Choosing the Right Vet for Your Pet

4 Things Bird Owners Need To Know About Macaw Wasting Disease

Macaw wasting disease, also known as proventricular dilatation disease, is a viral infection that mostly affects macaws and conures, though all parrots are suspected to be susceptible. Here are four things bird owners need to know about macaw wasting disease.

How does macaw wasting disease spread?

Macaw wasting disease is caused by the avian bornavirus. Researchers still aren't sure how this virus spreads from bird to bird, though they suspect a fecal-oral transmission. It's thought that birds get sick when they consume food or water that has been contaminated with virus-laden feces.

Infected birds can harbor the virus for several years before developing symptoms, so it's possible that your bird was already sick when you brought them home from the pet store.

What are the symptoms?

If your bird develops macaw wasting disease, you'll notice that they're eating more food, but still losing weight. When you examine their feces, you'll notice that the feces contains undigested food, like whole seeds. Your bird may also regurgitate their food.

The disease can also cause neurological symptoms in some birds. Frighteningly, researchers think that the virus makes an infected bird's immune system attack its own nervous system. If this happens to your bird, they'll have convulsions, tremors, blindness, or other neurological symptoms.

How is the disease treated?

The main treatment for macaw wasting disease is to feed your bird easily digestible foods. To make their pellets easier to digest, mash the pellets and mix the resulting powder with enough water to form a paste, then feed the paste to your bird through a syringe. Seeds can also be mashed and fed in this way. Fruits and vegetables are essential to ensure your parrot gets enough vitamins, but make sure to steam vegetables such as carrots so that your bird can digest them more easily.

A vet, like those at East Valley Animal Clinic, may recommend giving your parrot non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like meloxicam or celecoxib to make your pet more comfortable. These drugs work by controlling inflammation, which can help to suppress the clinical signs of the disease.

How can you protect your other birds?

If one of your parrots is diagnosed with macaw wasting disease, immediately quarantine them to protect the others. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the virus that causes this disease doesn't last long in the environment, so you can limit its spread with a combination of good hygiene and ultraviolet light.

If one of your birds is showing the signs of macaw wasting disease, take them to an exotics vet right away.