Sunday, February 17, 2008

Water Filters

We recommend that birds be given bottled water (please check for quality) or water from a good home-treatment system. Home-treatment systems can be confusing, though. Here is a brief description of several types.
The type of treatment system to acquire depends on what problems your water supply has; therefore, it is best to have your water tested. Alternatively, public water departments should have an analysis on file, and you can request a copy of it.
In general, the types of contaminants to be concerned about include:
  • Bacteria, Giardia/protozoa, cryptosporidium
  • Inorganic chemicals (such as nitrates)
  • Organic chemicals (such as pesticides, industrial chemicals)
  • Chlorine and fluorine
  • Minerals (hard water)
  • Sediment, particulate matter

Reverse Osmosis: Filtration generally removes inorganic contaminants, such as nitrates.

Mechanical Filtration: Removes sediment and microbes, such as Giardia, bacteria and cryptosporidium.

Activated Charcoal: This is best for removing organic materials such as pesticides, herbicides and the trihalomethanes formed by chlorinating water. Some systems combine all of these types of treatment and would be the right choice if your water supply has problems in all three areas.

Water Distillers: These are available as well, but we do not recommend them. They tend to remove healthy minerals and may not remove volatile organic compounds (pesticides) and microbes, such as Giardia cysts.

The last type of water treatment is a water softener. This is good at removing minerals, including lead and iron, but does nothing for bacterial contaminants, Giardia cysts, nitrates, or pesticides. If the only problem you have is hard water, these devices are effective. But the advice would be to check with the public water deparment for a water analysis

To determine the best type of home-treatment system for your specific needs, please ask your public water department for a water analysis or have it professionaly tested yourself.

Reference: "Holistic Care For Birds" by David McCluggage, DVM and Pamela Leis Higdon

Necessity of Avian Veterinary Care

The AVMA survey indicated both good and bad news for avian practitioners. On the negative side, pet bird owners overall are not likely to seek veterinary care. In 2001, only 11.7% of bird owners in the USA reported at least one veterinary visit. In comparison, 83.6% of dog owners and 65.3% of cat owners reported at least one veterinary visit in 2001. On the positive side, however, a 6 year survey indicated the average number of veterinary visits for pet birds actually increased. An estimated 2 million avian veterinary visits occurred in 2001, compared to 1.6 million in 1996. This represents a solid increase in demand for the services of avian veterinarians. More evidence for this conclusion can be seen in the fact that veterinary expenditures for bird owners increased dramatically from 37 million dollars in 1991 to 135 million dollars in 2001.

It is interesting to note those veterinary services most commonly purchased for pet birds. Examinations are purchased most frequently, followed by laboratory tests, then emergency care. While many bird-owning clients appreciate the value of preventive medicine, far too many others consult the avian veterinarian only in time of medical crisis.

Slightly more than half of surveyed clients selected their regular dog and cat veterinarian to provide care for their avian pets. Encouragingly enough, 24.2% made their selection based on the fact that the veterinarian was a bird specialist. (Note that this survey does not distinguish between veterinarians who are board-certified avian specialists and those claiming a "special interest" in avian medicine.) Discouragingly, just as many clients chose a veterinarian based simply on location.

It is obvious avian practitioners have a great deal of work to do to catch up to our fellow dog and cat practitioners. While bird owners who do seek regular veterinary care are generally seeking a higher quality of care and more frequent visits for their pets, it is obvious the great majority of bird owners either are unaware such services are available or not convinced of their value.

Reference: "Cinical Avian Medicine - Vol I & II" by Harrison and Lightfoot.

Speical Note from Bird Lovers Only Rescue: Birds are expert at masking their illnesses and many bird owners believe them to be healthy because of it....until they wake up one morning to find their bird dead at the bottom of the cage without any previous signs or warnings to indicate that something was wrong. Dogs and cats do not mask their illnesses as birds do because birds behave instinctively to demonstrate health and strength in the wild to avoid appearing vulnerable to other birds and predators. This instinctive behavior does not change in your home. Please take your birds in for yearly exams and tests to a board-certified avian veterinarian. You can find one close to you by going to We thank you!

