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Papillomas

By: Dr. Branson Ritchie

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Diagnosis In-depth

Papilloma should be considered in any bird with a proliferative skin mass, and any type of skin mass that continues to grow should be evaluated by an avian veterinarian.

Confirming that a suspicious mass on the skin is a papilloma requires microscopic examination of a sample of tissue collected from the affected area. Confirmation that lesions with characteristic microscopic changes are caused by a papillomavirus requires electron microscopic demonstration of virus particles in affected cells.

Currently, there is no test that can be used to confirm that a bird does not have papilloma.

Therapy In-depth

Generally, papillomas on the skin of birds do not need to be treated unless they are causing specific problems. Some lesions can be debilitating if they are damaged, allowing secondary infections to occur, if they inhibit a bird's ability to move or interfere with grasping or chewing food.

Mild lesions can be observed for changes that would necessitate their removal. Severe lesions can be removed surgically to make a bird more comfortable.

In some mammals, the use of autogenous vaccines, which are produced by grinding papillomas collected from the skin of an affected animal, have been shown to be effective in stimulating an immune response that results in cessation of warts. Autogenous vaccines have been used in some waterfowl and flamingos with mixed results. It has not been determined whether these vaccines would be effective in treating papillomavirus-induced skin lesions in companion birds.

Follow-up Care

Optimal treatment for your companion bird requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your bird does not rapidly improve.

  • Make certain you administer all prescribed medications at the appropriate time intervals. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you are having difficulties treating your bird as prescribed. If you are having problems, it may be best to hospitalize your pet to assure that a proper course of treatment is administered.

  • Any bird suspected of having papillomavirus, that has been exposed to birds with papillomavirus or that is being treated for papillomavirus should be isolated from other birds to prevent transmission. The common practice of placing a hospital or "sick" room in the same building or airspace with a psittacine nursery is contrary to good medical practices.

  • As with most viruses, organic debris such as blood, soil, nesting material or feces would be expected to protect papillomavirus from disinfectants that do not contain detergents. Caretakers should always wear a dust mask when handling the waste of birds. To reduce dust, use a misting bottle filled with disinfectant to moisten excrement and feather debris before handling.

    Vaccination

    There is currently no vaccine available to help prevent the unrestricted spread of papillomavirus in birds. Autogenous vaccines made from the affected tissues of birds may be used if a flock problem is occurring.


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