Lice

BASICS

Definition:

Other Names:

Disease Process: Lice (singular "louse") are common on wild birds and only appear in large numbers on birds who are too debilitated to preen.17 They are uncommon on well-cared for house pet birds28 and are usually acquired through contact with wild birds.3,5 Lice are usually host-specific and cannot survive long off the bird.2,3 Lice undergo a complete lifecycle on the bird.5 Biting lice (Amblycera, Colpocephalum, Menacanthus, Machaerilaemus, Mysidea, Rininus) move quickly and are not specialized to a particular feather type as opposed to chewing lice (Ischnocera, Bruelia) which move more slowly and are adapted to a particular part of the body.5

Risk Factors: Poor hygeine,28 access to wild birds, pre-existing illness

Contagious?:



CLINICAL DISEASE

Signalment:

Symptoms:
  • gross lesions are only seen in severe infestations28
  • nervousness/restlessness,5,17 irritability2,3
  • feather damage/breakage2,3,5,17,29
  • unthriftiness2,3
  • excessive preening2,3,5
  • itchiness2,17,29
  • rarely a cause of baldness in canaries5




DIAGNOSIS

Differentials:

Testing: Lice can be detected by running a finger through the feathers5 and observing adults or nits on feathers.17 Nits are usually attached to the lower portions of the feathers.3 Adult lice most commonly inhabit the neck, back, wings, and vent areas and appear as elongated, fairly fast-moving, light brown, flattened creatures.2,3



TREATMENT

Immediate:
  • Dust or spray with pyrethrin2,17,28,29 weekly5 or bi-weekly for a few treatments.3 Repeating the treatment in 2 weeks kills newly hatched lice.29 Please note that pyrethrin offers little residual protection.29
  • -OR- Treatment with ivermectin is generally effective.28
  • -OR- Carbaryl spray/dusting28 once then repeated in 2-3 weeks.2 This treatment does provide residual protection.29


Long-term: Improve cage hygiene. Treating the cage with insecticide is not necessary (since lice cannot survive long off the host), but may help prevent other ectoparasites.29



TYPICAL OUTCOME



PREVENTION



CONSIDERATIONS

Suggested Reading:

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