In May 2011 I bought a beautiful whiteface pearl cockatiel I named Elendil (not realizing the bird was female) from a pet store on Kings Highway near the Kings Hwy N train station — not knowing the cage was filthy and that yellow on her tail was excrement. Elendil flew away upon my move to Johnstown Pennsylvania in October, 2012 — but her life and the lessons learned about Psittacosis — lives on.
Psittacosis: Not a Death Sentence for Your Bird
Originally posted February 1st, 2012
It is no secret I love my birds and do absolutely everything I can to provide the best housing, food, toys, and enrichment opportunities for them. When it comes to successful aviculture, regular visits to an avian veterinarian are an important but often overlooked part of keeping healthy birds. Many expert sources advise a physical for all new birds to one’s home, before allowing the new bird(s) to interact with any other birds or pets you are keeping.
This simple piece of advice saved the lives of all my birds when, in late May 2011, I brought home from a Brooklyn pet store a new flock member, a whiteface pearl cockatiel cock I named Elendil . What my sight loss and the placement of the pet store cage prevented me from seeing at first was a tail encrusted with runny yellow feces-and a crippled left foot. A few hours after settling him into his cage, the foot issues manifest. I called the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine (88th & Columbus Ave, New York, NY) for the next available appointment for him. Two days later, my vet looked at Elendil and told me the meaning of these abnormal feces: PSITTACOIS, also known as “parrot fever” and scientifically known as Chlamydia psittaci or Ornithosis. Psittacosis is highly contagious-not only between birds, but between birds and humans. For this reason, our ancestors dealt with the disease by slaughtering affected birds.
Fortunately for Elendil, today’s avian veterinarians now have an antibiotic solution to this painful and lethal disease. The treatment is far from cheep, but for parrots, with their expected life spans in the decades, it is an investment worth making.
If your bird contracts Psittacosis, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe doxycycline. My vet administered Elendil’s doxycycline in weekly shots for six weeks. Depending on your bird’s specific situation, additional medication, administered by you orally once or twice per day at home, may also be required. Elendil’s treatment involved a total of three different oral medications. In addition, I had to purchase a hospital cage, special perches, stainless steel food dishes, a small aquarium to weigh him in, and a gram scale for twice daily weightings. These are the standard expenses you should expect. Like Elendil, your bird may need a few days in ICU during the early part of treatment.
Today, Elendil is a happy, healthy young bird almost one year old, still very much a toddler. Despite the crippled foot, he is doing very well.
Psittacosis used to be a death sentence. Today it is treatable…and well worth the expense!