I just got back from my Management of Birds class (I'm an avian science major as you know), which had a great lecture today on various diseases in aviculture. I don't take credit for the below information (presented by Dr. Smith) nor do I pretend to be a vet, but I took pretty good notes and although some of my spelling may be wrong this information will no doubt prove useful to you. Please note that the treatment is just for better understanding. NEVER TREAT BIRDS YOURSELF!!! For additional information on diseases, the National Cockatiel Society has some good articles.

Polyoma Virus

Aka: budgie fledgling disease, french molt
Symptoms: In small birds it is passed from healthy-looking parents to their chicks (through feeding or the egg itself), who then die quickly or survive but with severe feather abnormalities. In larger birds the chicks die from 4 weeks to weaning. Weaned chicks are usually safer. In finches and canaries both adults and chicks die.
Diagnosis: history of the bird, necropsy lesions, hemmorages, enlarged spleen and liver, histopathology, DNA probe.
Treatment: None. Chicks showing signs will die. Adult breeders who have the disease should be kept in isolation for about a year with no breeding; this usually allows the body to clear itself of the virus. They should then be retested.
Prevention: Don't mingle chicks from various breeders. Isolate infected pairs. A vaccine is available but does not always work in time to protect chicks. Bleach is a great disinfectant for this.

Proventricular Dilation Syndrome

Aka: macaw wasting disease
Symptoms: Undigested food in the feces, weight loss, stumbling, falling, weakness.
Species affected: all
Diagnosis: Hard to diagnose. Radiographs can be used on live birds. It affect the nerves in the digestive tract. The virus can be found in feces but only ones less than 20 minutes old. Biopsies can be done. No probe is available yet.
Treatment: No cure. Infected birds can be kept alive for years if provided with an easily-digestable diet. Isolate infected birds.
Prevention: Spread mostly through regurgitation between mates and fecal contact. The virus degenerates quickly outside the body though. Healthy-looking birds can carry it. Isolate infected birds.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

Symptoms: Affects the skin and feather follicles. Feather loss and abnormalities, twisted and pinched shafts, rarely beak necrosis.
Species affected: Most commonly seen in cockatoos, macaws, budgies and other Australian keets.
Diagnosis: Skin biopsies, probe available.
Treatment: No treatment for birds showing signs. Birds' immune systems will be supressed. Some birds (those that look fine but test positive) may clear themselves of the virus. Retest them if still no signs after a while.
Prevention: Test all incoming birds. It does not pass through the egg. Eggs from infected pairs may be removed, cleaned, and incubated elsewhere.


Symptoms: Tissue damage on feet and near beak. Species affected: One virus affects canaries and is fairly common. The other affects psittacines and is rare since importation stopped. The virus is specific to type (canaries cannot infect parrots).
Treatment: Birds can recover if secondary infection is prevented.
Prevention: Place netting aroung aviaries if in an area filled with mosquitos and knats. Vaccines are available for both strains.

Bacterial Infections

Symptoms: Typical sick bird look. Usually affects respiratory system or diegestive tract. Usually not contageous.
Diagnosis: Culture.
Treatment: Varies. Prevention: Bacteria is everywhere, and usually birds can fight it off. Stressed or immuno-supressed birds birds may get sick even in a normal environment. Best prevention is good management practices (keep cages clean, don't overcrowd, no undo stress).


Aka: psittacosis, clamydia
Symptoms: Sudden death or normal sick look. Can appear in healthy-looking birds. Green urine.
Species affected: Most commonly seen in budgies and cockatiels.
Diagnosis: Very hard to diagnose. Probe available. It can lie dormant in the body, producing lots of false negatives. A blood test is the best.
Treatment: Individual doses of batril or tetracycline. Doesn't always work- you can clean up most but not all.
Prevention: Not as common as other bacteria, but still frequent. Stay clear of budgies and cockatiels that are kept with others from different flocks.
Warning: Reportable disease. It is transferable to humans (the elderly, very young children, and the immuno-suppressed like AIDS patients). If you have flu-like symptoms that last longer than normal or are more severe, alert your doctor that you own birds.

Avian TB

Symptoms: Birds act itchy (picking and plucking), weight loss, weakness. Hardly ever affects the respiratory system like it does in humans.
Affected species: Mostly grey-cheeked parakeets.
Diagnosis: Impression smears from lesions, cultures (hard to diagnose), elevated CBC.
Treatment: Advanced cases usually have to be put down.
Warning: Two strains, one not highly transferrable to humans, but people can get it (the same people likely to get clamidia).


Symptoms: Respiratory problems (voice change, labored breathing), may just drop dead. I have seen paralysis of legs (caused by mass in lungs pinching the nerves).
Diagnosis: X-ray, endoscopy, culture of trachea.
Treatment: Agressive fungicide. Surgery may be needed to remove lesions.
Prevention: Spores, like bacteria, are everywhere. Prevent growth by keeping the environment clean and dry. Make sure your birds can't get to their feces and dropped food.

Feisty Feathers

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