What is Yeast Infection?
There are two types of yeast infection; acute, which is sudden and moves fast, and chronic, which happens over a long period of time. It is difficult to treat yeast infections in birds because of the close contact of large flocks and since the route of transmission is through bird droppings, which are everywhere.
Yeast infection, or candidiasis is an extremely dangerous fungal infection that birds get secondary to an infection or disorder of the crop or from antibiotic treatment. This illness affects young birds, geese, ducks, ibis, quails, turkeys, ostriches, canaries, finches, budgies, and other psittacines. Birds that have systemic diseases such as avian chlamydiosis and mycobacteriosis are more susceptible to yeast infection as well. However, this infection can be found in a bird of any age, breed, or sex. Since this is such a highly contagious fungus, yeast infections almost always affect all chicks in the clutch and will spread rapidly throughout the flock. Some of the symptoms it produces include diarrhea and regurgitation, progressing to chronic wasting and death.
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Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Birds
This infection is almost always chronic and does not usually show symptoms until long after it has begun. However, over a period of 12-18 months you may notice certain gradual changes in your bird. In acute cases, the signs will come on quickly and be fatal within 24 hours. Some of these signs include:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Ruffled feathers
- Crop stasis (slow digestion, swollen crop)
- White throat
- Plaques in mouth (usually white or red)
- Chronic cases are gradual and more common in all other birds
- Acute cases are most often seen in parakeets (budgerigars) and are commonly fatal within 12-24 hours
Causes of Yeast Infection in Birds
The cause of yeast infections in birds is Macrorhabdus ornithogaster, which is fungi that attacks the gastrointestinal system. This fungus colonizes the digestive tract (proventriculus) and elevates the pH to alter the stomach and disrupt the koilin layer. Koilin is a combination of carbohydrates and proteins that is secreted by the mucosal glands. Without this product, the gizzard is left unprotected and cannot aid in digestion as it should.
Diagnosis of Yeast Infection in Birds
Because this infection spreads so fast and the symptoms are so slow, you will probably not notice the condition until your whole flock is infected. In these situations, it is best to have the veterinarian come to you rather than taking one or more of your sick birds to the office where it may spread the infection. However, you should call your veterinarian for advice on what is best. Yeast infections can be found in feces specimens or periventricular scrapings stained with Wright, Diff-Quik, Leishman, or Giemsa preparations. Barium sulfate contrast x-rays will show a sandglass shaped retraction between the gizzard and the crop.
A serum chemistry test can check the values of many different types of chemicals, but the most common in birds include uric acid, total protein, calcium, phosphorus, glucose, aspartate transaminase (AST), and bile acids. A complete blood count (CBC) is used to determine the amounts of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and reticulocytes in the blood. Using these tests, the veterinarian will be looking for signs of thrombocytosis, basophilia, monocytosis, and lymphocytosis.
Treatment of Yeast Infection in Birds
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to treat yeast infections in birds because the fungi are able to build up a resistance to the antifungal medication fairly quick. The amount of time that it takes to treat the infections, which is approximately four to six weeks, give the organisms time to become resistant in many cases.
Some of the drugs used in treating yeast infections include itraconazole, fluconazole, ketoconazole, flucytosine, and nystatin. These are usually given orally with an epigastric tube leading down your bird’s throat to the stomach. The medication must be given two times per day for 30 to 45 days. In cases of oral or topical infections, a cream or ointment of amphotericin can be used. The drugs used may need to be changed if one stops working during treatment or if it goes away and comes back.
Recovery of Yeast Infection in Birds
Treating a large flock is not usually successful, but it is possible to do by using 10 milligrams of chlorhexidine per gallon of water for three weeks. The prognosis is guarded due to the length of time it takes for symptoms to be noticed. By the time it is noticed, it has usually done permanent damage to the gastrointestinal system and has spread to the rest of the flock. Your best hope is to get treatment as soon as you suspect a yeast infection.