Most common Protozoal Disease in aviculture.
In young birds poor growth and deaths are common. In older birds, weight loss and weakness or just poor performance are indicators that there is an underlying trichomonal infection. The Gouldian finch seems to be very sensitive to this protozoan infection. Finches like the Society, Zebra, Canaries and most other exotic finches seem to have a higher tolerance and can live with Canker.
The disease is caused by the TRICHOMONA protozoa. There are different strains of the organism which vary widely in their ability to cause disease. Adult birds are often carriers - that is, they have the organism and spread it to other birds but look totally healthy themselves. The organism is commonly spread through food and water by carrier birds and passed from parents to their young. Overcrowding, poor hygiene and other stress factors result in greater spread of infection and debilitate birds so that latent infections become active and cause disease. There is no permanent cure but it can be kept under control with the proper medication.
The common crop form of canker is the one most breeders are familiar with, the vomiting bird, the bird with froth at the beak, the bird slowly losing weight and eventually dying even though it appears to be eating. The crop form of canker usually results in constrictions forming in or around the crop, stopping the passage of seed and causing the bird to starve to death. A more sinister form of Canker occurs in some cases, where the organism invades the liver and causes large cheesy abscesses full of organisms. These birds show no symptoms until the abscesses are well established and most of these birds die of liver failure.
Signs of Canker/Cochlosoma include: diarrhea, yellowish or bright green droppings, undigested seed in droppings, butt pumping, wet vent feathers, sleeping during the day, head tucked over their wing feather, weight or feather loss.
Avian veterinarians can often find the carrier birds by doing a crop wash and finding the organism under the microscope. However, the bird with liver abscess may escape detection. Because the disease is so common, breeders should look to treating their flocks to either eradicate the organism or stop it from entering their stock.
Treatment of choice is Ronivet (ronidazole) Ronidazole is safe to administer at up to 4 times recommended rate. In difficult situations treatment at 4 times dose for 3 days then normal dose for 4 days has been found to be effective. They are the safest, especially on hatchlings and baby birds during the breeding season. The drug has no reported side effects (even in excessively high dose rates) and can be used all year round including the breeding season when birds have young in the nest.
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