By Sam Vaughn, DVM, Dip., ABVP — Avian Practice
My adult female umbrella cockatoo has been diagnosed with cryptosporidiosis. What is this and how do you treat it?
Cryptosporidia is a protozoal organism. It is not a bacteria and not a fungus. This protozoal organism is usually associated with other disease processes and chronic (long term) immunosuppression. This organism made national news a couple of years ago in the Northeast. The city water supply had become infected with Cryptosporidia, and many people had symptoms of illness. In people, symptoms may include, but are not limited to, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, malaise and dehydration.
Cryptosporidium, unlike its protozoal cousins, can complete its life cycle inside one host. Thus, infective oocysts are shed in the feces and are infective to other birds by the fecal-oral route. Therefore, excellent disinfection and traffic flow are very important in preventing the spread of this disease. The organism lives in intestinal epithelial cells and, in severe infections, can spread to the bile duct, causing vomiting in addition to diarrhea. I must stress the importance of this disease being a secondary situation to other diseases or stressors. Things like viral diseases, bacterial, fungal, nutritional and stress resulting in immunosuppression can be the inciting factors. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease virus is the classic immunosuppressive virus of psittacines, and your bird should probably be tested for this. Polyomavirus is another one that should be considered in situations such as these. Corona viruses and Reoviruses should also be suspects. Aspergillosis is a fungal disease that wears down the immune system, and your bird should have radiographs and endoscopy performed as well as an Aspergillus panel to check for the presence of antibody or antigen.
Severe bacterial disease can also depress the immune system, especially if it has been a chronic situation. Klebsiella, Pseudomonas and E. coli are a few of the serious bacteria that can depress an immune system enough for a Cryptosporidium overgrowth to occur.
Good luck with your bird. Most birds will recover from Cryptosporidia infection if they have good supportive care and the initial cause of the illness is determined.
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Sam Vaughn, DVM, Dip., ABVP — Avian Practice is an avian specialist based in Louisville, Kentucky. Certified in Avian Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Dr. Vaughn owns Avian Medical Services Inc. (an avicultural service and consultation practice) and is a partner in Veterinary Associates Stonefield, a full-service avian/exotic and small animal practice. Dr. Vaughn holds degrees in biology, chemistry and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Auburn University. Feel free to visit his web site at http://www.vetcity.com. Telephone consultations by appointment are available by calling (502) 245-7863.