Owners of parrots in metro Grand Rapids area should be aware that a retail store specializing in exotic aviary species has experienced an outbreak of psittacosis (Chlamydophila psittaci), an infectious disease in birds that can cause illness or death. The store is under Michigan Department of Agriculture quarantine for the next 2 months, and more than 80 parrots at the store have been undergoing treatment with doxycycline.

All birds present at the store at the time of the outbreak are under the state mandated quarantine and treatment due to potential exposure. Psittacosis is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted from birds to humans, and is considered a reportable disease in some states.

Dr. Tracey Ritzman, an avian veterinarian specialist at our hospital, has been working closely with the state veterinarians and the store owner to care for these birds, particularly due to its zoonotic potential as an outbreak that could be fatal to area pets.

The state Department of Agriculture is allowing some of birds that were boarded at the store to be transferred home under the care of their owners so long as they are quarantined for the next 2 months against contact with other birds and receive diagnosis and treatment by a licensed veterinarian.

In order for boarding birds to be able to transfer home, the owners must bring their parrots to a veterinarian within 48 hours of release from the store for a health exam and prescription for doxycycline which is the medication that treats this infection.

Cascade Hospital for Animals has the experience and facilities to treat the parrots afflicted by psittacosis, thanks to the expertise of Dr. Ritzman and our skilled staff of licensed veterinary technicians. Dr. Ritzman is a board-certified specialist by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in avian and exotic companion mammal medicine and surgery -- the only dual board-certified veterinarian in these two specialties in the state of Michigan.

While she treats exotic pets ranging from frogs to hedgehogs, Dr. Ritzman is particularly fond of parrots as she and her family have cared for many foster parrots over the years. Dr. Ritzman is a frequent lecturer and speaker throughout West Michigan on aviary care and treatments of illness in birds.