Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) - Part 1

1. What is PBFD?

PBFD is a disease caused by a very small stable virus called a Circovirus. The virus is associated with beak deformities and the replacement of normal feathers with deformed quills. It is also associated with immunosuppression, often resulting in death.

2. What is the route of transmission?

The ingestion or inhalation of faeces or feather dust. Parents may pass it to chicks during feeding.

3. What are the clinical signs of PBFD in the acute form?

Vomiting and regurgitation with very few feather changes and death within 1-2 weeks may be seen.

4. What are the signs of chronic PBFD?

Feather and beak discolouration and deformities. Secondary infections to common illnesses are often seen in these immunodeficient birds. Birds may live with the chronic form of the disease from 6 months to 15-20 years.

5. In which birds is PBFD seen?

It is seen in all parrot species. The disease’s most noticeable signs are in the Cockatoo species. It most commonly affects young birds (in their first year) but can affect birds of any age.

6. How is PBFD identified in the live bird?

Most avian veterinarians can identify the feather changes in the common forms of PBFD.

A feather test for antigen (from viral particles) and a blood test for antibodies is available. Biopsies of the feathers and the feather follicles may also identify viral particles. A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on blood, feathers and faeces has also recently become available.

7. What is the treatment for PBFD?

There is no specific treatment for PBFD. The secondary infections need to be treated and a non-stressful environment combined with a balanced diet may help during the course of the disease.

8. Will any birds fully recover?

Birds with no antibodies to the virus are unlikely to fully recover and in these birds PBFD is commonly fatal. Birds that produce an antibody response may recover or become carriers of the virus. Some possible carriers include lorikeets, budgies and lovebirds.




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