Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Causes

What is PBFD?

PBFD is one of the most common viral infections among parrots. It primarily affects cockatoos but can also be found in lovebirds, budgies, macaws and African Greys. It is considered a fatal disease with most infected birds dying between 6 months and 2 years of age. Older birds who catch the disease can recover, although it is believed they become life-long carriers.

What are the symptoms?

Outward symptoms affect the feathers and beak. Feathers become brittle and abnormal-looking. The beak may grow extremely large and start to deform. The bird may also experience a decrease in feather powder, weight loss, diarrhea and depression. You may notice that your bird is no longer interested in his or her bird toys.   He may lose his appetite and refuse to eat.

How is it diagnosed?

PBFD is diagnosed through a blood test, biopsy or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. These tests will look for the presence of the virus in the bird’s system. Tests are not always 100% accurate and many false positives do turn up. If your bird receives a positive result, but appears healthy, make sure he/she is re-tested within 90 days.

How do you treat it?

Unfortunately there is no current treatment for the disease. Parrot owners can provide their feathered loved ones with excellent nutrition, a warm, comfortable environment and regular veterinary care to treat any secondary conditions caused by the virus. Infected birds must be isolated in order to prevent the spread of the disease to other pets.   Experimental vaccines are being developed but are not yet available to the public. In Australia, they have developed a vaccine that helps prevent the disease in young birds. The vaccine is given at 14 days old and a booster a month later. It is still in the testing phase.

How can you prevent it?

Due to the severity and devastating affects of PBFD disease, prospective parrot owners should be extremely careful when purchasing a new bird. Look for responsible breeders whose parrots have a history of health and vitality. If you already own a parrot and are looking to expand your flock, be sure to quarantine your new feathered friend for several weeks. You may also want to test your bird for the disease before allowing it to mingle with your other parrots. If your bird is in quarantine, or has a positive test, do not allow your other birds to share bird stands or a bird perch with your new arrival.   Even if you sanitize a bird stand or bird toys completely, they should never be given to another parrot. Unfortunately, this virus is extremely resistant to disinfectants.

Whether your birds are in sickness or health…remember to love & care for them to the best of your ability.

FunTime Birdy

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