Bacterial diseases

Psittacosis in Parrots

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: July 31, 2018
Psittacosis in Parrots

Parrots are no longer considered exotic birds, as they have become increasingly common pets. This is because they have many attributes that make them exceptional pets, including their need for companionship, their friendliness and intelligence.

The fact that parrots are currently such popular companions has sparked great interest in the health of these birds. There are more vets specialized in caring for birds and more owners worried about the best way to keep them. No matter the species of a pet, they always require care to ensure their health, happiness and quality of life.

In this AnimalWised article we will talk about the symptoms and treatment of psittacosis in parrots, a very serious disease that spreads rapidly and can be transmitted to humans.

  1. What is psittacosis?
  2. How is psittacosis in parrots transmitted?
  3. Symptoms of psittacosis in parrots
  4. How is psittacosis in parrots diagnosed?
  5. Treatment of psittacosis in parrots
  6. Transmission of psittacosis to humans

What is psittacosis?

Psittacosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci; it's also called ornithosis or parrot fever. It affects parrots and budgerigars in particular, although it can also affect other kinds of birds.

This infectious disease requires special attention because it is highly contagious. Besides spreading very quickly psittacosis decreases the animal's defenses, which can lead to other infections that disguise the symptoms of psittacosis.

Moreover, psittacosis is a zoonotic disease. This means that infected animals can transmit it to human beings.

Psittacosis in Parrots - What is psittacosis?

How is psittacosis in parrots transmitted?

Psittacosis is mainly transmitted through the inhalation of dust that comes from the droppings or feathers of infected birds. Direct transmission is also possible through ocular and respiratory secretions of sick animals or through contact with infected surfaces.

Stress is a fundamental factor that can cause psittacosis to develop. Sometimes birds that carry the bacteria are in good health - although they can spread the infection - and do not develop nor manifest the disease due to not being stressed.

Psittacosis in Parrots - How is psittacosis in parrots transmitted?

Symptoms of psittacosis in parrots

Symptoms of psittacosis in parrots are not specific to the disease, meaning that even if they correspond with this disease they may indicate many different clinical illnesses. This is partly because psittacosis decreases the animal's defenses resulting in increased susceptibility to infection from other diseases.

Sometimes psittacosis causes birds to suddenly die; it is extremely important to recognize the symptoms that may be indicative of this disease:

  • Sinusitis
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Ocular secretions
  • Nasal secretions
  • Sneezing
  • Yellow-green diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Weight loss

If these symptoms present themselves, it is very important that you go to the vet immediately in order to establish a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Psittacosis in Parrots - Symptoms of psittacosis in parrots

How is psittacosis in parrots diagnosed?

Diagnosing psittacosis can be complicated, because the laboratory tests that are carried out are not absolutely reliable in the specific case of this bacterium. To diagnose psittacosis in parrots the veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and take into account your pet's medical history. Laboratory measurements involve two tests:

  • Antigen detection: This is used to detect the presence of the bacteria through the animal's excrement or nasal and ocular secretions.
  • Antibody detection: This involves detecting the antibodies in the blood that the immune system has generated specifically against this bacterium.
Psittacosis in Parrots - How is psittacosis in parrots diagnosed?

Treatment of psittacosis in parrots

The treatment of psittacosis in parrots and the effectiveness and prognosis of the disease may vary depending on the general state of health of the bird, its age and the presence of secondary infections. It will always be necessary to isolate the animal and administer antibiotic drugs for a minimum period of 45 days.

Methods of administration may be as follows:

  • Oral administration
  • Injected
  • Through feeding

Upon completion of the treatment period the veterinarian may suggest performing laboratory measurements again to verify the treatment's effectiveness. They may also recommend that birds that have been in contact with the infected parrot also receive drug treatment.

Psittacosis in Parrots - Treatment of psittacosis in parrots

Transmission of psittacosis to humans

The transmission of psittacosis from a bird to an individual is uncommon, and it is not very serious. The affected human presents symptoms similar to that of the flu or a cold. However, like those diseases, it can have fatal consequences for children, the elderly, pregnant women and people who are immunosuppressed.

In order to prevent your parrot from suffering from psittacosis and spreading it to a person you should follow the following tips:

  • Keep the parrot's cage in optimal hygienic conditions
  • Do not adopt birds without their corresponding health certificate.
  • If your parrot has psittacosis take hygienic precautions, use gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after you handle it.

The transmission of psittacosis in birds and humans can be prevented if you take some simple hygiene measures, so it is important to consider the recommendations outlined above.

Psittacosis in Parrots - Transmission of psittacosis to humans

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Psittacosis in Parrots, we recommend you visit our Bacterial diseases category.

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Psittacosis in Parrots