Protozoa Eye Infection
by Ginger Wolnik

First published in the Pacific American Singer newsletter, volume 5, number 4, October 1998.

There is a trichomonas protozoa infection spreading through birds in California, including canaries. This is currently being researched by Dr. Judy Saint Legend at the San Bernadino satellite of the University of California Davis poultry lab.

The first symptom in the bird is an eye infection. This can spread to the sinuses, which make one or both eyes appear to be swollen. The final stage is to spread to the brain, which kills the bird. Many birds are successful in battling this infection on their own, so it may go into remission for a while, only to erupt again the next year. This infection usually occurs in May, June and July.

Because trichomonas is a protozoa, it is useless to treat with antibiotics or anti-parasite drugs such as invermectin. The recommended treatment is Flagyl. However, this drug can cause kidney damage if given repeatedly or long-term. So, it is best to get a confirmed diagnosis from a qualified avian vet and treat all possibly infected birds one time only.

Flagyl is available by perscription from a vet. However, you can go to the "fish" section of a pet store or aquarium shop and get Fishzol, which is the same drug. The drug is effective by adding to the drinking water. Mix six 250 milligram capsules per gallon of water (open the capsules and dump the powder in the water). Serve as their only drinking water for 7 days. Then give plain water for 7 days, then treat again with Fishzol for a final 7 days. Avoid giving the birds greens when they are getting the treated water in order to encourage drinking the water. Afterwards, give the birds a treatment of Baytril, which is available by prescription from a vet.

This infection can spread to people and cause a severe eye infection, so avoid fluid contact from infected birds with your eyes. It will not kill a human with a healthy immune system, but it can make one miserable.

It seems to spread by aquiring asymptomatic birds and adding them to your aviary. They can seem healthy after a reasonable quarenteen period, then have an outbreak the following spring. They wipe their faces on perches and other birds get infected by wiping their faces on the same perches. There is no reason to believe that birds without symptoms could pass this to others in separate cages, so this should not be a problem at the bird shows.

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