When you hear the term Psittacosis, what comes to your mind? Probably not much, maybe because of the scientific name, but it won’t be a surprise to resonate with the term parrot fever. The two are the same things and have another name, avian chlamydiosis.
Many bird owners are familiar with this fever since it is common among these pets. Due to its severe effects and the fact that it is also fatal, it would be best to know as much as possible about the disease. For instance, understand Psittacosis symptoms well so you can easily identify them before they get out of control.
You should also know how to proceed after the diagnosis and how to avoid the disease in the first place. That’s the article’s focus; hence a must-read, especially if you are a bird owner. Check it out!
Is Psittacosis A Common Disease In Birds?
Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever, is an infectious disease that affects over 400 bird species. It also affects various mammals hence the need to stay alert when living amongst birds. The worst part is that it affects most commonly reared pets, including ducks, pigeons, lovebirds, African gray parrots, lories, cockatoos, Amazon parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, and macaws, to mention but a few.
Therefore, getting this disease isn’t impossible, and the fact that it is airborne doesn’t make that situation any better.
Several bacteria can lead to parrot fever, including Chlamydophila psittaci, Chlamydophila avium, and Chlamydophila gallinacean. Whereas all of them cause Psittacosis, Chlamydophila psittaci is the main culprit. Typically, you will see the bacterium in pet psittacines, such as parrots, and the most common diagnosis. The common transmission is usually from one bird to another. However, a sick bird can also transmit it to some mammals, and human beings are among them.
How Do Birds Get Psittacosis?
As mentioned earlier, there are three bacteria responsible for causing Psittacosis. Upon entering its respiratory tract, these infections usually spread to the spleen and liver, among other adjacent organs. However, it can also enter orally. If that happens, don’t expect a lot of signs, unlike the one that enters through the respiratory tract.
That doesn’t mean it is any better either because the disease often becomes non-symptomatic yet chronic under these circumstances. The bottom line is that the bacteria can enter orally or through the respiratory tract.
Once one bird is infected with the disease, it is common to spread it t other birds since it is contagious. Why not when there are many ways of transmitting this disease? The affected bird can pass the organism through its respiratory secretions, oral cavity secretion, feces, and urine.
In the cases of doves and pigeons, it is possible to find it in their crop milk. As for the budgie, it can also transmit Psittacosis through its egg. Regardless of the source, birds beating their weeks will accelerate its spread. As it does so, it can affect any human being or bird that inhales the dander.
Upon inhaling the organism, it will replicate itself rapidly in the pericardium, air sacs, and lungs. It only takes 24 hours for the replication to occur once you inhale or ingest parrot fever. After 48 hours, the blood can show its presence in a bird or human being’s body.
When 72 hours lapse after infection, the infected bird can affect others since it starts releasing the organism in the various ways possible. This short span explains why the disease spreads quickly among a flock of birds staying together. The main carriers of this disease are the Cockatiels since they can release the Chlamydophila psittaci for over a year through their faces.
Signs & Symptoms Of Psittacosis In Parrots
Before discussing the signs and symptoms of this disease, it is important to note that they aren’t usually obvious. For instance, a bird may be infected but lack the Psittacosis symptoms since the disease often lays dormant too. Without the signs, the disease may go unnoticed for quite some time. Following any exposure, one can notice signs and symptoms after three days.
On the other hand, being a parrot fever career means the bird can get sick anytime. Even without the symptoms, one can identify an infected bird by identifying a stressed one. Eventually, signs and symptoms will show. Psittacosis symptoms include;
| 🦜 Lethargy|
Have you noticed a bird that hardly vocalizes, plays, or flies suddenly? If so, that could signify the bird has parrot fever. The disease makes a bird sickly and decreases its energy levels which explains why it finds it hard to remain active and do the flying, play, or vocalize. However, one must admit that it is a common symptom among many diseases affecting other species like humans.
|🦜 Fluffed Feathers|
This Psittacosis symptom is an aftermath of other symptoms. That’s because the disease makes birds shiver and feel cold. As a way of coping with the cold, the bird may fluff its feathers to try and stay warm regardless.
Again, please don’t conclude that it is Psittacosis because birds also express various emotions by fluffing their feathers, including happiness, anger, anxiety, and excitement.
|🦜 Abnormal Dropping|
Some characteristics of abnormal droppings are if they become runny or discolored. Whereas those are common indicators, be on the lookout for strange changes in your birds’ droppings. The discoloration can be green or yellow.
This symptom not only shows that the bird has the disease but also indicates that it has also affected the liver.
|🦜 Nasal Discharge|
Is the bird having difficulty breathing? Can you notice a nasal discharge from its nasal cavity? If true, that could be a Psittacosis symptom since the disease often results in respiratory problems.
|🦜 Loss Of Appetite And Weight|
One symptom leads to the other because if your bird doesn’t have an appetite, it won’t feed as it should. Eventually, it will lose weight. If you notice such a case, ensure that you rule out the parrot fever by inviting a veterinarian. Whether the test is negative or positive, ask your vet to help your bird maintain its weight.
