Description: First recognized in macaw species, PDD is now know to affect more than 50 psittacine species along with toucans, honey-creepers, canaries, weaver finches, Canada geese and roseate spoonbills. The disease is now becoming more common in cockatiels. It is thought to be a virus that chickens harbored and passed on to wild-caught blue-and-gold macaws that were kept with the chickens before being imported into the United States, where it was then spread from bird to bird.
A team of researchers at the University of Georgia identified the virus that causes PDD, and this virus has an affinity for nervous system tissue.
Clinical signs for the disease include depression, weight loss (with or without decreased appetite), constant or intermittent regurgitation, passing whole, undigested seed in the droppings and rancid droppings. In some birds, neurological signs such as ataxia, abnormal head movements, seizures and weakness in the legs progressing to paralysis also occur.
Young birds with PDD may not want to wean or those that have just been weaned often go back to juvenile begging for hand-feeding formula.
Immediate Care: There is no specific treatment to cure the virus causing PDD but bird owners should work with their avian vets to prolong the life of an infected bird. PDD is a contagious disease and infected birds should be isolated from any contact with other birds. Keep an infected bird in stress-free environment. Many birds exposed to a PDD infected bird will not develop signs of the disease, but all measures possible should be taken to isolate the infected bird from coming in contact with other birds.
Diagnosis may be made presumptively by plain film radiographs and a barium series of the GI tract. Biopsy of the crop, including crop tissue and a large blood vessel (where a nerve likely will be located, as well) may show diagnostic lesions in the nerve. However, a biopsy may result in a false-negative report, since the virus attacks nerves segmentally, and is therefore not found in every single nerve or biopsy specimen.
If a bird dies that is suspected of having PDD, the brain should always be submitted for histopathology as the lesions are most predictably found there.
Long Term Care: “Birds diagnosed with PDD need to be fed an easily digested, high-energy diet, and supplementation with nucleotides may help support the immune system,” said Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, Dip. ABVP – avian practice, in a November 2004 BIRD TALK article.
The bird may be more likely to develop secondary bacterial and fungal diseases so those birds diagnosed with PDD should be monitored often by their avian vet for any signs of other infections, so that they may receive immediate treatment.
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