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Judy Leach's Parrots
Breeder Specializing in Macaws, including Hyacinth Macaw

Diseases

In this category of maladies, I am including those maladies that are, at this time, incurable. This includes most viruses, the most feared and dreaded of all diseases. Many of these maladies give no warning. They are air-born and difficult to control. You may have a carrier of the disease for years, and then, when stressed, whether by breeding or an upset, he begins to shed. The carrier may, or may not, die, but he will spread it to others that are susceptible, and will die. Any that live through an outbreak will become immune to the virus, but they may, or may not, become carriers to create a threat later.

Many of the viruses are intranuclear, meaning that they attack the nucleus of cells. Some viruses, if caught soon enough, are curable with acyclovir.

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Pachecos Virus

This virus is normally fatal. It is an intranuclear virus that is air-born and spreads rapidly. Research of the AIDES virus has developed a medication, Zovirax (or the generic Acyclovir), that will kill the Pachecos Virus. This medication is very expensive, but it is well worth the price it it means saving a flock. It is administered by dissolving one 200 MG capsule in 8 ounce of water, and it must be used for at least 2 weeks past the last death. Any affected birds may sometimes be saved by giving a stronger solution orally. Normally the first victim cannot be saved because it strikes so fast, but future victims can be detected by a dark yellow in the urates. Any birds showing this symptom can be be given a stronger administration of Zovirax orally. Others can get the above mentioned dose in their water. There is a vaccine out for this disease, but it would not be suggested to use it unless you are sure of exposure. The current vaccine can cause tumors and carriers, others may die shortly after inoculation.

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Polyomavirus

This virus normally fatal only to baby parrots under a year that do not have a full developed immune system. Older and adult parrots exposed to the disease often become carriers, and in a breeding situation can pass it on to their chicks. This virus can wipe out any and all babies in an aviary, and attacks and kills them very swiftly. There is not enough known about this disease to control it, but there is currently a vaccine available that will prevent infection to babies in case of exposure. Since there is a risk that the vaccine can actually cause onset of the virus, many vets will recommend that babies are not vaccinated unless it is likely that babies will be exposed to the disease.

Once again, it is air-born, and control is not easy. It is susceptible to inactivation outside of the host, but any organic matter (i.e. food, feces, feathers, soil) can protect the virus and increase its survival time. Death of the victim is inevitable 24-48 hours after any show of clinical signs. The signs include depression, anorexia, delayed crop emptying, regurgitation, weight loss, and diarrhea. There may also be bruising of the muscle and skin, especially at sites where an injection may have been given or where a feather has been damaged. Some may have touble breathing or increased urination. Obviously, these symptoms indicate many lesser problems, but this disease doesn't leave much time for contemplation or diagnosis. The obvious symptom of this disease is inevitable death for young parrots.

As a disinfectant, chlorine dioxide, was found to inactivate the virus. It has also been suggested that 5% sodium hypochlorite mixed at 50 ml/L water is an effective disinfectant. Nolvasan did not totally eliminate the infection.

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Beak and Feather Syndrome (PBFDS)

Beak and Feather Syndrome was thought to affect only the members or the Cockatoo species. More recently it has been diagnosed in all members of the parrot species. It is an air-born disease spread by feather dust and dried feces. One of the most commonly know symptoms is abnormal growth of new feathers. The new shafts appear to be swollen and gnarled. In cockatoos, there is a lack of feather dust; i.e. the beak is black and shiny rather than covered with feather dust. Although dust tufts are not developed in a cockatoo under a year, dust tufts should be evident in an older cockatoo. When the feathers are parted tufts should be visible that look similar to ends of frayed carpet fibers. If there are no tufts, there is a very good possibility of Beak and Feather. Another symptom is abnormal growth of the beak. It may become long and eventually break off. In its progressive stages, this disease causes paralysis and eventual death. There are currently medical tests to positively detect this disease even in carriers. It may be passed from carrier parents to young. Any parrot under a year of age is susceptible to infection of this disease. If exposed, they may succumb to it, or they may become carriers that will expose and infect others in years to come. Older parrots seem to have a natural immunity to it. There is currently no known cure for this disease.

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Wasting Disease - Proventricular Dilitation Disease (PDD)

Proventricular Dilitation Disease (PDD), known in the past as Macaw Wasting Disease, may be found in any parrot species. It is thought to be cased by a "cool" or slow virus, meaning that it is not thought to be highly contagious. Although, this disease does not move a quickly as Pachecos, it is no less deadly. It may kill others exposed, or it may lay dormant for years, until the host is stressed by breeding or a move. It may be passed to young and not show itself for years in the parents or the offspring.

This disease was thought to affect only the proventricular (the path between the crop and the stomach) which caused a failure of the digestive system. The victim could not digest the food eaten and would eventually starve to death. Recent studies have concluded that it affects nerve endings to all of the major organs. This might cause seizures, tremors, paralysis, and heart failure. It is possible for an individual to carry this disease for years showing no clinical signs, and, then, to die suddenly, or pass it to others, when under stressful conditions. In the interim, the disease may be passed to young that may also become carriers.

Until recently, this disease could be positively diagnosed only after death. Recent studies by Dr. Ritchie of Georgia have proven that this disease can be diagnosed in live victims by taking a biopsy of the crop tissue. A negative crop biopsy does not always disprove infection of this disease. Retesting is sometimes necessary. Tests are currently being developed to identify the disease in stool samples. Contrary to other diseases, it has been found that tests results were negative in stressed birds. Even if they carried the virus, they did not shed it when stressed. The same birds, unstressed, tested positive. Most of the tests developed for live birds are, at this point, not always conclusive. Often they must be performed more than once. The cause and scope of this disease is currently unknown. There is no known cure, although a diet consisting of easily digested foods may prolong the life of a victim.

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Papilloma

Although this malady is not normally terminal, it is one of the more controversial problems found in pet birds. It appears as a hemorrhoid type growth that is usually found in the vent area, but it may also appear in the mouth or throat. It is thought to be caused by a virus similar to that of warts, and can successfully be remove with laser surgery. It is believed to be contagious, yet, it may be found in only one of two birds that have been housed together for a number of years. Papilloma may remain a spot the size of a pimple for a number of years, or, it may grow large enough to block the vent, making it difficult, or even impossible for the host to defecate. If it is large enough, it can also prevent successful breeding.

Once removed, if in the vent, the area must be kept lubricated in order to prevent swelling that will block defecation. This condition will cause death when the system is poisoned by bowel movements that can not be released. Papilloma found in the esophagus may cause suffocation if it grows large enough to block the passage of air for breathing.

Although Papilloma is not something you would want to find in a breeding parrot, it will in no way affect the quality or personality of a pet. In either case, it is best to have it remove. Once the core is removed, the condition will normally not re-occur.

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