Microsoft word - p4 disease management in a parrot collection.doc
DISEASE MANAGEMENT IN A PARROT COLLECTION
DR C. C. KINGSLEY
Curriculum Vitae Christopher Charles Kingsley
EDUCATION: - Matriculated from Springs Boy’s High School 1969. Completed BSc (hons)
degree in Zoology from University of Natal 1974. Completed BVSc degree from University of
WORK EXPERIENCE:- National Military Service 1970. 1975-76 Mixed farming in Eastern Free
State. 1976-79 Insurance inspector Sentraoes Crop Insurance Co-operative. 1983-84 Mixed
veterinary practice in Leeds UK, with emphasis on birds and other exotics. 1984-86 Senior
lecturer, Department Genesiology, Faculty of Veterinary Science. Pretoria University. 1986-
Present. Private Veterinary Practice, initially mixed, later avian and exotics only.
Own and provide veterinary services at a private, Multi-species, import / export quarantine
station. Own and provide veterinary services at Game animal quarantine holding facility.
REGISTRATION AND ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP.
Registered with SA Veterinary Council from 1983 Registration No. D83/2134.
Member of SA Veterinary Association since 1984.
Presented three papers at World Small Animal Veterinary Congress,
Presented papers at numerous South African Veterinary Congresses and at Branch
Presented two papers at American Federation of Aviculture in USA.
Presented two papers at Australian Avicultural Congress in Brisbane Australia.
Address numerous Avicultural clubs and Societies on Avian Diseases and related subjects.
Have presented short courses for both veterinarians and aviculturists on avian diseases,
handling and treatment of avian patients, and related subjects.
Published research communication in Veterinary Record.
Published article on technique to repair fractured avian wings in Veterinary Practice.
Recipient of South African Veterinary Association Clinical Prize.
Honorary life member of a number of bird clubs and avicultural associations.
Undertake avian veterinary work throughout South Africa, and have visited 56 countries
around the world to provide veterinary services to both local and overseas clients. Have a
large collection of, and am a successful breeder of a variety of birds.
DISEASE MANAGEMENT IN A PARROT COLLECTION
1) When a sick parrot is discovered in the enclosures, act immediately, once a bird shows
signs of illness it is usually critically ill.
2) Make sure as quickly as you can that the bird is not bleeding from a wound. This should
be immediately obvious, try to handle the bird quickly, firmly, and with as little
struggling as possible. If the bird is bleeding this must be brought under control by :- a)
3) Transfer the bird into a hospital cage at about 30 degrees centigrade, and allow
adequate time for stabilization. The smaller the bird, the more rapidly its temperature
will rise. A sick or injured bird will almost always be suffering from hypothermia, even if
the ambient temperature is not particularly low.
4) Once the patient has been given time to stabilize ( about 30-60 minutes for an African
Grey sized bird) it can again be subjected to further handling. A sick, shocked or injured
bird will almost invariably be dehydrated. The degree of dehydration will usually vary
between 5% in mild cases to up to 15% in extreme cases. Oral replacement of fluids is
usually too slow to be of significant help to the bird. The most appropriate fluid to be
given at this time is “Ringers Lactate”. This is a fluid for intravenous use in human
patients, and is available from most pharmacies without prescription. The best route
for fluid replacement is intravenous. This should only be attempted in a bird if the
person giving the fluid is very experienced, and the bird is completely immobilized.
Intra-abdominal administration is also a satisfactory route, but also requires some
experience. Sub-cutaneous administration, although absorbed more slowly, is safe,
easily done, and is absorbed fairly quickly if the birds body temperature is kept close to
a) When administering fluid, warm the volume to be given to as close to normal
body temperature as possible. ( about 37 degrees centigrade).
b) Restrain the bird firmly, disinfect the skin at the injection site, and inject the
c) Calculate the amount to be given as follows:- Normal fluid required by a bird is
50ml per day per 1000g body weight. If 10% dehydrated another 100 ml is
required to be replaced over a 48 hour period. That means if a 1000g bird that is
10% dehydrated, and which is to be given fluids every 6 hours, the calculation is
as follows:- 50ml divided by 4 = 12.5ml. add to this 100ml divided by 8 =
12.5ml. the bird must be given 25ml every 6 hours for 48 hours.
d) If ringers lactate can’t be procured, normal saline, Plasmalyte or Balsol can be
used. Never use sterile water, or any fluid containing glucose for sub-cutaneous
5) When the bird has again been given time to stabilize in the warmed hospital cage, it is
time to attempt to establish what the problem is that has led to the birds condition. To
start this process ask yourself the following questions, always beginning with the most
a) Was the bird eating? Not eating could be as a result of many factors. Mate
aggression may result in one bird being kept away from the feed. Can the bird
gain access to the feed? A bird that is unable to fly because of feather damage
etc. may not reach feed if a strategic perch falls down. Has the diet been
dramatically changed, eg seed to pellets? Has the bird started eating the new
diet? A new bird by itself in an aviary may not be able to see where the feed is.
b) Is the bird injured, and if so what is the cause, and how severe is the injury.
Some male birds will severely injure or kill a mate if their breeding cycles are
not synchronized. Severe injuries of the beak and tongue, and of the toes, legs
and/or wings can be inflicted by an aggressive male. The fact that the birds are
a successful breeding pair does not exclude this type of behaviour.
