Song Bird Fever in Cats


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Song Bird Fever is a condition caused by ingestion of decayed carcass of a song bird. Ingestion of the spoiled carcass is often contaminated with bacteria and bacterial toxins that can cause severe and even life threatening signs. After ingestion, various bacteria (including Streptococcusspp, Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens and/or "Bacillus spp.) are present in the gastrointestinal tract and can produce toxins that are absorbed into the blood stream. These bacteria can produce toxins that cause shock, collapse and death.

Song Bird Toxicosis is most common in indoor/outdoor or outdoor cats that are allowed to roam and hunt. It is most common during the summer months.

It is possible that this condition is Zoonotic – meaning it can be transmitted to people by exposure to the bacteria. It is most common in children, elderly or those with compromised immune systems.

What to Watch For

Signs may begin within 15 minutes of ingestion or within 6 to 8 hours post ingestion.

  • Diarrhea – can be foul smelling, watery or bloody
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Can progress to shock and death

  • Diagnosis

    Diagnosis is often based on history of exposure to a decayed bird carcass, contents of vomitus and clinical signs. Diagnostics should be performed on those pets that are having severe vomiting and diarrhea, are exhibiting other systemic signs of illness, or when the vomitus or stool contains blood. These tests may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Fecal examinations


    There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to treat your cat. The recommendations may vary depending on the severity of your cat's signs. The principal goals of symptomatic therapy are to restore and maintain fluid balance, limit absorption of the bacterial toxins, correct electrolyte imbalances and to completely rest the gastrointestinal tract.

  • If the garbage ingestion was recent, induction of vomiting may be recommended to empty the stomach.

  • Fluid and electrolyte therapy is administered intravenously (IV).

  • Drugs that coat and sooth the GI tract – commonly used drugs include Sucralfate (Carafate®), Famotidine (Pepcid®)and or Ranitidine HCl (Zantac®).

  • Drugs that symptomatically stop vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Antibiotics may be administered however there is some concern that antibiotics can change the flora of the GI tract allowing some bacteria to overgrow.

  • Nothing orally for several hours, with a gradual introduction of water followed by a bland diet.


    The prognosis is good early diagnosis and treatment.


    Do not allow your pets to roam and hunt.

    Home Care

    Call your veterinarian, and follow all recommendations regarding feeding and medication. This will probably include withholding all food and water. Observe your pet very closely. If clinical signs are not improving over a day or two, and/or your pet is getting worse, have your pet evaluated at once.

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    About The Author

    debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

    Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.