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Common Skin & Feather Disorders
Topic Started: Feb 18 2009, 11:40 AM (2,456 Views)
BUUZBEE
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COMMON SKIN AND FEATHER DISORDERS Part I
by Linda Pesek DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)


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There are a number of diseases and disorders which can affect birds skin and feathers. Some may be inherited, while others, such as parasites, can be contracted. Knowing which are serious and what to do if they occur can greatly improve a bird's comfort and even save its life.
Some of the more common skin and feather disorders are discussed below. Others are covered in Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part II.

Feather Cysts

Feather cysts appear as oval or elongated swellings involving a single or several feather follicles. Although they may occur anywhere, they most commonly are found involving the primary feathers of the wings. A feather cyst occurs when a growing feather is unable to protrude through the skin and curls within the follicle. As the feather continues to grow, the mass enlarges and a cheesy exudative material composed of keratin accumulates.

Although feather cysts may be seen in all species, the highest incidence is in Blue and Gold Macaws and certain breeds of canaries.

It is thought these feather cysts may be the result of an inherited predisposition - as in certain species of canaries or acquired as a result of infection or trauma involving the feather follicle.

Treatment consists of surgically removing the involved feather follicles. If the follicle is just incised and the feather with its accumulation of keratin is removed, it will usually recur.

Baldness

Baldness is an acquired loss of feathers on the head. It is commonly seen in canaries. A hormonal imbalance and genetics are believed to be responsible.

Behavioral Feather Picking

Many cases of supposed behavioral feather picking have been found to have an underlying lesion that causes pruitis (itching) and self-trauma. It is very important that the skin is biopsied to be sure that there is no underlying cause leading to the trauma and picking.

Behavioral picking is a diagnosis reached after other causes have been ruled out.

Brown Hypertrophy

This condition is commonly seen in budgies. The cere (the structure containing the nostrils) hypertrophies, becoming cornified and keratinized. It may develop a prominent "hornlike" appearance.

This condition is most common in female birds and is believed to be associated with breeding in females and estrogen secreting gonadal tumors in males.

Polyfollicles, Polyfolliculitis

Polyfollicles is the growth of multiple feather shafts from one follicle. It may cause no problems or may be associated with chronic inflamation in fethers and skin. An itchy pollifelliculitis has been seen in lovebirds and budgies. The tail and dorsal neck area are the most common areas affected. This condition is thought to be caused by a virus.

Mites

The most common primary parasitic disease of companion birds is caused by mites. Several types of mites exist, affecting both feathered and unfeathered skin.

Most mites inhabit the superficial portion of the skin, leading to thickening and flaking. If the cere is involved, the beak becomes malformed. Some mites are superficial and can be found by skin scrape, while other mites penetrate deeply and require a biopsy for diagnosis.

The two most common mites are Knemidokoptes and Myialges.

Knemidokoptes causes a type of mange known as "scaly face" and "scaly leg". This mite burrows in the nonfeathered areas around the cere, beak, eyes, vent and legs. Different species of mites affect different species of birds.

Knemidokoptes is most frequently found in budgies but has been also reported in other species of birds.

The lesions develop very slowly, so that an infected bird may appear normal for a long period of time. It is thought that these mites are acquired in the nest, with the infection remaining latent for a long period of time.

Tiny nonitching wartlike lesions appear at the commissures of the beak or around the cere. Advanced infestation spreads to the unfeathered parts of the body.

The involved beak and skin develop a roughened honeycombed appearance consisting of tiny pits and tunnels. The beak becomes distorted as the mites affect the zone of growth. Many birds will require life-long beak trims and shaping.

Canaries and finches more commonly have their legs and feet affected by these mites. Their legs become scaly and crusty and their claws become overgrown and cracked. Affected birds often become unable to perch.

Secondary bacterial infection and arthritis may occur. These mites are microscopic. Diagnosis is based upon the characteristic physical appearance they produce and skin scrapings. These mites may be affectively treated with ivermectin, an insecticide. "Cage protectors" and mite spray are ineffective in clearing these. Untreated and sometimes treated birds may develop permanent disfigurement.

