Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) is a gastrointestinal disease that affects a bird’s digestive system. It was previously referred to as “macaw wasting disease” because it was first identified in macaws before it was discovered to affect all parrots, and other birds. The disease attacks the nerves of a bird’s stomach, making it incapable of digesting food properly. The cause is unknown, but many veterinarians suspect a virus is behind this deadly disease.
Signs of PDD
“There are no symptoms that are specific to PDD. The symptoms are generalized and diagnosis is difficult,” said Dr. Greg Burkett, DVM, of the Birdie Boutique in North Carolina. While difficult to diagnose, common clinical signs of PDD include:
- Massive weight loss (even if your bird appears to have a healthy appetite)
- Undigested food in its droppings, crop impaction and regurgitation.
- Loss of balance
- Ataxia (loss of coordination of muscles; your bird may have difficulty perching)
Some signs are species-specific, according to Burkett. “In African greys I see polyuria and polydypsia; which means they pass large amounts of urine (the liquid part of the droppings) and they drink large amounts of water.”
If you see any of these signs in your bird, take it to an avian veterinarian immediately. In determining if a bird has PDD, Burkett said, “A vet needs to look at diagnostics such as radiographs, clinical symptoms and possibly, a crop biopsy.”
How To Prevent PDD
PDD is a disease that can spread and affect other birds that are exposed to it. Knowledge is crucial, so speak to your avian veterinarian about PDD on your bird’s next checkup. Know what signs to look for, and weigh your bird every day to make sure it is the ideal weight. If you get a new bird, quarantine it for 30 days from your other birds to lessen the risk of exposure to PDD. If you go to a bird meeting where other parrots are present, be well aware of the risk of your bird being exposed to PDD, or any other illness.