What are Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a disease that is transmitted between birds through direct contact and therefore can spread relatively easily. This disease has a number of symptoms that may be noticed and recognized in your bird such as weight loss and dull appearance. However, it is important to recognize that your bird may present without symptoms and then suddenly appear to be ill. 

Trichomoniasis can mimic many other conditions that result in similar signs of sickness; however, one characteristic of this disease is the lesions that will present on your bird’s crop and esophagus. There are certain times of the year that the disease is more prevalent (late summer and early fall).

Trichomoniasis is a disease caused by the protozoa trichomonas gallinae. This condition is highly contagious among birds, but does not travel to other animals or humans. The condition may result in a sudden onset of symptoms in your bird without warning.

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Symptoms of Trichomoniasis in Birds

The following symptoms are commonly identified with trichomoniasis:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Discomfort (from the lesions traveling down your bird’s mouth and into his esophagus) 
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia 
  • Ruffled/dull appearance 
  • Difficulty standing or keeping his balance
  • Can not close his mouth due to the lesions
  • Difficulty breathing as his esophagus swells 
  • Difficulty swallowing (his throat can swell causing a blockage and difficulty swallowing)
  • Difficulty eating/drinking
  • Diarrhea (green in color) 
  • Neck may appear puffy (this may appear to be his being ‘fluffed up’)

Causes of Trichomoniasis in Birds

The cause of trichomoniasis can be broken down into the ways it is transferred amongst birds and the time of year it is when it occurs.

  • Can infect their young via feeding – This is done during the regurgitation process of mother birds feeding their young; they can continuously be carriers to their offspring
  • Can pass the infection on to other adult birds via contaminated water, food or bedding
  • Can be passed on during courtship as well – Due to the nature of beak to beak contact during courtship, birds can pass this disease along to one another
  • Higher concentration of birds can lead to a higher risk of contracting the disease 
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • These periods have the highest risk of infection for birds

Diagnosis of Trichomoniasis in Birds

Diagnosis of this disease will need to be done by your veterinarian. It will be important to share with your veterinarian any symptoms listed above that you noticed in your bird and for how long. It will also be important to discuss with your veterinarian how your bird may have come into contact with this disease.

Diagnosis will be done via physical exam as your veterinarian will be able to notice the lesions that are characteristic of the disease (yellow-white and can even take on a cheese like texture) in your bird’s mouth, esophagus and crop. Once the lesions have been identified, your veterinarian may want to test any discharge your bird may have in his beak, samples from the lesions, or from the cheesy material in his mouth/throat. This material will be examined under a microscope to identify the parasite.

Treatment of Trichomoniasis in Birds

When it comes to treatment options, there are a few medications that can be administered to your bird to help treat the trichomoniasis. These antiprotozoal medications are as follows: 

  • Ronidazole in your bird’s water for 7 days
  • Carnidazole in a single dose
  • Metronidazole can be used for 2-10 days via oral application
  • Copper sulfate, Quaternary Ammonia, Emtryl and dimetridazole have all been used with success as well

Recovery of Trichomoniasis in Birds

If your bird’s symptoms are caught in time his prognosis is good. However, this condition can be fatal with no visible or noticeable signs to indicate there was a problem. Getting your bird to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms will only help result in a better outcome.

To prevent further infection, it is important to keep your bird’s cage or living environment clean of any possible contamination. It will also be important to keep his water and food dishes cleaned out regularly and free of droppings. Lastly, ensuring that infected birds are treated and not introduced back into the environment if there are other birds that are susceptible will help to stop further infection.