Common Infectious Avian Diseases

Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a circovirus that is known to infect birds from Asia, Australia, and Africa.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a circovirus that is known to infect birds from Asia, Australia, and Africa. African gray parrots, lovebirds, eclectus parrots, budgerigars, lories, and lorikeets are most commonly infected with the disease. New World parrots can have PBFD, but it is rare and a less severe form of the disease. Lovebirds can be infected without showing any signs of disease at all. The acute form of the infection is associated with pneumonia, enteritis, feather lesions, and death. The chronic form has progressive dystrophic feather lesions, and beak pathology is commonly present in cockatoos. 
Common Infectious Avian Diseases

Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)

Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) is caused by lymphoplasmacytic inflammatory infiltrates within the peripheral and/or central nervous system. A borna virus has been proven to be involved with the disease, but there is no definite proof whether other viruses and conditions are involved in the disease process. Macaws, African grays, conures, cockatoos, and eclectus parrots are commonly affected. African gray parrots tend to have central nervous system signs. Clinical signs include depression, weight loss, constant and intermittent regurgitation, undigested seed in feces, ataxia, seizures, and proprioceptive and motor deficits. Diagnosis is via a combination of radiographs showing a dilated proventriculus, slow gastrointestinal emptying time, PCR testing for borna virus, biopsy of highly vascular areas of the crop, and clinical signs. It is difficult to definitively diagnose this disease on a live bird, and there is no treatment. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as meloxicam can be helpful to alleviate the clinical signs, and treatments for secondary infections are often needed. Birds showing clinical signs should be isolated from other birds, and standard isolation procedures should be followed.
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Chlamydia Psittaci (Psittacosis)

Chlamydia is an intracellular bacterial parasite that is zoonotic. It is also sometimes known as parrot fever or ornithosis. Many avian species have been diagnosed with C. psittaci, including pigeons, but companion bird species are the greatest public health concern. Amazons tend to present with the classical form of disease, with clinical signs including sinusitis, dyspnea, conjunctivitis, polyuria, diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, yellow to dark-green droppings, poor feathering, and chronic weight loss. Hematology, radiographs, biochemistries, PCR probes, antigen capture tests, antibody tests, cytology, and cultures all help in the diagnosis of psittacosis. Leukocytosis is common in acute infections. The fact that the bacteria is intracellular and shed intermittently makes the disease difficult to diagnose. If the bird has been on antibiotics, this will create false negatives as well. There is no definitive test to show that the bird is free of disease. The disease is zoonotic, causing a respiratory infection in humans.


Salmonella is a zoonotic bacterial disease that can result in high mortality of young birds, lories, and African gray parrots. Most vertebrates can be infected with Salmonella; however, the host susceptibility and development of carrier states vary widely among species. Salmonella is shed in feces, nasal and ocular secretions; transmission is by ingestion of contaminated food or water or by direct contact with aerosolized fecal or feather dust. It can also be spread by flies, insects, rodents, and other vermin.

Candida Albicans

Alterations in the normal bacterial flora, loss of integrity of the alimentary mucosa, or immune incompetence can permit an overgrowth and possible dissemination of resident yeast—most likely Candida albicans. Cockatiels, budgies, and lovebirds are highly susceptible. Disease is more common in young birds and may progress to fatal systemic disease. Antibiotics, hypovitaminosis A, spoiled foods, a stressful unsanitary environment, malnutrition, and bacterial or viral infections are all possible predisposing factors for this disease. Improperly handfed baby birds will tend to have crop stasis, contributing to Candida overgrowth. Diagnosis is by clinical signs, history, lesions, and laboratory samples. Culture alone will not diagnose a yeast infection. Underlying conditions leading to infection must be identified and addressed to successfully resolve this condition.
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Sarcocystis is a protozoan infection that causes a high morbidity and mortality in Australian, Asian, and African psittacine birds and occasionally exotic columbiformes. Lories and lorikeets are the species most commonly affected, followed by African gray and eclectus parrots, and cockatoos. Transmission is by the definitive host—the opossum’s fecal material and by mechanical vectors such as cockroaches. Intermediate hosts include cowbirds and grackles. Death occurs rapidly due to asexual reproduction of the protozoans in the lung, which leads to fatal respiratory collapse. Pulmonary congestion and hemorrhage may be the only lesions recognized. Pyrimethamine may be of benefit if the disease is diagnosed and treated early, and control of opossums and cockroaches is important.


Knemidokoptes is a common mite of budgies and canaries. Mites are usually found around apteric areas of skin, like the beak, cere, vent, legs, and feet. Hyperkeratosis can result in deformed growth of the beak and nails. Mites are transmitted from bird to bird, but vertical transmission to featherless offspring can occur. Severe secondary infections can occur due to decreased immune function. Diagnosis is from observation of the mites microscopically from the hyperkeratotic skin. Ivermectin is commonly used for treatment. The cage should be cleaned and disinfected and all toys, bowls, and removable items should be run through the dishwasher on high heat or thoroughly disinfected by hand.


Giardia has been diagnosed in a variety of psittacines, poultry, waterfowl, finches, and toucans, where the clinical signs can vary from weight loss and diarrhea to failure to thrive. Cockatiels have been known to be infected with Giardia, resulting in extensive pruritus and feather picking. The disease in cockatiels is now more likely caused by Hexamita/Spironucleus spp. Diagnosis is by direct wet mount or by fecal PCR test. Ronidazole and metronidazole are common treatments for giardia but Hexamita/Spironucleus spp. is more difficult to clear successfully.

Tables for Common Infectious Avian Diseases

Common Infectious Avian Diseases

Common Infectious Avian Diseases




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Dr Lobby | Common Infectious Avian Diseases
Common Infectious Avian Diseases
Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a circovirus that is known to infect birds from Asia, Australia, and Africa.
Dr Lobby |
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