Fido loves to watch Budgie all day long, but sometimes longing glances turn into unsafe encounters. Birds carry several diseases that can harm canines. Most parasites like roundworms and tapeworms are species-specific, however, bacterial and fungal diseases can be a real concern when birds and dogs get too close.
The parasite Chlamydia psittaci causes the bacterial disease Chlamydiosis. City pigeons are the most common carriers in the United States but a majority of cases are contracted from pet birds. Dogs become infected when they inhale bacteria laden dust from bird droppings. The good news is this infection is rare in canines. If caught, it produces vomiting, diarrhea, dry cough, fever and can lead to severe pneumonia. A round, about five to seven days, of antimicrobial medication should get rid of the infection. However, if your buddy develops a deep case of pneumonia, he may need oxygen or fluid therapy and a longer course, up to six weeks, of antimicrobial medication.
When your buddy gets too close to bird droppings containing the fungus cryptococcus neoformans, he runs the risk of inhaling the fungal spores that cause cryptococcosis. Yeast is the fungal culprit and it loves to grow in damp, warm, decaying feces. Frequently cleaning your bird's cage can prevent cryptococcosis from ever rising. If it does, this fungal infection attacks his respiratory tract, central nervous system, eyes and skin. Nasal lesions are one of the telltale signs of cryptococcosis but other symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, inability to blink, poor coordination, seizures and eye inflammation. A number of dogs with this infection develop lesions in their respiratory tract, usually the lungs, and have a difficult time recovering. Antifungal drug treatment and blood work to monitor liver function can last anywhere from three months to a year, though dogs with central nervous system damage will require oxygen and fluid therapy as well as lifelong management depending on the severity of nervous system damage.
The fungus, Aspergillus, is commonly found in wet and dirty bird cages. If your buddy stirs up the decaying droppings in the bottom of the cage, he can inhale the fungal spores and develop the respiratory fungal infection. Use cage liners for quick, easy cleanup to prevent the fungus from growing. The aspergillus infection targets a dog's nasal passages and can result in bloody nasal discharge, nasal pain, sneezing, sores around the nostrils and nosebleeds. It can further disseminate throughout a dog's tissues, bones and organs creating severe systemic infection. Prognosis for disseminated aspergillus is poor but acute respiratory infection is treated with oral or nasal antifungal medications with good results.
Histoplasmosis occurs when a dog inhales the fungus shed in bird droppings. This fungus is most common in decaying soil and the bird droppings of wild birds in the midwest and southern United States; bird owners need not panic over this one. It primarily affects the lungs and chest and can lead to respiratory infection and even pneumonia. Fever, labored breathing and coughing are the most common symptoms of histoplasmosis. The immediate lung infection usually clears on its own, however, if the infection spreads to other tissues and organs, it can take months of antifungal medication and supportive therapy to resolve.
Birds infected with salmonella bacteria can consequently transmit the infection to dogs when your buddy decides to snack on some bird droppings. Salmonella targets a canine’s gastrointestinal system causing diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, dehydration, loose stools, swollen lymph nodes and even miscarriage in pregnant females. Some cases resolve on their own while others require a round of antimicrobial medication. Puppies or older dogs may need fluid therapy to rehydrate their bodies.
All of these bird-born diseases are associated with the inhalation or ingestion of bird droppings. If Fido and your budgie share a home, try using a cage skirt or mess catcher to prevent any canine grazing and keep the cage far out of your dog's reach. A leash and a watchful eye should prevent your buddy from scoping out any wild bird droppings.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.