Trichomoniasis (Canker) Q & A
What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomonasis is an infection caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas gallinum.
It is also known as canker (in pigeons and budgerigars) or frounce (in raptors).
Where does Trichomonas gallinum live?
Trichomonas gallinum is usually found in the upper parts of the respiratory and digestive system – the mouth, sinuses, crop, pharynx and sometimes trachea can be affected. Occasionally the liver and lungs may be affected.
How is trichomoniasistransmitted?
Trichomoniasis is transmitted between birds by direct contact. Common sources of infection in pet birds include:
- Infected parents feeding young (subclinically infected adults may carry the parasite for long periods and act as a constant source of reinfection)
- Contaminated drinking water (with faecal material or oral secretions)
- Contact with wild birds
Trichomonas gallinum multiplies within the host and does not form a resistant cyst, so it cannot survive in the environment for long periods.
What symptoms are associated with trichomoniasis?
Young birds are usually affected.
Commonly, birds infected with T. gallinum will show some or all of the following signs:
- Vomiting and/or regurgitation (often seen as sticky material on the head feathers)
- A distended crop
- Respiratory signs
- Weight loss
- White/yellow plaques or ‘cheesy’ material in the mouth
- Green droppings
- Poor growth in young birds
- Sudden death
Will trichomoniasis affect all species of bird?
Budgerigars, pigeons and raptors are the species most commonly affected, but all birds may be susceptible.
Do all birds infected with Trichomonas gallinum show signs?
No. Some birds may be subclinical carriers for many years without showing any signs of illness.
How is trichomoniasis diagnosed?
Trichomonas organisms can be picked up on a fresh wet smear taken via crop wash.
Is Trichomonas gallinum infection treatable?
Nitroimidazole drugs such as ronidazole or metronidazole can be used to treat trichomoniasis. Prognosis is usually good for subclinical infections.
Avian vets at Bird Vet Melbourne recommend all newly purchased pet budgerigars are tested for trichomoniasis at their initial well bird examination.
Will all birds with trichomoniasis recover?
Some very sick birds may need intensive care treatment and hospitalisation for fluids and nutritional support. Most birds will recover however infection may prove fatal to severely debilitated birds where there is severe damage to the gastrointestinal and/or respiratory systems. In some European countries, resistance to nitroimidazole drugs has been reported.