Kristy Goodwin liked cockatiels. She had about 40 of them in cages scattered all through her front room, kitchen and bed room. She had 30 extra in a big flight in her sunroom, which was situated simply off her front room, and 10 in a smaller flight on her again porch. There had been 20 further cockatiel pairs in breeder cages in Goodwin’s spare bed room and examine. With cockatiels actually filling the home from one finish of her home to the opposite, there was additionally plenty of feather mud and dried droppings floating across the air.
“I knew the air wasn’t exactly clean, but I wasn’t bothered by it,” Goodwin admitted. “I was totally crazy about the cockatiels, and I just figured the bird dander was something I had to learn to live with.”
Five years into her cockatiel-retaining, nevertheless, Goodwin discovered herself sneezing lots, even when she didn’t have a chilly and it wasn’t hay fever season. Several instances she awakened in the midst of the night time with a dry, wispy cough in her higher chest, coughing to the purpose that she couldn’t get again to sleep. She felt sniffly, headachy, drained and usually depressing. That went on for a lot of months. Then one night time she had an all-out respiratory assault, which left her gasping for breath and resulted in a visit to the emergency room.
“Both the emergency room doctor and my regular physician told me the same thing — I needed to get rid of my cockatiels,” Goodwin mentioned tearfully. The medical doctors informed her that her lungs had been broken a lot by the chicken particles she had been inhaling that she had sustained irreparable harm. If Goodwin stored her birds, she may lose all her lung capability and die.
Goodwin wasn’t the one one in the home struggling. Gigi, her blue-and-gold macaw, was additionally experiencing well being issues. “I had had Gigi for about 20 years, long before I had gotten into cockatiel breeding, and she had always been in perfect health,” Goodwin associated. “But about the same time I started having health problems, I noticed Gigi was wheezing a lot and doing the open-mouth breathing.” She took Gigi to her veterinarian, who confirmed Goodwin’s suspicions: Gigi was simply as allergic to cockatiels as she was.
Goodwin’s story is a working example. Sooner or later, in case you’re respiration impure air, your well being goes to undergo. And likelihood is, in case you’re being impacted, your chicken is, too.
Bird Keeper’s Lung
What can occur when somebody constantly inhales “bird air?” A small share of individuals, in all probability lower than half of 1 p.c of all chicken homeowners, develop a respiratory hypersensitivity response (allergic response) to inhalation of airborne mud from chicken feathers, mud, dander and dried droppings. In the medical discipline, the situation is known as Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis (EAA) or Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP). It is extra generally referred to as chicken keeper’s lung.
Specifically, EAA is an allergic response to the protein present in natural avian matter. “When birds flap their wings, all those proteins go up into the air and when people inhale them, they can develop an allergy,” famous Washington state avian veterinarian Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM.
This situation is normally related to retaining birds indoors, notably heavy powder-producing birds equivalent to cockatiels, cockatoos, African greys and pigeons. It is extra more likely to be an issue in conditions the place there are numerous birds stored in a small space, and the cages or flights will not be properly maintained. People with allergy symptoms and bronchial asthma are most inclined to this illness.
There is each an acute and power type of EAA. “The acute form causes a severe respiratory attack, similar to an asthma attack, where your bronchials contract and your respiratory tract shuts down or collapses, and suddenly you can’t breathe,” mentioned Larry Nemetz, DVM, a birds-solely veterinarian in Southern California.
The acute kind normally develops when a person all of a sudden turns into uncovered to an amazing quantity of chicken mud. It could possibly be that the particular person is cleansing an enclosed cockatiel aviary that hasn’t been cleaned for a month, and plenty of fecal matter and different particles has been allowed to construct up. A number of hours after cleansing the aviary, the person might begin coughing and respiration exhausting, and develop a fever and/or chills. Normally, that is only a short-term situation. If publicity is stopped at this level, no therapy is normally wanted, and the person will return to regular.
Chronic, low-grade publicity is way more severe. Chronic EAA usually develops in individuals who have common or repeated publicity to a excessive focus of chicken mud and dander. With this type of EAA, the allergens harm the respiratory tract by “inflaming the bronchi and closing off the lungs,” Johnson-Delaney defined, “but it does so at the level of the alveoli, which is your air exchange area, and it will thicken them so that you can’t get air.”
Once power EAA begins setting in, everlasting, irreversible lung lesions develop, leaving the person scarred for all times. At first, the one outward signs could also be delicate sneezing or coughing, lack of vitality and weight reduction. As the illness progresses, the person loses increasingly more lung capability, and respiration turns into more and more troublesome. Chronic EAA can develop in as little as two years, though it takes 10 to 20 years for most individuals to develop the extreme kind.
“If you don’t pay attention to it, EAA can kill you,” Johnson-Delaney warned, “because, eventually, you will have no lung capacity left.” Chronic EAA is survivable, she added, however it’s important to acknowledge and tackle the issue early, earlier than your lungs turn out to be too scarred. “Don’t ignore early symptoms because by the time advanced symptoms develop, it may be too late,” harassed Johnson-Delaney.
In most instances, these recognized with extreme instances of power EAA don’t have any selection however to surrender their birds. Some sufferers may additionally be suggested to eradicate publicity to all chicken protein altogether, which can contain eradicating rooster eggs from their eating regimen and avoiding parks or metropolis streets the place pigeons are current. They may additionally must take corticosteroids for the remainder of their life to assist maintain their airways open.
People with milder instances of power EAA might must take away their birds from their residence briefly and go on steroids for some time, however finally they are able to resume chicken-retaining. Even then, medical doctors advise avoiding the excessive-powder species and to rent somebody to scrub out the cages for them.
Unfortunately for Goodwin, it’s too late for preventative measures. “I realize now that I had way too many cockatiels in my house, but I didn’t want to give any of them up,” she conceded. “I had one cheap air filter in my living room, but it obviously wasn’t effective.”
Goodwin took her physician’s recommendation and located houses for all her cockatiels, in addition to her macaw. Since then, her well being has improved dramatically. “Giving up my birds was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” she mentioned. “That may not have had to happen if I started limiting the number of birds I was keeping a long time ago.” It’s a troublesome lesson to study, however one all chicken homeowners ought to be aware of. Clean air is a key element of excellent well being — and never one thing to be taken with no consideration.