In most cases, vets recommend vital nutrients since a healthy weight is important for living organisms’ survival and thriving, and birds are no exception.
|🦜 Puffy, Swollen Eyes|
Conjunctivitis is often used to refer to puffy, swollen eyes. It is also a Psittacosis symptom that can help you know when your bird has parrot fever. The disease often inflames blood vessels around and inside the eyes leading to swelling and puffiness.
How To Treat Psittacosis?
Treating this disease is usually in two stages: diagnosis and treatment for obvious reasons. Here’s a discussion of the two aspects;
Some of the Psittacosis symptoms above are common in various diseases; hence not sufficient to conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that the disease is parrot fever. The diagnosis isn’t an easy one. Detecting the Chlamydia psittaci disease requires certain laboratory equipment.
The experts can use various diagnostic methods, including nucleic acid amplification, serology, and culture. In rare cases, experts can also use the metagenomics sequencing technique to diagnose the disease.
Not every laboratory can test the disease since it requires specialized equipment. In most cases, the technicians test the animal specimen. Various methods require different specimens, usually swabbing serum, oropharynx, or nasopharynx. If the case is severe, the laboratory experts may request other specimens.
Once the laboratory makes a positive diagnosis, it goes without saying that treatment needs to start right away. After all, it is a life-threatening disease and quite contagious. Half of the birds that get this infection doesn’t survive if untreated.
No wonder you need to involve a vet as soon as the birds present their symptoms. Ensure that you follow the recommendations the vet gives, or else your pet won’t survive this ordeal.
Its treatment is usually with antibiotics, and both doxycycline and Tetracycline have proven to be quite effective in treating the disease. The latter is often recommended if the bacteria is Chlamydia psittaci. The medication may or may not eliminate the bacterium in the bird’s body. If it does, the bird recovers fully.
Otherwise, the bird becomes a carrier and remains healthy as long as the conditions it is living in aren’t stressful. It is possible to transmit the disease to other birds as a carrier. To avoid such risks, the vet may prescribe a dosage of two to eight weeks instead of the usual 45 days.
The expert will also guide you on how to administer the medication. It could be by injection, food, water, or mouth and the main determinant of that is usually how severe the disease is and the species of your bird. In the case of an oral dose of doxycycline, you should limit feeding it on cuttlebone and mineral blocks. Since they are sources of calcium, they may compromise the absorption of that medication.
That said and done, it is not the only treatment that the doctor can prescribe. Other classes of antibiotics may also apply if your doctor deems it fit. Introducing other complementary remedies, including heat and fluids, is also ideal if the disease is severe. For instance, doctors will administer azithromycin to small children.
This antibiotic treatment can last between 10 and 14 days following the diagnosis, and the fever will be gone by then. Whereas Psittacosis in birds and humans can be fatal, that’s rarely the case as long as they take the right medication. People often recover fast unless they have other preexisting conditions, such as being too old or young. Instead of treating, one can avoid the disease in the first place. Let’s look at the various ways of doing so.
Prevention is better than cure, especially in cases of Psittacosis. It can be fatal, and no bird owner can take the risk of losing one or even the entire flock. Fortunately, preventing parrot fever shouldn’t be hard since these simple measures can make a huge difference. They include;
- Ensuring that the birds stay in a well-ventilated place
- Taking your birds to a vet as soon as you notice that they look sick
- Avoiding touching the beak and then touching your nose or mouth after that
- Washing your hands regularly, especially after touching the birds or their supplies
- Use disinfectants when handling your birds or after handling a wild bird
- Turn on a fan and open doors to enhance ventilation
- Sanitizing the house regularly
- Wearing gloves and masks if the birds look sick
- If you buy a new bird, quarantine it for a while before it mingles with the old one
- Upon identifying a sick bird, isolate it from the rest, or else it will infect others
Cleanliness summarizes most of the measures. Psittacosis in birds is airborne and highly contagious, but the above preventive measures can help.
How Does Psittacosis Affect Humans?
There are various ways that human beings can contract parrot fever. For instance, coming into contact with a sick bird and inhaling the same air is enough to infect you. The contact doesn’t have to occur for an infection to arise, though.
The cause could be touching any item, including dropped feathers, water, food, and bowls if an infected bird has come into contact with them. If you get the disease, you may experience the following;
- Dry cough
- Muscle pain
- Respiratory diseases
In the case of pigs and cows, the following may also arise;
- Nasal discharge
- Eye problems
- Reproductive issues
The Bottom Line
It turns out that Psittacosis in birds isn’t a death sentence. That also applies to human beings thanks to the available and effective treatment. Before the diagnosis, one can tell the probability of the bird having the disease using the Psittacosis symptoms.
You are wiser than before regarding this disease that mostly affects birds but also affects human beings and other species, from the meaning to the causes to the ways of transmission. You have an idea of how to identify the disease, treat it and even prevent it, making taking care of your pet easy and comfortable.