Viral Digestive Tract Infection in Birds

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 1, 2008

Avian Papillomatosis

Papillomatosis disease is a viral infection causing the growth of papillomas in a bird's digestive tract. Papillomas are the thickened tissues or tissue growths, which appear similar to pink cauliflower. These papillomas can grow anywhere, depending on the origin of the herpesvirus infection. However, it usually infects the bird's mouth, stomach, intestines and cloaca.

The birds generally infected by the papillomatosis disease include macaws (especially green-wing macaws), Amazon parrots, and hawk-headed parrots. Normally, a whole flock will be infected by the disease.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms of the Papillomatosis disease are dependent on the original site of infection. If the papillomas are found in the mouth, the bird will have wheezing, and difficulty swallowing and/or breathing, usually breathing through open mouth.

Conversely, papillomas in the cloaca, protrude from the vent during stress and when the bird eliminates waste matter. The droppings will contain blood and have an abnormal odor. The animal will also pass gas (flatulence) and have difficulty passing stool. (Papillomas in the cloaca are often mistaken for cloacal prolapse.) Papillomas in the stomach and intestines, however, display such symptoms as vomiting, lack of appetite, and a general weakness in the bird.

Amazon parrots infected with Papillomatosis disease, also tend to develop cancer of the liver or bile duct.


The Papillomatosis infection is caused by a herpesvirus, usually contracted from other infected birds.


The veterinarian will test and diagnose for the herpesvirus. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Papillomatosis disease. The veterinarian can, however, surgically remove the papillomas. But the probability of the Papillomatosis disease recurring after surgery is high.

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