Most people are aware (and wary) of chlamydia, but it's probably not something that you think can affect your pets. Chlamydia psittaci is an infection that can be deadly to birds, both wild and domesticated. Known as psittacosis when it infects birds, it can spread from an infection source (such as the droppings of an infected bird) to the lungs of a healthy bird, where it produces flu-like symptoms which can quickly overwhelm the bird.
Caged indoor birds essentially live in a closed environment where an infection is unlikely, though not impossible. Birds living in outdoor aviaries might be more susceptible to infection. While psittacosis poses a significant threat when a bird is infected, it's also possible for the infection to be spread to a human, usually presenting itself as respiratory distress. So how can you spot the signs of psittacosis in a pet bird and take the quick action necessary to help your bird and protect your own health?
Symptoms and Treatment
If you should notice that your bird rapidly develops watery eyes, diarrhoea and seems to be experiencing respiratory distress, it's vital that you take them for immediate treatment, ideally to an avian vet specialist. The infection can quickly overwhelm the bird's system, so prompt treatment is vital. The vet will administer antibiotics. This might be via the bird's water supply, or as a direct injection in advanced cases. The vet might also wish to quarantine the infected bird.
Other Birds and Preventative Measures
If you should have other birds at home, whether in the same enclosure or not, they should be assessed too. You will also need to take preventative measures to prevent any substances with psittacosis in the enclosure from reinfecting your birds. This simply involves moving the birds to another cage while their primary enclosure is given an exhaustive cleaning, with the base materials (newspaper, straw, or gravel) removed and replaced, as well as any toys, feeding bowls, perches or nesting boxes scrubbed with warm soapy water, rinsed and allowed to dry. Ask your vet if they recommend any special cleaning products should be used in your instance.
Your Own Health
You will also need to consider your own health, as well as that of anyone else who lives in your home. Contact your doctor and tell them you might have been exposed to psittacosis via your pet bird. Your doctor might wish to take precautionary measures (such as prescribing antibiotics) if they believe it to be necessary.
It's always distressing when a beloved pet becomes unwell, but when a bird begins to exhibit the signs of psittacosis, quick action is vital. Talk to your vet specialist for more information.