Pneumonia, or more correctly pneumonitis, is a term used to describe any inflammatory change in the lungs. True asthma is non-inflammatory and is therefore not included. Pneumonia can be a response to chemical, mechanical or infectious challenge. Pneumonic changes in part of a lung are rarely diagnosed in the live bird, being found only at post-mortem examination. Many diseases called "pneumonia" by the public are more often a type of respiratory embarrassment due to oedema or water-logging of the lungs caused by circulatory disease or, in the case of budgerigars, due to thyroid enlargement. Pressure on the lungs by tumours, other abdominal masses, or lesions in the airsacs are other causes of respiratory distress. "Pneumonia," like "asthma," is therefore a much over-used term and frequently an inaccurate diagnosis. Important types of pneumonia are those caused by infections. Organisms which have been incriminated include various pus-forming germs such as Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. Sometimes the lungs are affected in septicaemias due to organisms such as Pasteurella, Yersinia, Erysipelothrix. Salmonella species and Escherichia coli. Mycoplasma or so-called pleuropneumonia-like organisms are occasionally involved. Sometimes, ornithosis (psittacosis) or a viral infection may be the original cause of the pneumonia. The fungi Aspergillus and more rarely Candida cause lesions in the lungs as well as in the airsacs. There is no ready means of detecting the causal organism in the live bird because swabs taken from the nostrils, mouth or droppings do not necessarily contain it, therefore treatment in most cases is a matter of trial and error. The best course of action is to use a broad-spectrum antibiotic which has an effect on a wide range of bacteria. Tetra-cyclines are safe and most likely to be effective, but sometimes sulphadimidine may be useful. These drugs can be given by mouth if the respiration is not too difficult, or preferably by subcutaneous injection. If a fungous disease is suspected, a nystatin aerosol may be tried, or oral administration of potassium iodide. Response, however, is frequently poor. Affected birds should be isolated, and if a group is at risk by direct contact, the preventive or prophylactic dosing of all birds with an appropriate drug is strongly advised.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.