Predators such as rats and cats can also be responsible for injuries. In cold
areas in winter, frostbite can result in damage to the feet, especially in birds
made to sleep on metal, or rolled up weldmesh perches.
c) A female bird of breeding age may be egg-bound. This is usually fairly obvious
on examination of the abdomen. An egg-bound female will often have fresh
d) Parasites that suck blood, or that damage the intestine causing internal blood
and plasma loss can cause severe anaemia, or low blood protein levels.
Has there been a history of parasite problems in the collection? Has there
been any program of parasite control? If possible faecal samples can be
checked for internal parasites. An examination of nests will reveal red mite,
and examining the bird will indicate if stick tight fleas or lice are present.
e) Feed contaminated with rat poison, mouldy feed, or other toxins will usually
affect a number of birds. Heavy metal poisoning, or consumption of a toxic
plant that the bird can gain access to may affect an individual bird. Examine
the enclosure carefully for clues that could help you to decide on the next
f) Watch the bird in the hospital cage from a distance, evaluate the breathing,
stance etc. sometimes a symptom will be much more obvious if the bird is not
g) Only once the possibilities have been thoroughly considered, and obvious
causes eliminated, can bacterial, viral, fungal and chlamydial disease be
a) Viral diseases are usually contracted from other sick birds. Eg PBFD,
pappilomatosis, and polyomavirus. Poxvirus is transmitted from an
b) Fungal diseases are common in baby hand-reared parrots if the diet is
not quite suited to the species, or if feed is aspirated. Aspirated feed is
always very high on the list of possibilities when an inexperienced hand-
rearer is attempting a baby with a vigorous feeding response like a
macaw. Fungal diseases in adult parrots are usually seen in birds that
have been severely stressed, kept in crowded, filthy conditions and / or
kept on antibiotics for extended periods, eg imported, wild caught
c) Chlamydophila psittaci is most often seen in Cockatiels and in birds
d) Bacteria are constantly present. Some are beneficial, some cause
diseases on their own, some will cause disease when a number of
factors together overwhelm the birds immune system. Some bacteria
produce deadly toxins that are rapidly fatal.
A vast array of antibacterial drugs are available. A few points should be
a) Whenever possible get advice from an avian veterinarian! b) Is the bird still eating and drinking. If so an oral antibiotic can be
considered. If the bird is vomiting, or if the crop is not emptying
c) Antibiotics can be divided into those that are bacteriocidal (kill
bacteria) or bacteriostatic (stop bacteria from multiplying).
Generally speaking, a very sick, weak bird should be given a
bacteriocidal drug. Antibiotics given in combination may act
synergistically ( help one another for a better effect) or
antagonistically ( work against one another, rendering both
ineffective). Never mix antibiotics without consulting someone
professional who is aware of these interactions.
Some antibiotics, safe in mammals, are too toxic to use in birds.
Others are broken down more rapidly in birds than in mammals,
and need to be given at higher doses or more frequently in birds.
Some older antibiotics, like terramycin, that have been used very
extensively for years have become less effective because of
widespread resistance that has developed in many of the disease
A) Use a carefully selected antibiotic at the correct dose, at the
correct intervals, and for the correct number of days.
B) Never mix antibiotics unless advised to do so by a professional. C) Never use antibiotics unnecessarily! You will promote
D) Store antibiotics according to the manufacturers instructions,
The internet can be useful, but don’t believe everything you read. Remember anybody can
To end today’s discussion I would like to talk briefly about two viral diseases that affect us as
breeders of parrots, and Chlamydophilia, which is an important disease of birds, that can
Caused by a Circovirus. No treatment is available. No commercially available vaccine. Virus
survives for long periods outside the host.
A variety of strains have been identified- generally associated with particular types of
Transmission is via feather dust, and to a lesser extent other body secretions.
The younger the exposed bird, the more susceptible to infection. Hand reared birds are
more susceptible than parent reared birds.
Diagnosis on clinical symptoms, skin biopsy, blood counts, and blood samples to detect viral
A carrier state exists that is very difficult to identify, and is not well understood.
Cause of Psitticosis / Ornithosis / Parrot fever.
Many strains exist, some rapidly fatal in infected birds, some sub clinical.
Very common in Cockatiels and often transmitted from Cockatiels to other birds.
Variety of symptoms possible, running eyes, and sinusitis. Can be much more severe with
liver and spleen very enlarged and rapidly fatal.
A number of tests available, best is DNA on swab of conjunctiva, choana, or cloaca. Blood
Effective treatment requires long administration of chlortetracycline or doxycycline in feed
and/ or water, or 7 injections of long acting doxycycline given at weekly intervals.
In humans fever, usually with respiratory symptoms. Can be fatal, but often chronic ill
health with vague symptoms. Birds can transmit to humans but not the other way round.
More difficult to diagnose in humans than in birds, but easier to treat.
Influenza virus, highly infectious. Virus constantly changing, developing new strains. Little or
no cross immunity between strains. Potential to change so much that can become human
disease and be highly infectious and severe.
Thousands of different strains have been identified, and are broadly classified according to
their surface proteins. The type of Haemagglutinin is the H classification, and the
Neuraminidase type the N classification.
Ability of an organism to cause disease is its pathogenicity.
If one reads of a HPAI N1 H5 strain, it means Highly Pathogenic ( Very likely to cause
disease) Neuraminidase type 1, Haemaglutinin type 5.
Because of its capacity to change, its highly infectious nature, its ability to be rapidly fatal to
commercial poultry flocks, and its potential as a human pathogen, it enjoys very
considerable attention worldwide, and every effort is made to control outbreaks and
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