What is Psittacine Proventricular Dilatation Disease?

Psittacine Proventricular Dilation disease in birds was discovered over forty years ago, as veterinarians noticed this disease, also known as Macaw Wasting Disease, was being suffered by Macaws as they gradually were “wasting away”.  The birds suffering from PDD were imported from Germany into the USA. This disease affects more than 50 species of birds, typically birds as pets.

The proventriculus is the thin area of the bird which lies between the crop and the gizzard. It is also referred to as the true stomach. With PDD, the nerves that assist the muscles of the true stomach, or proventriculus, and other digestive system parts have difficulty working properly.  As a result, the food the bird eats does not properly flow through the digestive system, preventing the nutrients from absorption. The nerves that supply the other organs can cease to work properly.  Encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, can occur as a result.

Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD) is a disease which can affect psittacines (parrots). This disease was first discovered and diagnosed in 1978 by Dr. Hannis Stoddard. This disease is also known as Macaw Wasting Syndrome. It may also be referred to as Avian Bornavirus by some medical professionals.

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Symptoms of Psittacine Proventricular Dilatation Disease in Birds

Symptoms of PDD can be quite severe. Birds affected can have various symptoms, or all of the following symptoms. They include:

  • Weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Undigested food in the feces or vomit
  • Convulsions
  • Ataxia
  • Weakness
  • Blindness
  • Gastrointestinal upset or irritation
  • Regurgitation

Types

There are several types of birds in which Psittacine Proventricular Dilation disease is more commonly found. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of this condition if you have one of these types of avian companions. Types include:

  • African Grey parrots
  • Conures
  • Cockatoos
  • Macaws
  • Amazon parrots

Causes of Psittacine Proventricular Dilatation Disease in Birds

Psittacine Proventricular Dilation disease may be related to avian bornavirus, and birds exposed to this virus may become affected. Causes may include:

  • Nerves become inflamed with an overabundance of white blood cells
  • Stomach muscles become impaired
  • Digestion difficulties
  • Heat
  • Dry environment
  • Exposure to disinfectants
  • Spread by fecal contamination 
  • Virus is airborne

Diagnosis of Psittacine Proventricular Dilatation Disease in Birds

If your bird is showing signs of Proventricular Dilatation Disease, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will then take blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. There are several different tests that are performed to test for this disease.

After a full physical examination, your veterinarian may conduct a test using barium called contrast radiography. This test may reveal an enlarged and inflamed proventriculus and a typical ventriculus. There are additional tests that can be relied upon, such as blood tests for avian bornavirus, which may be a possibility that it triggered your bird’s condition.  

To test specifically for avian bornavirus, a polymerase chain reaction test may also be conducted by way of choanal samples, cloacal swabs, or fecal swabs. This will reveal to your veterinarian if your bird is suffering from ABV. A serologic assay can also confirm the presence of the disease.

Your veterinarian may perform other laboratory testing to also will out any differential diagnoses. Differential diagnoses may be a heavy metal toxicity, an intestinal obstruction from a foreign body, internal neoplasia, and any gastrointestinal infection or inflammation.

Treatment of Psittacine Proventricular Dilatation Disease in Birds

Isolation

If your bird has been diagnosed with PDD, he will need to be isolated according to your veterinarian. It is imperative that affected birds are kept away from the healthy birds, as it can spread from bird to bird through fecal matter.

Dietary Changes

Your veterinarian may recommend a softer, blander diet for your bird. Introducing foods that are very easily digested can help. Your veterinarian will recommend a diet for your bird that can be tolerated much easier.

Living Condition Changes

A clean environment with good hygiene is important to prohibit the disease from spreading within the home. Also, an ultraviolet light can help limit the spread of this disease.

Medications

Your veterinarian may recommend an anti-inflammatory medication in the form of NSAIDS. A few of these medications are known as meloxicam or celecoxib. These NSAIDS will allow the bird to adjust to his new diet and alleviate any inflammation and pain your bird may have.

Recovery of Psittacine Proventricular Dilatation Disease in Birds

Your veterinarian will talk to you about your options and can give you professional advice on how to properly care for your bird in his environment. This virus is very contagious, and your veterinarian will stress to you that you must keep your bird isolated for a specific time period.

Your medical professional will explain how to properly monitor your bird and tell you what to watch for in terms of new symptoms. He will communicate to you methods on how to treat any secondary infections or diseases and how to feed him properly. Unfortunately, this condition is typically fatal. Continuing to love and care for your bird at home, as long as he is isolated, may be your only option at this time. Some owners make the decision to perform humane euthanization on birds that are severely impacted by this fatal disease.