Chlamydophila Psittaci in Birds

Your new bird doesn’t look healthy. It’s losing weight and looks depressed. It sits on the bottom of the cage with ruffled feathers. Your bird is sick, but you don’t know why. As the responsible pet owner, you take it to the veterinary clinic. Your vet does some testing and tells you that he suspects that your bird has chlamydiosis. What is chlamydiosis?

Chlamydophila psittaci (formerly called Chlamydia psittaci) is a type of bacteria that can infect various animal species, including birds and humans. The disease is called chlamydiosis in birds and psittacosis (or “parrot fever”) in humans. C. psittaci is a fairly common disease in pet birds, especially psittacines (parrot-type birds).

Chlamydiosis is contagious between birds. It is spread through feces and nasal discharge. The bacteria can survive in contaminated litter and bedding for several months. Birds that are stressed are more likely to develop chlamydiosis. This is why a newly purchased bird is the most likely bird to develop chlamydiosis.

Signs of chlamydiosis often look like the signs seen in many other bird diseases. These birds look “sick”- they are depressed, have ruffled feathers, and are losing weight. Other signs may include diarrhea, discharge from the eyes and/or nose, liver disease, or difficulty breathing. It is important to take your bird to the veterinarian as soon as possible, because chlamydiosis is easier to treat early in the course of the disease.

There is no one easy way to diagnose this disease. Your veterinarian will make the diagnosis based on a few different tests in combination with your bird’s clinical signs. Some tests for chlamydiosis need to be sent out to a laboratory, which means you may have to wait a few days for the results.

The treatment for chlamydiosis is doxycycline, a type of antibiotic. Depending on your bird and your needs, the medication can be put in food, water, or be taken by mouth. It is usually given for over a month. During this time period, the bird needs to be isolated from other birds in order to prevent the disease from spreading. Special precautions need to be taken when cleaning the bird’s cage, because chlamydiosis is zoonotic.

The word “zoonotic” is used to describe any disease that is contagious between animals and humans. Chlamydiosis is called “psittacosis” in humans. It causes fever-like symptoms (fever, headache, muscle aches) and pneumonia in humans. If you have just recently purchased a new bird or if your bird has been diagnosed with chlamydiosis, make sure that you inform your doctor that you may have been exposed to Chlamydophila psittaci. The human form of psittacosis can be treated, but it should be treated as soon as possible.

If your bird is diagnosed with chlamydiosis, make sure you work with your veterinarian to properly treat and control the disease. In order to prevent buying a bird with this disease, here are a few suggestions. Do not buy a bird showing signs of weight loss, sickness, or any of the above mentioned signs. Quarantine new birds for at least 30 days after purchase. You may also consider testing new birds for C. psittaci, or simply treating them (under the guidance of your veterinarian) with doxycycline after you purchase them.

Chlamydophila psittaci is a fairly common bacteria that can cause disease in various animal species. It is most common in parrot-like birds, and poses a threat to human health as well. Be careful when handling any sick bird, until you know whether or not it is positive for chlamydiosis. Bring any sick bird to the veterinarian as soon as possible, to increase the likelihood of successful treatment.

By Ashley O’dricsoll Writer