Description: This is a condition developing from a group of fungi, Aspergillus sp. It develops as a respiratory disease, usually in birds with a weakened immune system. African parrots are especially prone to contracting the disease from exposure to excessive numbers of fungal spores. The aspergillosis fungus is commonly found in soil, dust, molded grains, eucalyptus bark and wet cage litter. This disease can develop in pet birds after long-term treatment with immunosuppressive medications, after extended illness, traumatic injury, long-term antibiotic therapy or smoke inhalation.
A pet bird may inhale the spores when a surface growing the fungus is disturbed. A dusty room and inadequate ventilation can make a pet bird more prone to aspergillosis. “Signs of aspergillosis may include a change in voice, reluctance to talk, respiratory click, and difficulty breathing, depending on where the lesion is,” said Margaret Wissman, DVM, Dip., ABVP – avian practice, in the July 2001 issue of BIRD TALK. “A bird may show exercise intolerance, increased respiratory rate, weight loss, muscle wasting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, increased urination, depression or lethargy,” she said.
Immediate Care: If a bird shows any of these symptoms, immediately consult an avian veterinarian to determine the cause. Birds with aspergillosis usually have an increased white blood cell count. Serology (blood tests) can demonstrate elevated titers against the organism or by elevated antibody titers. Endoscopy can be used to diagnose this disease as can protein electrophoresis of the blood, and radiographs can identify changes in the air sacs and lungs in advanced cases. Often, several different tests are necessary to correctly diagnose aspergillosis.
Long Term Care: Follow the recommendations for treatment by your avian vet. Itraconazole is a drug commonly used to treat birds with aspergillosis, Wissman said in the July 2001 article, but it should be used with caution in African greys. Other antifungal treatments are available. In addition to oral medication, adjunct therapy is usually necessary. Surgery or endoscopy may be used to remove lesions and nebulizing the bird with antifungal medication is helpful for respiratory cases.
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