Psittacosis… A Zoonotic Disease

Greenie and LucyPsittacosis, also called ornithosis and previously known as Parrot Fever, is a bacterial disease that can strike birds. They can succumb to it directly or merely carry it and shed the bacteria into the environment posing a risk to other birds and even humans. Cockatiels and budgies (parakeets) are most commonly infected; however, all parrots and many other birds, such as pigeons and doves, can also become infected or act as carriers.  Infected birds with a good immune system can be asymptomatic, however they may actively shed the bacteria in their feces and their respiratory secretions. During times of stress, such as molting, owners traveling, visitors staying in the home, changing the position of a bird’s cage, etc, an asymptomatic carrier may become sick with the disease .  Stress and a poor immune system are underlying reasons that people contract Psittacosis. Diseases that spread from animals or birds to humans are called ZOONOTIC diseases.

Seven the cockatiel 5-513Symptoms of Psittacosis in birds can vary. Birds can present with respiratory symptoms such as discharge from their eyes or nares, coughing, sneezing or wheezing.  Very commonly Psittacosis affects other organs in the body such as the liver, spleen and the GI tract.  The urates (or white portion of the stool) commonly turn a yellow or a lime green color. Birds can lose their appetite, become fluffed and have diarrhea.  If this disease is caught in a timely fashion, your vet can treat your bird successfully via weekly antibiotic injections for 6 weeks.

At St. Marks Veterinary Hospital we recommend testing all birds for Psittacosis.  Any new avian additions should be kept in a separate area from other birds for 30-60 days if possible. After the quarantine period and after testing, the birds may be introduced to each other…. although there are never any guarantees since birds may test negative and they can still harbor the bacteria.

Cooper Lesser 7-23-13Humans most commonly acquire Psittacosis through aerosolized infected bird droppings, although respiratory secretions can also spread the disease. In people with a good immune system, Psittacosis may mimic the symptoms of a cold that is self-limiting. However, if an individual is stressed or is immune compromised, they may become extremely ill. A very high fever (hence the previous name Parrot Fever), malaise, muscle aches and atypical pneumonia are common sequelae of the disease.  It is VERY important as a bird owner to be sure that your physician knows you own a bird, especially if you are sick. Again, it is a very treatable disease as long as it is treated immediately.

Please be sure your bird visits your veterinarian for annual exams.  Our goal is to keep you and your birds healthy so that you may enjoy a long, happy and healthy life together!

Labor Day Safety Tips for Pets

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1. Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals.

2. Always assign a dog guardian. No matter where you’re celebrating, be sure to assign a friend or member of the family to keep an eye on your pooch-especially if you’re not in a fenced-in yard or other secure area.

3. Made in the shade. Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water, and make sure they have a shady place to escape the sun.

4. Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of paws’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing-or even kidney disease in severe cases.

5. Keep your pet on his normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pet severe indigestion and diarrhea.

6. Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingesting any of these items can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression in your pets, and if inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia.

7. Never leave your dog alone in the car. Traveling with your dog means occasionally you’ll make stops in places where he’s not permitted. Be sure to rotate dog walking duties between family members, and never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle.

8. Make a safe splash. Don’t leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers.

Source: http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/labor-day-pet-safety-tips

Ticks, Mosquitoes, and Intestinal Parasites, OH MY!

All the pets of NYC are out and about enjoying the spring weather, but so are all the bad bugs that can cause disease in our furry friends. People think that just because we live in a concrete jungle as opposed to a green one, the threats of the great outdoors aren’t there. They are mistaken. The risk of diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and intestinal parasites are prevalent in New York City and you need to be informed so that your pets are protected!

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Heartworm Disease: Heartworms are parasites that are carried by mosquitoes and can infect our dogs and cats. The larvae are transmitted to the animal when the mosquito bites. As they mature they go to the heart and can grow to up to a foot in length! These worms can cause fatigue or cough. Believe it or not, mosquitoes love the city because they breed in stagnant water. Thankfully, heartworm disease is completely preventable by giving your dog heartworm preventative in the form of a tablet once a month. If an animal becomes infected, the treatment is very expensive and painful (deep muscle injections). Even dogs that never leave the apartment are susceptible because mosquitoes can come through unscreened windows (I have been bitten and my apartment is on the fourth floor!). Therefore, it is recommended to keep your dogs on heartworm preventative year round and a blood test annually to make sure they do not have this horrible disease.

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Lyme Disease: Dogs can get Lyme disease if they are bitten by a tick carrying the disease.  Lyme disease can cause arthritis and swelling of the joints, fever, lameness, and kidney failure. While it is true that apartment dogs that never go to the park have a decreased risk of infection, any dog that frequents wooded areas or is lucky enough to go out to Long Island or upstate NY, NJ, PA or CT is at risk of being infected.  Ticks can be prevented by topical or oral monthly medication.  It’s recommended to test our dogs for Lyme disease (and other tick-borne diseases) with an annual blood test.

 

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Intestinal ParasitesProbably the most prevalent creepy crawlies that our furry friends can get are the parasites they pick up from the dog park and the streets.  Giardia, roundworms, whipworms and hookworms are commonly acquired in our city pets and can sometimes even be transferred to us!  These bugs can cause diarrhea and weight loss or no symptoms at all.  Checking a fecal at least once a year is recommended (even when there are no signs).  Thankfully monthly heartworm preventative can also prevent against most of these parasites.

 

Here at St. Marks Veterinary Hospital we are happy to see the beginning of warm weather but we hope that you keep your family and pets protected against the diseases that come along with it! Hope to see you and your pets soon!  Maria Racioppo, DVM