Papillomas - Page 1

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By: Dr. Branson Ritchie

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Papillomas, or warts as they are commonly called, are caused when a papillomavirus infects skin cells. Warts are a type of benign skin tumor and should be differentiated from papillomatosis, which are wartlike lesions that can occur on the surface of the cloaca or along the gastrointestinal tract in psittacine birds. Recent research suggests that papillomatosis is probably caused by a virus.

Several distinct papillomavirus have been documented in companion and aviary birds. It is probable that other variants of this virus will be identified in psittacine birds. These viruses tend to be highly host-specific and the papillomaviruses that infect companion birds are not known to infect humans or other unrelated species of birds.

Papillomas have been most frequently diagnosed in finches, waterfowl, cranes, herons and flamingos although the disease has also been confirmed in canaries and African grey parrots. Suspicious lesions have been identified in the skin of many types of psittacine birds.

Papillomas can take months to develop. The lesions can persist for months to years and then may spontaneously resolve. The predisposing factors for development of papillomas in companion birds are unknown.

What To Watch For

  • Wartlike growths on the feet and legs of finches

  • Wartlike growths at the commissure of the beak and on the head in canaries and African grey parrots


    Diagnosis is unnecessary unless the papilloma causes discomfort or difficulty standing, moving or eating. Diagnosis is usually made from microscopic examination of sample tissue (biopsy) from the mass.


    When necessary, papillomas can be removed with surgery or, in some cases, chemical cauterization. In mammals, autogenous vaccines are used but their effect in birds has been poorly documented.

    Home Care

  • Keep infected birds and those to which they have been exposed in isolation.

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect enclosures, food bowls and non-porous toys and perches. Discard porous (wood, natural fibers, rope, etc.) objects that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

  • On a daily basis, monitor fecal output to insure proper food consumption and digestion.

  • Monitor weight daily.

    Preventive Care

  • Keep your bird out of direct or indirect contact with other birds.

  • Enjoy the bird you have. If you decide to add a new bird, it should be quarantined for at least 90 days and be examined by an avian veterinarian at the beginning and end of quarantine.

  • Quarantine any bird that has been taken from the home or aviary and exposed to other birds before placing it back in the home or aviary.

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