Feather loss

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Feather loss is a common presentation in avian practice. While few disorders resulting in feather loss are genuine emergencies, they are often perceived as such by owners. Issues with husbandry or disease may result in feather destructive disorder. This chapter covers types of feather loss, common causes and diagnostic work-up and highlights areas of debate in feather loss examination and management. : Plucking in an African Grey Parrot; Dermatitis in an Amazon parrot; Red feathers in an African Grey Parrot.

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30.2 Physiologically normal featherless tract (apterium) well demonstrated on a chick. (© John Chitty)
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30.3 Fret marks often appear as lines or ‘pinches’ along feathers. In this young Green-winged Macaw a series of red or yellow (reduced pigment) marks appeared on all growing contour feathers after a stressful event (crop burn). Note also the diffraction pattern on the ‘normal’ parts of the feathers. (© John Chitty)
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30.4 ‘Pinching off’ in a hawk feather (right) compared with a relatively normal blood feather (left) from the same bird. Pinching off indicates a severe interruption to the growth of that feather. If localized, then trauma or infection should be suspected. If generalized, then systemic disease should be suspected. However, it should be remembered that this sign represents past issues during growth and may be historic at the time of examination. If damage to the feather follicle is severe, future feathers may also pinch off. (© John Chitty)
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30.5 Feather plucking with feathers completely removed; note the early regrowth from the follicles. Feather destructive disorder (FDD) where the feathers have been trimmed. A very common FDD presentation with downy feathers over the body. These are the plumulaceous barbules of the body feathers and are normally hidden under the plumage. In these cases the bird bites off the tips of the growing feathers, leaving just the downy bases. (© John Chitty)
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30.6 This Moluccan Cockatoo persistently mutilated the skin over the cranial keel region (a common site for mutilation in this species). There was also evidence of feather destructive disorder (FDD) in this region, although whether the mutilation progressed from FDD or (or the feather damage was simply ‘collateral’ damage) was impossible to determine. (© John Chitty)
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30.8 Skin lesions. Dermatitis in a lovebird may be presented as feather destructive disorder or feather loss if the owner has not noticed the skin lesions. Bacterial pyoderma in an African Grey Parrot causing feather loss and skin scaling/crusting over the legs. The bird was extremely pruritic. (© John Chitty)
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30.9 Typical feather destructive disorder distribution in an African Grey Parrot. Note the normal head feathers. (© John Chitty)
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30.10 Blood in the calamus may indicate quill mite infection. Sampling of the material (see Chapter 12) in the case of quill mite infection will show mites and eggs (see Figure 30.11 ). However, in this case, the blood was due to the more common presentation of trauma during feather growth and past haemorrhage (arrowed). (© John Chitty)
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30.11 Epidermoptid mite infestation of a Peregrine Falcon. A topical solution of 1:50 ivermectin:propylene glycol was applied to the lesions at twice-monthly intervals. (© John Chitty)
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30.12 Loss of remiges in a juvenile Budgerigar with French moult. (© John Chitty)
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30.13 Complete feather loss over the head of a parakeet with circovirus infection. Signs of circovirus can occasionally be minimal, as in this male Eclectus Parrot. Such minimal signs are not pathognomonic for circovirus infection, and other differential diagnoses such as sinusitis should be investigated as well as performing specific tests for circovirus. Loss and curling of wing feathers in a Cockatiel with circovirus infection. (© John Chitty)
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30.15 Yellowing of green body feathers in an Amazon parrot with hepatic lipidosis. (© John Chitty)
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30.16 Feather cyst on an Amazon parrot. (© John Chitty)
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30.17 An extreme example of a ‘King’ African Grey Parrot. The bird tested negative for circovirus on both polymerase chain reaction blood testing and skin biopsy. (© John Chitty)
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30.18 Plucking in this thin Grey Parrot was found to be secondary to proventricular dilatation disease. It was presumed that the bird was plucking over the affected stomach and intestine. (© John Chitty)
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30.19 Normal pin feathers emerging after a plucking incident. The emerging pin feathers appear darker and slightly swollen compared with those in (a). This is typical in pulpitis. Both normal and pulpitis feathers are evident here. Some of the inflamed pin feathers have been traumatized. It can be hypothesized that this bird is pruritic. (© John Chitty)
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30.20 Feather destructive disorder and folliculitis in a Grey Parrot; note how the feathers have been chewed. (© John Chitty)
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30.21 Typical distribution of feather destructive behaviour in a Harris’ Hawk. (© John Chitty)
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30.22 An approach to feather loss/dystrophy.
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30.23 In this Grey Parrot with long-term feather destructive disorder (FDD) some feather follicles can still be seen and feather regrowth is possible. In this case of FDD, the skin over the keel is completely smooth and devoid of feather follicles. As such, there is permanent damage and no prospect of feather regrowth even if underlying causes are addressed and corrected. (© John Chitty)
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30.24 An approach to feather destructive disorder (FDD).
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30.25 Collars to prevent chewing/plucking are advocated. Elizabethan collar. Extension collar. Bubble collar applied to a self-mutilating cockatoo. (© John Chitty)
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