Treat Street

"Beaks Fruit Birdie Bread"

  • 1 cup organic corn meal
  • 1 cup organic coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 8 oz organic applesauce
  • 8 oz organic fruit baby food (your choice of fruit flavor)
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic chamomile tea (liquid)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut oil (liquid)
  • 1/2 cup organic red palm oil (liquid)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (chopped)

In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients in order listed above except for pine nuts. Mix with hand mixer or standard mixer until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread mixture in greased jelly roll pan, sprinkle pine nuts on top. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. You can then let cool for about 15 minutes, use cookie cutters to shape or just cut with knife. Keep in refrigerator or keep frozen. ENJOY!

Reference: Special thanks to Jason Crean for supplying us with some excellent and HEALTHY bird recipes! Jason Crean is the President of TASC (The Avicultural Society of Chicagoland). TASC is hosting a bird fair on April 5th, 2008. Please visit their web site for further details.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Aspergillosis is an infection of the respiratory system that occurs sporadically in a wide range of birds. Birds from cold and dry climates are highly susceptible to infection. Environments that are conducive to the environmental growth of Aspergillus spp. and environments that are poorly ventilated will result in an increased incidence of aspergillosis. Disease can be localized to the upper airways or the syrinx, or it may involve the air sacs and lungs. Respiratory signs are a common feature of this disease, but a bird may not manifest signs until the disease is advanced. Radiographs, endoscopy and biopsy, cytology and hematology are all valuable tools in the diagnosis of this disease. Even with all these assays, the diagnosis of aspergillosis is often a difficult one.

The diagnosis of aspergillosis has been most extensively studied in humans. Ancillary diagnostic assays used in people include PCR to detect Aspergillus DNA from blood, an ELISA to detect Aspergillus antigen and an ELISA to detect anti-Aspergillus antibody. These studies clearly indicate that even a combination of these three assays will not be adequate to detect many cases of aspergillosis. The problem comes from the fact that most people who contract aspergillosis are immunocompromised. This also may be true in birds. If the infected person's immune system is adequate to contain the disease and the organism is localized in a walled-off granuloma, then these individuals are found to produce antibody. People with generalized disease are generally severely immunocompromised and they do not produce antibody. In these people, Aspergillus antigen and DNA are most likely to be found in the blood, but they are not when the lesion is encapsulated. If the pathophysiology of avian aspergillosis resembles that seen in humans, then none of these assays are likely to detect infection in most infected birds. A combination of these assays may be more specific, but false negatives are to be expected.

Reference: "Clinical Avian Medicine - Vol I and II" by Harrison and Lightfoot


Infection with Chlamydophila psittaci is common in pet birds. Clinical signs vary from none to a mild respiratory disease to a severe multisystemic, often fatal, disease. Psittacosis is particularly important in avian medicine because it can spread widely before it is recognized and because it is a zoonotic and reportable disease. Clinical signs and traditional diagnostic assays such as hematology, clinical pathology and radiology, while helpful, are generally insufficient to specifically diagnose this disease.

No test is 100% sensitive. Therefore, if the greatest degree of sensitivity is sought, the PCR and the EBA (Elementary Body Agglutination Assay) and egg inoculation culture or tissue culture could both be performed when screening parrots. PCR can be combined with the CF when screening doves and pigeons.

Chlamydophila psittaci infections can occur in almost any species of caged bird. The author recommends testing for this organism in most birds presented for new bird purchase examinations. The author especially recommends testing cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) as they can carry this bacterium and not demonstrate clinical signs of disease. The few cases of human infections the author has observed have been acquired from an otherwise healthy pet cockatiel. Pigeons and doves are commonly infected with C. psittaci and should be routinely tested.

Chlamydophila psittaci is a zoonotic intracellular bacterial organism that causes the diseases psittacosis in humans and avian chlamydiosis in avian species. Clinical signs often associated witha psittacosis (human) infection include generalized "flu-like" symptoms to more severe pneumonia and complicating health issues. Avian chlamydiosis will present as non-specific clinical signs in a companion bird patient. These non-specific signs can include ocular, nasal or conjunctival irritation and discharge, anorexia, depression, dehydration, bright green urates and diarrhea. Many avian species have been diagnosed with C. psittaci, but it is the companion bird species where this disease is the greatest public health concern.

