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Avian Polyomavirus and Your Pet Bird: What You Need to Know

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Avian polyomavirus, or APV, is one of the most common viral diseases that can affect your pet bird. Affecting psitaccines (parrots), the virus can be asymptomatic or it can cause both acute and chronic illness. There is no known treatment but you can prevent APV by vaccinating your pet bird. Previously known as the Budgerigar Fledgling Disease, there is a high mortality rate for the virus.

Read on to learn more about APV and how to protect your pet parrot.

Who is at risk for APV?

All psittacine (birds related to the parrot family) are susceptible to APV. This includes parrots, cockatoos, cockatiels, macaws, eclectus, parakeets, lovebirds, lories and lorikeets. Young birds, from newborns to juveniles, are at a higher risk of becoming infected and dying from APV.

How does polyomavirus spread?

Usually, birds become infected from direct contact with an infected bird, but the virus is also transmitted via feather dust, feces, aerosols and shared feeding spaces.

This is particularly problematic because birds already infected with APV may be asymptomatic. If the virus has gone undetected, a single infected psitaccine can put many other birds at risk.

Symptoms of APV

As we mentioned, APV can have both acute and chronic symptoms. When a bird begins to display symptoms at a young age, they are more likely to develop chronic illness resulting in permanent feather malformation.

Symptoms of polyomavirus include:

  • Feather loss

  • Lethargy

  • Crop stasis

  • A swollen (distended) abdomen

  • Loss of appetite

  • Regurgitation

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Dehydration

  • Weight loss

  • Depression

  • Haematoma

  • Failure of vital organs

How can you test for APV?

If you think that your pet might have polyomavirus, schedule an appointment with an avian vet. They can perform both serological assays and a PCR test to determine infection. Detection of anti-APV antibodies can indicate previous or current infection. The PCR test can detect viruses in droppings and cloacal swabs. A positive test result indicates that the bird is currently infected with APV and shedding the virus in its feces.

Can polyomavirus be prevented?

There is no treatment for polyomavirus, but it can be prevented with a vaccine. We highly recommend that all psitaccine owners vaccinate their pets against this disease. The vaccine can first be given at 35 days of age and repeated in 2 to 3 weeks. We also recommend giving your parrot an annual booster, particularly if they’re exposed to other pet birds.

Want more?

If you have a pet parrot, don’t forget to read our complete Parrot Care Guide. It’s full of tips about what parrots like to eat, drink, play and more!

Have more questions about APV or want to get your parrot vaccinated?

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1 Comment

Colby Adkins
Colby Adkins
Apr 17

This is particularly problematic because birds already infected with APV may be asymptomatic.

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