Respiratory Parasite in Birds

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 1, 2008

Avian Sarcocystosis

Lung and airway problems can occur in birds and can be triggered by parasites. These respiratory parasites can be protozoan, much like the parasite sarcocystis falcatula, which causes sarcocystosis disease in birds.

It occurs when the protozoan parasite infects the bird's soft tissues, creating cysts in various organs, especially in the respiratory tract, nervous system, kidneys and muscles. Sarcocystosis is a fatal disease for birds and generally affects birds housed outdoors. However, if you are located in a region with a sacocystosis outbreak, your indoor bird can become infected with the disease.

In southern United States, sarcocystosis infection is the main reason for death in parrots living outdoors. Cockatoos, African Grey parrots, Eclectus parrots, and other Old World parrot species are the birds most prone to this danger.

Symptoms and Types

Sarcocystosis is fatal unless it is treated early. Symptoms found in the infected bird include: listlessness, regurgitation of water, and anemia.


The sarcocystosis disease is spread through contaminated food, water and from the environment. Birds can also be infected by eating diseased cockroaches or through contact with the feces of infected opossums, raccoons, skunks, rats, and cockroaches.


Your veterinarian will examine and test the bird for sarcocystosis disease. If found, your bird will be given anti-protozoal medicines orally or by injection. The veterinarian will then treat secondary symptoms, including anemia, fluid loss, and malnutrition.


Hygiene is the best prevention for sarcocystosis. Keep your bird caged inside home and store the bird feed in a place away from cockroaches or other infectious animals.

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