It is often difficult to confirm a diagnosis of avian chlamydiosis because of the intracellular life cycle of the organism, prophylactic treatment of patients with appropriate antibiotics but using inappropriate doses and treatment periods, and the periodic shedding of elementary bodies (the infectious form of the disease). The difficulty to confirm avian chlamydiosis cases encourages the veterinarian to use multiple testing methodologies. Testing methods that can be used either individually or preferably in combination include pathology, antibody testing (direct complement fixation and elementary-body agglutination) and antigen testing (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, immunofluorescent antibody tests, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification technology on choanal/cloacal swabs and blood). Prior to sample submission, the diagnostic laboratory should be contacted for recommendations on proper sample collection, labeling, packaging, and shipment of the sample material. A breakdown in sample handling or shipment delay can adversely affect the reliability of C. psittaci test results.

There are several treatment options available to treat suspected or confirmed avian chlamydiosis cases. The treatment options are based on doxycycline as the drug of choice and being administered in the most appropriate way for the patient(s) to receive a therapeutically effective dose for the duration of the 45-day treatment regimen. There have been recent advances in using doxycycline hyclate powder from opened capsules a a seed coating for budgerigars or mixing the powder in water for larger birds. Oral doxycycline (monohydrate or calcium) or intramuscular injections of specific formulations can be effective treating the individual bird or group of birds that will tolerate the stress of capture and drug administration on a regular basis.

Chlamydiosis psittaci is a public health concern and can be a deadly, expensive disease within an aviary or to the individual companion bird. Although difficult to diagnose, avian chlamydiosis can be diagnosed and treated if there is an understanding of the available tests, and the proper tests are used to confirm the presence of the disease. Early communication to a client about the ability of this organism to resist improper treatment and the consequences of discontinuing treatment will often lead to owner compliance with antibiotic administration. In hopes of protecting birds and bird owners in the future, research is currently being conducted to improve C. psittaci diagnostic testing and to develop a vaccine to protect birds from infection if exposed to the infectious elementary bodies.

Reference: "Clinical Avian Medicine - Vol I and II" by Harrison and Lightfoot

Could Chemical Pesticides In Use Today Result In Bird Injuries?

Although chlorpyrifos and diazinon are no longer available for use in the USA, neurotoxic chemicals (including cholinesterase inhibitors, pyrethroids as well as newer entities such as fipronil) are registered for indoor use and can contact a pet bird through diffusing from application sites such as rugs, furniture, the skin of a dog or cat, and bait stations, even if the bird is removed during the actual application process. Two newer insecticides, fipronil and imidacloprid, have been associated with adverse reactions in people and pets when used in flea control programs (J.H. Gainer, personal communication, 2003). Both insecticides are registered for additional uses in and around the home.

By persisting indoors for months or years on rugs or furniture, certain chemical pesticides may present the potential for adverse effects. When applied outdoors, these same chemicals, plus others registered for outdoor use only, can drift indoors through open windows, contacting a caged bird kept nearby, or they can gain access from air intake ducts or be carried indoors on shoes. Birds and/or their environments may be treated with cholinesterase inhibitors such as the insecticide carbaryl (recommended for mite control) or outdated remedies such as the toxic substance paradichlorobenzene (found in moth crystals) used around cages. Further, the effects of multiple chemical exposures can be additive or even synergistic, with greater likelihood of adverse reactions occurring as a result.

Due to concern over West Nile virus, chemical pesticides may be broadcast from an aircraft or from a land-based vehicle in an effort to reduce mosquitoes. Pet birds (and other sensitive individuals) can be protected from contact with these sprays by closing windows and air intake ducts when the application occurs. If possible, a pet owner should obtain information from local governments, professional pest control companies, landscapers or neighbors who apply pesticides as to time, place, and nature of the pesticide product being sprayed close to the home. Greater surveillance of marketed products is needed to collect adverse reaction information. This is especially important for products used in the home and applied to pet animals, such as those products with fipronil and imidacloprid as active ingredients.