In pigeons, a type of knemidokoptes causes severe itching and this is often referred to as "depluming scabies". These mites tunnel into feather follicles and feather shafts causing severe itching and feather loss.

Additional disorders such as myialges nudus mites, xanthomas skin patches, ulcerative dermatitis, abscesses and tumors of the uropygial or preen gland and bumble foot are covered in Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part II.

Winged Wisdom Note: Dr. Linda Pesek graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and is a Diplomate of the ABVP in Avian Practice (a Board Certified Avian Veterinarian). She has a small animal and avian practice in New York. Linda also writes columns for The Long Island Parrot Society and The Big Apple Bird Club and is a frequent lecturer at their meetings. She is the owner of an extensive collection of exotic birds.

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BUUZBEE
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COMMON SKIN AND FEATHER DISORDERS Part II
by Linda Pesek DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



There are a number of diseases and disorders which can affect birds skin and feathers. Some may be inherited, while others, such as parasites, can be contracted. Knowing which are serious and what to do if they occur can greatly improve a bird's comfort and even save its life.
Some of the more common skin and feather disorders are discussed below. Others, such as feather cysts, baldness, brown hypertrophy of the cere, polyfollicles, and knemidokoptes mites were covered in a previous article Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part I.

Myialges nudus

A second type of mite that can infect birds is Myialges nudus. This mite most commonly is found on captive grey cheek parakeets, but also has been found on other species of birds. Unlike Cnemitocoptes, discussed in the previous article, Myialges causes severe itching. Infected birds become very debilitated, lose feathers, suffer weight loss and develop red, scaly, thickened skin. If untreated, death occurs within several months. These mites are microscopic, with all stages found in tunnels in the bird's skin. Flies and lice may be involved in transferring these mites to other birds. Diagnosis is by clinical signs and identification of the mites in scrapings from the skin. Treatment is with Ivermectin.

Xanthomas

Xanthomas are yellow to orange thickened, dimpled patches of skin composed of lipids and cholesterol accumulation. The pectoral (breast area), thighs, and wing tips are the most frequently affected. Xanthomas are often invasive as well destructive. These are most prevalent in budgies, cockatiels and cockatoos. The cause of xanthomas is unknown at the present time, but high fat diets may be contributory.

Ulcerative Dermatitis

Ulcerative dermatitis refers to red, oozing, ulcerated skin. The affected area is often swollen and the bird often has an elevated white blood cell count, indicative of infection. Ulcerative dermatitis can be associated with previous trauma, wounds, diabetes and certain intestinal parasites. The bird picks at its skin, creating the ulcers. These sores are frequently itchy, causing the bird to pick at the area more. Bacterial and/or fungal infections may occur secondary to the lesions. Treatment consists of trying to determine the underlying cause, cleaning the wound, using an appropriate topical and systemic antibiotic, and placing a collar to allow the wound to heal. Lovebirds, cockatiels, grey cheeks, amazons and cockatoos are most often affected.

Uropygial Gland/Preen Gland

The uropygial gland is found on the back at the base of the tail in certain species of birds - such as African grey parrots, cockatiels, canaries, budgies, conures and waterfowl. Amazons do not possess this gland. It's secretions are spread on the feathers by grooming and are important in waterproofing. Impactions, abscesses and tumors of this gland may occur.

Bumble foot (pododermatitis)

Bumble foot refers to an inflammatory or degenerative condition of the foot. In mild cases, redness or swelling on the plantar (bottom) surface of the foot, while severe bumble foot involves deep-seated abscesses and infection of the bone. This condition is most prevalent in heavy bodied birds such as amazons, raptors and waterfowl. Many factors are thought to be involved - including poor nutritional status, improper perches, improper environment and trauma to the foot. Early bumble foot can be treated successfully while severe cases involving bone carry a poor prognosis.

Additional disorders such as feather cysts, baldness, brown hypertrophy of the cere, polyfollicles, and knemidokoptes mites were covered in a previous article Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part I.

