Aspergillosis in Birds
No one enjoys being sick, including your bird! Knowing how to prevent and identify disease could spare your bird a lot of pain and possibly his life.
What is Aspergillosis?Aspergillosis is a disease of the respiratory tract and is caused by the fungus Aspergillus. This fungus can be present anywhere but grows best in moist, warm environments. Aspergillosis develops as a respiratory disease in pet birds with a weakened immune system. Malnutrition, especially vitamin A deficiency, is a common predisposing factor.
How Is It Transmitted?The tiny spores of Aspergillus become airborne and are then inhaled by a bird. While this fungus is present in most environments, it's especially challenging for birds with a weakened immune system. A dusty room and inadequate ventilation can increase the chances of your bird obtaining this disease. Moldy food, wet bedding, and unhygienic conditions are breeding grounds for this fungus.
Improper food handling can lead to the spread of Aspergillus and it can cause certain foods that would otherwise be safe to become toxic. Aflatoxin are a group of toxins produced by certain species of the fungi Aspergillus. This toxin can contaminant peanuts, cereals and grains if they are not stored properly. Peanuts are more prone to Aspergillus contamination. Storing these items in warm, damp, dark conditions promotes the growth of this fungus and that can lead to aspergillosis.
Periods of physiological stress, such as during mating and egg laying, poor nutrition, unsanitary conditions, and prolonged use of certain medications can make birds more susceptible to infection.
What Are The Symptoms?There are two different forms of the disease, acute and chronic. Birds with an acute case of aspergillosis can show severe difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, frequent drinking and urination, cyanosis (a bluish coloration of mucous membranes and/or skin), and even sudden death.
Chronic aspergillosis, which is more common, is more lethal because the symptoms don't appear until the disease has progressed extensively. The respiratory system is the primary area of infection, and white nodules appear and erode through the tissue. The spores enter the blood stream and travel throughout the body, infecting multiple organs such as the kidneys, skin, muscle, liver, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, and brain. The fungus can affect the trachea, syrinx (voice box), air sacs, and lungs, as well. If the lungs are directly involved, the bird will have difficulty breathing or exhibit exercise intolerance. The bird may have a change in voice, reluctance to talk, or a "click" if the syrinx is affected.
Depending on the organs involved, other symptoms might include an uneven gait, seizures, green discoloration of the urates, and an enlarged liver. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are similar to other diseases. Because aspergillosis isn't very common, it many times doesn't get diagnosed until an autopsy is performed.
How Can You Treat It?If your bird shows any of these symptoms, you should immediately see your avian veterinarian to determine the cause. If diagnosed, surgery can be performed to remove lesions, or antifungal drugs can be used.
How Is It Prevented?The best way to prevent this disease is through cleanliness. Keep your bird in a well-ventilated area and make sure that his cage is cleaned regularly to prevent fungus from growing. Change cage papers daily and deep clean your bird's cage at least once a month. Fresh food is key. It's important to offer your bird fresh food and water daily, so try to give your bird the amount of food he will eat in one day. This will alleviate the chance of the old food getting contaminated and lessen the risk of your bird eating or breathing in harmful fungi. In addition, limit exposure to ingredients prone to aspergillus, like peanuts, in your bird's diet. If you do feed peanuts, only give your bird high-quality peanut products that are intended for human consumption and carefully store these products to prevent mold.
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