Choosing the Right Vet for Your Pet

4 Things Parrot Owners Need To Know About Pacheco's Disease

Parrots are susceptible to many serious diseases, and as a responsible bird owner, you need to be aware of these diseases. One life-threatening disease that your pet may develop is Pacheco's disease, a serious viral illness. Here are four things you need to know about parrots and Pacheco's disease.

How does Pacheco's disease spread?

Pacheco's disease is caused by the psittacid herpesvirus, a type of herpesvirus that affects parrots, and occasionally, other types of birds such as toucans. This virus is very contagious and can be spread by healthy carriers; these carriers shed the virus into their environment and infect other birds.

The virus can be spread through direct contact between birds, through the air, or through feces-contaminated food and water. Since the virus has multiple transmission routes, it spreads easily from bird to bird.

What are the symptoms of Pacheco's disease?

Most of the time, according to NIH, parrots with Pacheco's disease die suddenly and look perfectly healthy until the time of their death, which can be confusing for owners. If your vet performs an autopsy, they may discover necrosis of the liver or spleen, which suggests Pacheco's disease as a possible cause of death. Blood testing can be done to confirm this theory.

In some cases, symptoms are present. The main symptom is bright yellow urates with very little feces, though you may also notice vague symptoms like tiredness or not being interested eating. If you notice these signs, take your parrot to a vet immediately. 

Can the disease be treated?

Your vet can treat your parrot with acyclovir, an antiviral drug that is used to treat herpes and AIDS in humans. This drug is given to sick birds intravenously in conjunction with supportive treatments like intravenous fluids, painkillers, and other remedies. If your bird recovers, they may become a latent carrier of the virus, and may be able to infect other birds in the future.

How can you prevent the spread of this disease?

If one of your parrots develops Pacheco's disease, you'll need to take steps to keep the rest of them safe. There is a vaccine available for the disease, and when used in past outbreaks, it has been shown to help reduce mortality. Your vet may also recommend adding powdered acyclovir to your healthy parrots' food to protect them. Make sure to quarantine recovered birds as they may be able to infect the others.

If your parrot is showing signs of Pacheco's disease, take them to an emergency vet immediately, such as the Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialists & 24-Hour Emergency Hospital. This disease is very serious, but with prompt treatment, your pet may survive.