Avian Chlamydiosis In Pigeons | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Does It Affect Humans?

It is often said that you should stay away from wild birds and keep your pet ones away from them as well. It may sound discriminatory, but it is for your pet’s safety.

The immune systems of wild birds work together differently, and as they live in the wild, they are immune to some of the bacteria which can kill your pet.

One such bacterial disease which can kill your loved pigeon is Avian Chlamydiosis. 

Avian Chlamydiosis is commonly known as parrot fever and Psittacosis as it is caused by the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci.

The disease was earlier called Psittacosis as it is commonly found in birds belonging to the Psittacine family. It includes parrots, cockatiel, macaws, Amazon parrots, lovebirds, conures, etc. You can also add your pet pigeon to the list as the disease easily infects them.

How Pet Birds Get Infected By Avian Chlamydiosis?

You cannot stop wild birds from stopping by in your backyard. Plus, if there are trees around your home, it becomes home for the birds who take shelter during the night.

The wild birds generally carry psittacosis. If you take care of an injured bird or place a baby bird back into its nest and then touch your pigeon, you can be an easy transmitter of the disease.

If you go to bird shows or come into contact with any other bird than your pet pigeon, it can transmit the bacteria. Plus, it is also notable that humans are also prone to Avian Chlamydiosis.

If you bring in a new pigeon, it may carry the bacteria. Isolating the bird for the first few days is always recommended. The dust also contains bacteria, inhaling which can cause AC.

How Does Avian Chlamydiosis Spread?

With plenty of pigeons living in the loft, it is not uncommon that there is crowding at the water and feeding spots. Any pigeon will be infected by Chlamydia psittaci by breathing in the contaminated dust particles or consuming the contaminated food or water.

Related Read: Pigeon breathing with mouth open | Is that a disease symptom?

The mucous, dried saliva, droppings, or feathers of an infected bird can cause contamination.

Related Read: Do Birds Regrow Feathers | Why Do Birds Pluck Their Feathers?

Pigeon Chlamydia may even spread through direct contact with contaminated feces, feathers, droppings, saliva, or mucous.

Chlamydia psittaci bacteria can stay dormant without a host for months in favorable conditions, in the environment.

What are the Symptoms of Avian chlamydiosis?

The symptoms of Avian chlamydiosis depend upon the strain of Chlamydia psittaci and the species of bird that has been affected. The infected birds may seem healthy for several days and become the carrier of infection and only show symptoms later.

The infected birds have the following Chlamydia pigeons symptoms:

  • Secretion of mucous/pus through eyes or nostrils
  • Cough
  • Inappetence
  • Difficulty in moving or flying
  • Sudden death with no warning signs

These clinical symptoms usually surface in infected pigeons, when they are stressed due to being in a new environment or due to transportation.

Related Read: Pigeon Diseases | Common sick pigeon symptoms & Behaviour

How to Diagnose and Treat Avian Chlamydiosis?

You have to discuss with a veterinary physician to determine what type of medical test will be suitable for the diagnosis of this disease, as there are several tests available.

It is possible to run the clinical test on both live and deceased infected pigeons. The following measures are taken after the diagnosis of infection.

  • Isolating the infected birds
  • Disinfecting their cages
  • Treating them with a long course of antibiotics

Chlamydia psittaci treatment may not be 100% effective. There may be a recurrence of infection caused by a different strain of Chlamydia psittaci. It is essential to consult with a veterinary doctor regarding the control measures.

Can the Infection Spread to humans?

Though you are aware that the infection spreads quickly among the pigeons in the loft but the fact is that the Chlamydia psittaci virus may infect humans, if they are in contact with the infected birds, without gloves and other safety gear. Chlamydophilosis may spread to humans and may cause psittacosis.

In humans, psittacosis may cause mild flu-like illness or severe pneumonia depending upon an individual’s immunity and overall health condition.

The infection may spread due to the ingestion or inhalation of contaminated dust or fecal matter.

The bird Chlamydia symptoms in humans are – 

  • Fever with chills and sweating
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dyspepsia

You may experience similar symptoms of common flu. However, the symptoms do not go away easily so consult with a doctor, if you have a bird or an aviary and there is a possibility of Chlamydia psittaci infection.

Is It Possible to Prevent the Spread of Infection?

  • Do not purchase or sell sick birds
  • Promptly seek medical attention after noticing any influenza-like symptoms if you take care of the birds
  • Keep an accurate record of all transactions related to birds for a year. It enables you to identify the sources of infection along with the potentially exposed individuals
  • Regularly clean/scrub/disinfect the cages and bowls for food or water

What is the method of treatment for Avian Chlamydiosis?

Most avian veterinarians will prescribe oral or injectable antibiotics- doxycycline. It only works to kill the active bacteria but the bacteria can become dormant. Thus, antibiotics are usually prescribed for at least 45 days.  

Like any other disease, you need to prevent its spread in the loft, maintain hygiene at all times and ensure that the antibiotic treatment is completed as prescribed by the veterinarian. 

What To Do If an AC Infected Pigeon Dies?

This is a bacterial disease, and if you are careless with the dead body, it can cause an outbreak of the disease in other birds.

Usually, the antibiotics work fine, and the pigeons and humans can be treated. But almost 50% of the infected birds die because they are left unattended.

If the pigeon has reached a stage where saving it is not a possibility, euthanizing the bird is the best option. It will end the suffering and further loss of lives.

It is essential that you dispose of the dead body properly. The carcass should be removed and burned. As it is your beloved pet, and the process may be emotionally draining, but it is required to save other birds.

Also, if you find other birds in your area showcasing the symptoms of AC, you can report them to proper authorities.

Conclusion

It applies to every disease that, instead of thinking about curing it, rather think about its early prevention. It reduces the loss. 

Always pay attention to the pigeon’s behavior, occasionally check their droppings, their feathers, whether they are upset, and take the necessary precautions listed above.

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