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Feather damaging and nare itchiness in a Blue Front Amazon

Expert Question

Dr. Speer, Thank You for taking my question. My wife and I have a Blue Front Amazon. She will be turning 3 years old this week. Like most Parrot owners will tell you, she adds so much joy and fun to our life. Last year she started to tatter her feathers (mostly on her chest). I took her to our Avian Vet, we took all the proper tests and he sent me home with the Fecal Tri-Chrome. All test were good except the Fecal Tri-Chrome came back positive for Giardia. We gave her Ronizol for 10 days, stopped for 10 days, and then resumed a 10 day treatment. Her feathers grew back beautifully, we re-tested her 30 days after the last treatment for giardia; the test was negative. I wanted to be on the safe side and re-tested this past December for giardia, the test was once again negative. This past February, I had taken her into the shower for her weekly shower (once or twice a week), I always use luke warm to cool water when she is actually showering, she really seemed to rub her nares on top of the shower doors and was constently grabbing her bottom beak. Her nares seemed red and a little
inflamed. Our Avian Vet did a few tests (gram Stain and a couple more) and didn’t find any abnormalitites. He didn’t seem to think it was a sinus
infection, he gave me a herbal type medication, we put drops on her nares and eyes for 10 days. When I shower her even after that it seems as if she has to rub her nares. Today after I showered her, I put her in her cage to dry off (she has a large Kings Cage) she ended up jumping in her water bowl. I thought she maybe wanted to have more fun, but she kept dunking her head and rubbing her nares on a perch. Her nares seem to be red and inflamed (from the rubbing I’m sure). I also noticed today, (I might just be peranoid) that her feathers that she tattered last year because of the giardai seem to be a little tattered again, plus she is doing a lot of scratching. It could be she is semi-starting to molt but I am extra cautious. We have her on a great pelleted diet, very minimal seeds (mostly for foraging), fruits and vegtables, and red palm oil. I forgot to mention, last year before she tested positive for giardia, her skin was extremely
dry, and I have found out that giardia will do that. My question is, my avian vet seems to think that 2 negative giardia results are pretty conclusive, I am just worried and wondering if this is the case? I am also concerned about the nares turning red after showering and her grabbing her lower beak, has anyone ever seen this? I really appreciate you taking the time to read all of this!!! Thank You & God Bless smile

Expert Answer

Hi, Joseph,  Unfortunately, there is no real clear correlation between the presence of Giardia and feather damaging behaviors. Although it seems that the organism was shown to be present in your bird, it should remain unclear as to its role in the feather damaging behaviors noted as well as other hypothesized clinical signs noted. This was originally published in a non-peer reviewed conference proceedings in 1986, specifically in cockatiels, and the presumption that it is fact and that it applies to all parrot species persists to this day in many venues of avian medical practice. A Trichrome test is a flagellar stain, and if read accurately, will demonstrate the presence of flagellated protozoa, Giardia included, in a properly fixed sample in polyvinyl alcohol. It is, however, subject to technical reading error, resulting in both potential false positives and false negative results.

There are many reasons why feather damaging behavior can initally be seen in parrots, and also why, even if Giardia was not the *cause*, that treatment can lead to the assumption that it has caused a cessation of the behavior. It is true that Giardiasis can result in a malabsorbtion problem with the small intestinal tract, and sometimes, nutritional deficiencies can occur that result in integumentary abnormalities as you describe (flakineness).

My best assumption is that your bird has some additional problem, leading to flaky skin and discomfort in the nare / cere area, if not generalized elsewhere. Some of the behaviors you describe can be within normal limits (grabbing lower beak and rubbing nares on things when showering), however, and it is also possible that there may not specifically be a *problem* at all.

Brian Speer, DVM
About Brian Speer, DVM

Avian veterinarian Dr. Brian Speer was raised in a small town on California’s coast. He received his BS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University in 1978, and his DVM degree from the University of California at Davis in 1983.

An active member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), Dr. Speer is a much sought after guest speaker and has presented at numerous conferences in the avicultural and zoological communities both within the United States and abroad. He is well published in the AAV annual proceedings, has served as guest editor for the journal Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, the Veterinary Clinics of North America, and authored chapters in several recent veterinary medical texts on pet bird, avicultural and ratite medical topics. In 1995 he co-authored the extensive avicultural reference, The Large Macaws, and helped to co-author Birds for Dummies in 1999.

Since 1989, Dr, Speer has run a “bird’s only” practice in the San Francisco Bay area and is the President and Director of The Medical Center for Birds. He is a consultant for The Veterinary Information Network (Avian Medical Boards) and the Maui Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. In 2003 he was the recipient of the Lafeber award for excellence in private practice of avian medicine and surgery and in 2006, was named Speaker of the Year for the North American Veterinary Conference.