Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: August 5, 2013, 12:15 p.m. PDT
This is a disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila, and it is also known as parrot fever, ornithosis and chlamydiosis. Psittacosis can present itself in many different ways, depending on the age, nutritional status and over-all condition of the infected bird. This is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from bird to human. Strains of the bacteria vary, some causing mild disease and others causing a fatal infection for the bird.
Psittacosis can be spread in a bird’s nasal, oral and fecal secretions as well as through urine, tears and crop fluid. Even if an infected bird is no longer present, a bird breeder or owner may have the Chlamydophila organism in their environment due to it being able to survive in dried feces and secretions for long periods of time.
Birds carrying the disease may or may not show symptoms. Some birds carry the disease without demonstrating any clinical signs of illness. If a bird is symptomatic, common signs include diarrhea, decreased appetite, depression, green urine, sneezing, mucopurulent nasal discharge, breathing difficulty, sinusitis or conjunctivitis.
Signs of chronic infection or an infection of a less destructive strain may include poor feathering, weight loss, diarrhea, conjunctivitis and green urine.
The disease can cause detriment to a bird’s nervous system, causing tremors, seizures, abnormal position of the head and paralysis.
It is recommended that doxycycline be used to treat infected birds. This antibiotic can be administered by injection, an oral liquid, as a medicated mash or as a medicated seed or water mixture.
Psittacosis is difficult to diagnose. There are numerous tests that can be administered, but there is no full guarantee that the test will be accurate. Various factors can come into play, causing a false negative test result. The bird’s history, clinical signs, blood count, blood chemistries, radiography and electrophoresis are used in addition to the diagnostic tests to determine infection.
While the bird is receiving medication to rid of the psittacosis bacteria, supportive care as the bird recuperates is necessary and additional bacterial or fungal infections must be treated to properly. In a multiple bird household, if one bird is diagnosed with the disease, it is recommended that all birds receive treatment to prevent it being passed back and forth. Thoroughly clean the birds’ environment with bleach or other disinfectants.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Health section is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.