there are two options to consider. Screening is not helpful given the number of false negatives. Quarantine is important but to be completely sure the birds are disease free this may need to be for a number of years. It is possible to do this and house new birds in a separate facility where they can breed. Any birds that die during the quarantine should undergo a post mortem examination to check if PDD is present. Such a lengthy quarantine can be problematic for many individuals and another option is to source birds from collections which are free of the condition. The only way to confirm this is through checking the collections history. Confirming that all birds that have died were negative for this condition and that any new introductions were from collections with a similar history is required. To be completely sure the last seven years of records should be considered. The difficulty is finding a collection where their status can be reasonably guaranteed.
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease - The virus causing this disease is a member of the Circoviridae. The molecular structure of the genome of the virus is roughly a 2,000 base, circular, single stranded DNA. PBFD virus has a strong resemblance to Porcine Circovirus as well as to a number of plant viruses such as the Banana Bungy virus.
The disease is thought to be specific for psittacines and all psittacine species should be considered susceptible. Parrots known to be particularly affected by PBFD include, but are not limited to, Cockatoos, Macaws, African Grey Parrots, Ringneck parakeets, Eclectus Parrots, Lovebirds.
Causes fatal infections, primarily in young birds. Older birds may overcome the disease with few lasting affects. Some believe that these surviving birds become carriers able to shed the disease at a later date.
Others believe that a percentage of birds are able to eradicate the disease from their system leaving them with a natural immunity that can be passed on to their offspring.
The virus that causes PBFD can also affect the liver, brain, and immune system causing diminished resistance to infections. Consequently premature death usually occurs from these secondary bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral infections.
Transmission of the virus from one individual to another is primarily through direct contact, inhalation or ingestion of aerosols, crop-feeding, infected fecal material, and feather dust. The virus can also be transmitted via contaminated surfaces such as bird carriers, feeding formula, utensils, food dishes, clothing, and nesting materials. The viral particles, if not destroyed can remain viable in the environment for months, long after the infected bird is gone.
Symptoms include irreversible loss of feathers, shedding of developing feathers, development of abnormal feathers, new pinched feathers, and loss of powder down. Other possible symptoms include overgrown or abnormal beak, symmetrical lesions on the beak and occasionally nails. Immunosuppression, rapid weight loss, and depression are also possible in later stages of the disease.
Secondary viral, fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections often occurs as a result of diminished immunity caused by a PBFD viral infection. Additional symptoms not mentioned above including elevated white cell counts are generally due to secondary infections and may not be directly related to PBFD virus infections.
Strict isolation of all diseased birds to halt the the spread of the disease. DNA testing of all birds of susceptible species to rule out latent infection. DNA testing of aviary equipment and environment to test for possible contamination.
No known treatment. Experimental vaccines are being developed.
Skin biopsy, surgical biopsy of feather and shaft, or PCR testing of blood, swab, and feather samples.
PBFD should be considered in any bird suffering from abnormal feather loss or development. A biopsy of the abnormal feathers including the calimus (shaft) of the feather can be examined for signs of virus. However, since the PBFD virus does not affect all feathers simultaneously this method of evaluating a sample may have a high degree of error. Additionally, birds with PBFD can have normal feathers and the PCR test is the most effective method available for detecting the virus in birds before feather lesions develop.
Some birds infected with the virus, test positive, but never show clinical signs. Other birds which test positive may develop an immune response sufficient enough to fight off the infection and test negative after 30-90 days. Therefore, it is recommended to re-test all PBFD positive birds 60-90 days after the initial testing was completed. If the second sample remains positive, the bird should be considered permanently infected and can be expected to show clinical symptoms of the disease.
To test an individual bird a whole blood sample is recommended in conjunction with a cloacal swab or feathers (especially abnormal or suspicious-looking feathers) when possible. If the sample tests positive the bird should be placed in quarantine and re-tested after 4-6 weeks. If the bird tests negative the second time a third test after 4-6 weeks is recommended.
Post-mortem samples include liver, spleen, kidney, feather samples in a sterile container; postmortem swabs may also be submitted.
