Small tropical birds of the psittacines order, parakeets are popular companion pets. Typically hardy, these birds are susceptible to psittacosis, a bacterial infection characterized by pneumonia and exiguous respiratory complications. Recognizing early symptoms gives parakeet parents a head start in battling this progressive condition.
Parakeet pneumonia is symptomatic of an intercellular bacterial infection called Chlamydia psittaci, or parrot fever. The pneumonic precursor C. psittaci is transferable to humans, birds and other animals when infected birds discharge elements in their bodily secretions and feather dust. Aviculturists put the incubation period for birds at two months to several years. During the waning period of the psittacosis disease, your bird is still contagious. People with psittacosis develop flulike symptoms and fever. Pneumonia is a common condition in humans that may progress to life-threatening. People may experience severe liver and heart disease from a Chlamydia psittaci infection.
Predominant Parakeet Symptoms
Parakeets with active infections may display ocular inflammation, breathing difficulties, loose stools, green urine, sinus infection, polyuria, lethargy, dehydration, ruffled feathers and appetite loss. Weight loss is often the first symptom of avian illness; it can indicate the onslaught of an psittacosis infection that precedes pneumonia. Since it's not immediately apparent, your veterinarian may have to run a battery of tests to diagnose psittacosis. The gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms accompanying psittacosis are not specific to this disorder. Ruling our several other infectious diseases may be necessary.
Severe Symptoms and Testing
Some of the more severe symptomatic effects of psittacosis include organ and body system damage, gastrointestinal tract obstruction and anorexia. After investigating the symptoms, if your veterinarian suspects psittacosis, he'll conduct a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test. This test amplifies the viral genetic material to a degree at which it can be detected. Because of the intracellular nature of the Chlamydophila psittaci bacteria, the PCR test looks for the DNA of the infectious material. Usually preformed on a blood sample, a PCR test might also be conducted on saliva or vent secretions.
Follow Through on Treatment
Due to the zoonotic nature of psittacosis, caregivers need to protect themselves with regular cage and utensil decontamination, medical gloves and a face mask. Antibiotic treatments are common, but only your bird's veterinarian can diagnose and recommend treatment. Treatment lasts 45 days, even if your bird appears healthy in the interim. If medication is delivered through his food, feed only enough to ensure the proper dosage of medication is received. Treatment may cause a calcium deficiency, so a cuttlebone should be available at all times. Avian pneumonia, coupled with the Chlamydia psittaci infection, is costly to treat. Research is underway to search for a possible vaccine.
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