Unfortunately, despite all our best efforts, sometimes our birds contract respiratory and airways infections and one of the most common of those is called Aspergillosis. This is a fungal infection that attacks the respiratory tract of the bird and causes illnesses.
There are two forms of Aspergillosis, acute and chronic, and the symptoms are a result of which type of the infection the bird has. The most common area of infection is the air sacs of the lungs but it can also spread to the bronchi, the trachea and the voice box, called the syrinx. It can even spread to other organs.
Acute Aspergillosis is most often found in young birds or those that have recently been imported from another country. It tends to last for just a short time but is more severe than the chronic version with birds experience breathing difficulties and a lack of appetite. If left untreated, it can be fatal. When the air sacs become inflamed due to the condition, it is known as airsacculitis and a vet’s examination would find that the air sacs are lined with a white mucus and nodules can form on the lungs.
Chronic Aspergillosis tends to be found in older captive birds and takes place over a longer time. Infected birds tend to be listless, depresses and generally to seem weak as well as having difficulties breathing. These symptoms only occur after the infection has been in their systems for a little while and the changes that it can bring about may be permanent. At the most extreme, it can lead to misshaping of the upper respiratory tract – this is the nose, trachea and syrinx as well as severely damaging the lungs and even spreading to other organs. Finally, if the infection spreads to the central nervous system, tremors may develop along with a loss of coordination and even paralysis.
What causes Aspergillosis?
The disease Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus of the same name and the spores it creates that in turn infect the airways of the birds. These spores can be found in food, water, nest boxes, nesting materials and even incubators that have become infected as well as from the environment.
Birds become more likely to get infections if they have vitamin A deficiencies, if they are malnourished or suffering from stress. This means that their immune system is low and they are more susceptible to infection.
Treating and preventing
Prevention is always better than cure, as the old saying goes but if the bird picks up the infection from their environment, this can be difficult. However good ventilation and hygiene can help reduce this risk as well as monitoring birds to ensure they have no conditions that can affect their immune system and leave them vulnerable.
If a bird does contract the illness, a visit to the vet can be necessary. There are anti-fungal treatments available that can stop the infection depending on its type and severity. If you suspect your bird has a condition, then quarantining it from other birds is crucial, as is early treatment.