Avian Psittacosis

Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever or avian chlamydiosis, is a contagious bacterial infection caused by the Chlamydia psittaci bacterium. Chlamydia psittaci is mostly found in birds from the Psittaciformes family, such as parrots and macaws.

Symptoms of Avian Psittacosis

The symptoms of avian psittacosis can vary depending on the species affected, but may include:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In some cases, birds can also have neurological signs like tremors, seizures or paralysis. Birds with psittacosis can have difficulty breathing and might have signs of eye discharge.

Diagnosing Avian Psittacosis

Diagnosing avian psittacosis can be difficult because the symptoms are often similar to other illnesses. A veterinarian will typically take a sample of your bird’s blood or tissue and test it for the presence of Chlamydia psittaci bacteria. In some cases, a physical exam can also be necessary to check for signs such as respiratory distress or eye discharge. 

A veterinarian might also recommend a complete blood count and other laboratory tests to measure your bird’s organ function.

Stages of Avian Psittacosis

Avian Psittacosis can be split into three stages: acute, chronic, and latent.

Acute:

In the acute stage, birds might have signs of respiratory distress, decreased appetite, weight loss, depression, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Chronic:

The chronic stage is associated with recurrent bouts of mild clinical signs with periods of remission.

Latent:

During the latent stage, affected birds can appear healthy but still carry the bacteria and can spread it to other birds.

Treating Avian Psittacosis

Treating avian psittacosis usually involves a combination of antibiotics, supportive care, and isolation. Antibiotics are typically chosen based on the type of Chlamydia psittaci present in your bird’s blood or tissue sample. 
Supportive care may include giving additional fluids and nutritional support, as well as monitoring for signs of respiratory distress or neurological symptoms. Isolating your bird is also important to prevent transmission to other birds.

Preventing Avian Psittacosis

The best way to prevent avian psittacosis is to practice good biosecurity. Good biosecurity includes keeping their cages clean and disinfected, regularly washing your hands after handling birds, and avoiding contact with other birds or their droppings. It’s important to quarantine any new birds before introducing them into an existing flock.