Environmental testing using swabs of aviaries, countertops, fans, air-filters, nest-boxes, etc. is extremely effective in determining the presence of PBFD DNA in the environment.
Psittacosis, also known as ornithosis or chlamydiosis, is a common disease of many bird species. It is well recognised in parrot species, but is also common in pigeons, for instance. It is considered important not only because of its effects on birds, but in particular because it is a zoonosis: it is a disease which can be transmitted to humans.
The organism responsible for psittacosis is Chlamydia psittaci (recently renamed Chlamydophila psittaci). The disease is contracted by inhalation of contaminated dust from feathers or dried droppings. Infected birds may carry the organism for long periods without any outward signs. In periods of stress, such as travel, rehoming or in overcrowded accommodation, infected birds will shed the organism at higher levels. These situations are classic for transmission of the infection, and accordingly all new birds should be closely monitored for signs of infection. Ideally new birds should be tested for Chlamydia before being allowed to mix with resident populations.
The signs of psittacosis are varied, and almost any symptoms might be attributable to the disease. Classically it causes respiratory signs or diarrhoea. A bright green diarrhoea is a common sign, but psittacosis is not the only cause of such a sign. Other birds may just be vaguely unwell, lethargic, losing weight, have conjunctivitisor may seem to die suddenly. Remember that such signs are common symptoms of many diseases in birds. Young birds are more susceptible to a really acute infection while older birds will tend to have a more chronic form of the disease.
The clinical signs, circumstances of the illness and X-rays (the liver and spleen may be enlarged) will often lead an avian vet to suspect psittacosis. Confirming a diagnosis can only be done by laboratory testing. Unfortunately, the infection can be a difficult one to reliable detect on testing. Several different tests are available and may be performed on blood samples or faeces samples. Probably the most accurate is one called a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test which multiplies DNA from the organism. The problem is that this test can take several days to provide a result, and so the vet may choose to perform a more rapid test in the veterinary practice or at the lab as well.
Sick birds are likely to be shedding generous quantities of the organism, and so a lab test on such a bird is likely to detect the disease if present. The problem comes when new birds are being screened, or tests are being performed on healthy birds as part of a general health examination. Even if these birds are carriers, they may not be shedding Chlamydia, and so a negative test can only be a guide. Current advice when testing healthy birds is to pool faeces from three days to send to lab to increase the chances of detecting the organism.
It is possible to treat psittacosis. The treatment is long (6 weeks of antibiotics) and all in contact birds, whether healthy or sick, should be treated. It is important to ensure that any drugs administered are being given effectively. It is also vital to maintain strict hygiene to prevent spread of the disease to other birds or to people. Before ceasing treatment and removing affected birds from isolation, at least one further test for Chlamydia should be performed. As well as isolating infected birds, owners should be careful to minimise contact with droppings. Use of gloves and face masks is strongly recommended. Droppings and soiled cage debris should be disposed of by incineration. Pregnant women, children, elderly or sick people, persons on immunosuppressive drugs or infected with HIV should all avoid contact with affected birds.
In people psittacosis usually presents as a persistent and sometimes severe ‘flu’ like disease. Bird owners who develop persistent respiratory disease or influenza symptoms, fevers, severe headaches or weakness should discuss the possibility of psittacosis with their doctors. Once identified, the disease can be easily treated in people, but if not diagnosed it can progress to a severe illness. Fortunately the incidence of transmission to people is quite low considering how common a disease this is.
In order to reduce the chances of your birds developing psittacosis, the following recommendations should be followed.
• When buying new birds, take them to a veterinary surgeon for a physical examination and Chlamydia screening tests as soon as possible.
• Isolate new birds for six weeks before introducing them to your existing stock. Be sure to dispose of faeces and cage debris in such a way that your other birds are not exposed.
• When buying birds, use a breeder or supplier who regularly screens their stock for Chlamydia.
• Maintain good hygiene and disinfection in your aviaries, and reduce stress on your birds as far as possible.
• Many vets would advise a yearly screening test for Chalamydia.