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Papillomatosis or Warts in Birds

By Rick Axelson, DVM

Infectious Diseases, Pet Services

General Information

The papilloma virus causes non-cancerous tumors (warts) in many pet birds. The virus belongs to the family papovavirus, the same family as the polyoma virus, which also infects birds.

What are the clinical signs of papilloma virus infection?

papillomatosis-1The papilloma virus causes benign warts on the non-feathered skin of pet birds. Many warts on various parts of the body are believed to be caused by the papilloma virus, although a direct cause and effect relationship is not always proven. Warts commonly occur on the legs and feet (especially in finches), toes, jaw, eyelids, beak, neck, wing, uropygial gland (at the base of the tail), and at various locations in the gastrointestinal tract (commonly at the cloaca, the common opening for the urinary, gastrointestinal, and genital tracts).

How do I know if my bird has viral warts?

Owners often notice the lesions on the body. Gastrointestinal warts are more difficult to diagnose, and may not be found until a necropsy (post-mortem/autopsy) is performed after death. Cloacal papillomas may be noticed by the owner, or they may cause a change in the character of the droppings. The droppings may be loose, soiling the feathers around the cloaca, or may even have blood in them. Papillomas of the cloaca often resemble true prolapses or protrusion of the cloaca. Your veterinarian can run a simple test (acetic acid test) to see if the lesion is a papilloma or true prolapse.

How are the lesions treated?

Removal using cautery is the recommended treatment. Depending upon the location of the lesion, several treatments may be needed. Even with treatment, the papillomas may recur, especially if they are caused by the papilloma virus.

Can I get warts from my bird?

"No evidence that birds with papillomatosis can spread the condition to people or any other pets except other birds."

While people can get warts, there is no evidence that birds with papillomatosis can spread the condition to people or any other pets except other birds.

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