Reference: "Clinical Avian Medicine - Vol I and II" by Harrison and Lightfoot


Before it was banned in 2000 for indoor application, the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos was widely used. Chlorpyrifos treatments for cockroaches in a home-based aviary resulted in the eventual loss of the entire breeding bird population of 15 pairs and their offspring. The toxic nature of the chemical as well as actions by the parties involved contributed to this unfortunate outcome. The applicator called the pesticide "safe" and did not appear to know its potential danger to birds, although the owner specifically questioned him about it. The aviary owner accepted the exterminator's assurances of safety and failed to get a second opinion from those knowledgeable in pesticide toxicity to make certain that the pest control methods used truly afforded the lowest possible risk to birds. In an ironic twist, the owner was able to collect financial compensation for theoretical damage to his own health that the birds' deaths had indicated.

Reference: "Clinical Avian Medicine - Vol I and II" by Harrison and Lightfoot

Herbal Therapy

Approximately 25% of our conventional drugs are derived from plants. Conventional drugs typically contain a single active constituent from the plant, whereas herbs provide a broader and more balanced effect on the body through the synergistic actions of the herbal components. Herbs are best prescribed to treat the entire individual and not only the clinical signs. Herbal blends and formulations combine the benefits of multiple herbs, which typically produce a synergistic action while minimizing the potential toxic effects of a single herb. Herbs provide many unique qualities that are very limited in conventional medicine, such as anticancer, antiviral and immunoregulation properties.

Currently, herbal products are not regulated or controlled. Therefore, practitioners and clients must remain cautious in administering a product without evaluating the company and verifying that the active component of the herb or plant actually is in the formulation. Product labels can bear the name of an herb or plant substance as long as some portion of it is present in the formulation, but it does not always imply that the medicinally active constituent is included. Standardized extracts are available for certain herbs through concentrating the active ingredients, resulting in more of a plant drug than an herbal medicine. Standardizing alters the physical and energetic nature of the herb. This process also eliminates the synergistic effects of the myriad chemical components in the plant. For some herbs such as milk thistle, standardization is advantageous, since the specific active constituent is clearly known and purified in the process. Other factors that affect the potency and medicinally active components of the herb include the method and time of harvest, the parts and preparation of the plant that are included and the handling and processing of the finished product. Only well-known and respected herbal companies should be considered when purchasing herbal products. Whenever possible, fresh herbs or vegetable glycerin-based extracts should be used.

Herbs are effective in the treatment of many conditions in birds. Herbal remedies are much more effective than conventional therapy in treating metabolic conditions such as liver and kidney diseases. Herbs are an excellent alternative to antibiotics in the treatment of infectious diseases, with wider antibacterial effects in addition to various antifungal and antiviral actions. Many of these herbal remedies also support the immune system to assist in the full recovery of the patient. Some herbal formulations serve as detoxification agents, antioxidants and anticancer therapies.

Liver disease is a common diagnosis in pet birds. Hepatic lipidosis is often the result of poor nutrition, typically sunflower seed-based diets. Other chronic conditions leading to hepatic disease in birds include repeated aflatoxin exposure, heavy metal toxicity and Chlamydophila spp. Hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis are potential sequelae to these conditions. However, conventional therapy falls short in treatment of these liver diseases. Certain herbs have been used for centuries in the treatment of liver disease in people, and these can be extrapolated for use in birds and other pets. Some of the herbs that support and protect the liver include milk thistle (Silybum marianum), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.), burdock root (Arctium lappa) and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

Reference: "Clinical Avian Medicine Vol I and II" by Harrison and Lightfoot

Bird Talks Radio

Irena Schulz, Founder and President of Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, Inc., will be on Bird Talks Radio on Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 9pm Eastern Time (8pm Central). This is an hour long phone in or email in talk show featuring different speakers weekly and covering a multitude of bird topics. Please go to the web address below for more information about this program.