Polyoma in cockatoos

Polyoma is a disease caused by a virus. There is no medicine and no vaccination against this disease. It can be a deadly virus to birds, but some cockatoos can stay carrier of the virus their whole life. They will never show the symptoms of the disease, even though they carry and spread the virus. Young cockatoos, parrots, love birds and parakeets will die after being infected with polyoma. It is very easy to have your cockatoo tested for polyoma.

The symptoms of polyoma in cockatoos

In cockatoos and other big parrots the symptoms can be most striking in young individuals. The polyoma virus will cause problems in blood clotting because of liver function failure. Young birds will get bruises very easily and can get a swollen belly. Feathers will grow poorly and infections will occur in the feather follicles. The function of gizzard and digestion will slow down or sometimes even stops. A very large portion of young birds will not survive the polyoma virus.
Young that do not die of polyoma will become carriers of the virus. They will carry the polyoma virus with them and will spread it to other birds. Carriers usually do not die of polyoma: if they have become carriers this means their immune system can suppress the virus sufficiently. A carrier will always stay carrier. Birds that are already adult and are infected with the polyoma virus, will not become carriers. Adult birds will carry the virus for about 24 weeks, after which they get cured completely. Some adult birds die of polyoma. Death by polyoma in adult birds can be determined by a vet, the liver and spleen will be enlarged because of the virus.

Method of infection with polyoma

Cockatoos and other parrots will get infected with the polyoma virus by contact with feathers, skin dandruff and feces of infected birds. Infected birds can be either carriers, sick birds or infected adult birds without symptoms.
People cannot get polyoma. They can spread the virus by transferring feces, dandruff and feathers from a group of infected birds to a group that has not been infected.

Curing a cockatoo with polyoma

There is no cure for polyoma. The immune system of your cockatoo can fight polyoma. A cockatoo will generally get completely cured of polyoma when he is infected when he is an adult. A young cockatoo that gets infected cannot cure itself. It will either die or become a carrier of the virus for the rest of his life.
When a cockatoo breeder has a bird with polyoma he has to disinfect his entire house and breeding area or temporarily stop keeping cockatoos. All his birds need to be tested on polyoma and all carriers need to be removed. Quarantine and testing can prevent polyoma from entering a breeding area.

Testing for polyoma

It is very easy to test if a cockatoo has polyoma or is a carrier of the polyoma virus. A vet will take a blood sample and have this tested in the laboratory. Diagnosis is 100% sure. You should ask for this test before you buy a cockatoo, to be sure it does not have the disease. This is extra important if you already have a cockatoo or parrot and want to add a new cockatoo to this group.