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Disease in Birds


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Papillomatosis refers to pink, proliferative, vascular wart-like
or cauliflower-like growths of epithelium. Papillomas may occur
singularly or in clusters. Although they may occur in the oral
cavity, crop, esophagus, proventriculus, ventriculus, cloaca,
respiratory tract and conjunctiva, the most common locations are
the oral cavity and cloaca. Thought to be of viral etiology and
infectious, spread is probably through preening and other close
contact between birds.

The highest incidence of papillomatosis occurs in central and
south american psittacines - especially greenwing macaws
(cloacal), blue and gold macaws (oral), as well as in amazons,
conures and hawk headed parrots (cloacal).

The signs exhibited depend upon where the papillomas occur. Oral
lesions may cause wheezing, difficulty swallowing and open mouth
breathing. Papillomas in the glottis may cause suffocation if
they obstruct the airway. Papillomas in the gastro-intestinal
tract may cause vomiting, loss of appetite and wasting. Cloacal
papillomas may be initially mistaken for a prolapse. They may be
seen protruding from the vent when the bird becomes stressed or
during elimination. Straining, blood in the droppings, passing
gas and an abnormal odor to the droppings occur. The lesions
often spread throughout the cloaca and may become so extensive
they cannot be retracted back up into the vent.

Infertility may occur due to mechanical obstruction or ascending
infection. Although birds may live for years with papillomatosis,
the long term prognosis is guarded. A waxing and waning course
often occurs, with signs subsiding for a while. Over time,
however, the lesious progress. Papillomatosis has been accociated
with bile duct and pancreatic duct in amazon parrots.

Diagnosis is by physical examination, contrast radiographs and

A number of treatment modalities have been tried which include
surgical resection, cryosurgery, chemical cautery, autogenous
vaccination, and laser. Laser surgery seems to offer the best

All new birds of susceptible species should be thoroughly
examined to identify those with oral or cloacal papillomas.
Infected birds should not be housed with non-infected birds.

Papillomatosis in unable to be cured. Palliation can be done to
make affected birds more comfortable, but it is often a
progressive, debilitating disease.

This disease can mimic other diseases such as foreign bodies,
bacterial and fungal infections, lead poisoning and PDD.

Note: This column is in memory of my beloved cherry headed
conure, Mr. Chipper who died last week from cloacal
papillomatosis. He was a great bird and a wonderful companion,
and will be sorely missed.

Dr. Linda Pesek graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School
of Veterinary Medicine and is a Diplomate of the ABVP in Avian
Practice (a Board Certified Avian Veterinarian). She has a small animal
and avian practice in NewYork. Linda also writes columns for
The Long Island Parrot Society and The Big Apple Bird Club and
is a frequent lecturer at their meetings. She is the owner of an
extensive collection of exotic birds.

by Linda Pesek, DVM
Copyright 2001 Linda Pesek and Winged Wisdom
All rights reserved.

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