Winged Wisdom Note: Dr. Linda Pesek graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and is a Diplomate of the ABVP in Avian Practice (a Board Certified Avian Veterinarian). She has a small animal and avian practice in New York. Linda also writes columns for The Long Island Parrot Society and The Big Apple Bird Club and is a frequent lecturer at their meetings. She is the owner of an extensive collection of exotic birds.
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COMMON SKIN AND FEATHER DISORDERS
Part III
by Linda Pesek DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)



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This is the third in a series of articles concerning the diseases and disorders which can affect birds skin and feathers. Part III covers Constricted Toe Syndrome, Dry Gangrene of the extremities, Lipomas and Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD).
Feather cysts, baldness, brown hypertrophy of the cere, polyfollicles, and knemidokoptes mites were discussed in a previous article Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part I.

While additional disorders, such as myialges nudus mites, xanthomas skin patches, ulcerative dermatitis, abscesses and tumors of the uropygial or preen gland and bumble foot were covered in Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part II.

Constricted Toe Syndrome

This condition is seen most often in neonate (young) psittacines - especially African greys, macaws and eclectus. Any toe may be affected. A 360 degree constriction occurs resulting in swelling, loss of blood supply and finally death of the distal portion of the toe. This condition seems similar to the lesion caused by wrapping a piece of string or thread around the toe. The cause of constricted toe syndrome is unknown, but low humidity in the brooder is syspected as part of the cause. If this condition is recognized early, the fibrous band may be removed surgically thus restoring circulation.

Dry Gangrene of the extremities

This condition is seen most commonly in small birds such as canaries, keets and finches, It is caused by improper nesting material becoming wrapped around the toes and feet, cutting off circulation to the digits. Swelling occurs and circulation is compromised distal to the string. If this is recognized early, the string may be removed, restoring circulation. Many birds have so much swelling above and below the constriction it becomes impossible to visualize the thread or string. If circulation has been comporomised, too long, the distal portion of the toe sloughs.

Lipomas

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors. They frequently occur in birds - especially amazons, rosebreated cockatoos and budgies. High energy diets, obesity and genetic predisposition contribute to the development of lipomas.

Lipomas usually occur on the sternum or abdomen, but can occur anywhere. Large lipomas may interfere with perching or flight and may become repeatedly traumatized. Birds may pick at their lipomas causing bleeding and infection.

Conversion to a balanced diet and increased exercise may be adequate for small lipomas, while surgery may be necessary for large ones.

Beak and Feather Disease

Beak and Feather Disease is caused by a cirrovirus. Although first identified in cockatoos, it has been identified in numerous other psittacine species - especially cockatoos, cockatiels and lovebirds. Beak and Feather Disease causes symmetric feather dystrophy and loss, beak abnormalities and eventual death.

Infected birds shed the virus through oral and respiratory secretions, feces and feather dust. The virus attacks the immune system resulting in secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

An age-related susceptibility to the virus is believed to exist because very young birds exposed to the virus often develop severe disease and die while older birds exposed to the virus may remain asymptomatic.

Peracute, acute and chronic forms of Beak and Feather Disease exist. In the peracute form, neonates develop septicemia, pneumonia, rapid weight loss and die. This syndrome is most common in cockatoos and greys.

In the acute form, which occurs in fledgling birds during their first feather formation, depression and the development of necrotic, bending, bleeding or prematurely shed feathers occurs. Some birds may die with minimal feather changes. This form is most common in lovebirds and certain cockatoos.

The chronic form of Beak and Feather Disease is characterized by the progressive appearance of abnormal feathers after each molt. Retained feather sheaths, hemorrage withiin the pulp cavity, and short clubbed feathers may be present. Loss of powder down, abnormal beak growth, necrosis, and fracture of the beak may occur.

All new birds should be blood tested for Beak and Feather Virus as part of their initial health screen.

Additional information on skin and feather disorders, can be found in the other articles in this series - Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part I and Common Skin and Feather Disorders Part II.

Winged Wisdom Note: Dr. Linda Pesek graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and is a Diplomate of the ABVP in Avian Practice (a Board Certified Avian Veterinarian). She has a small animal and avian practice in New York. Linda also writes columns for The Long Island Parrot Society and The Big Apple Bird Club and is a frequent lecturer at their meetings. She is the owner of an extensive collection of exotic birds.

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