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Canker, Guardia, Cochlosomosis & Cryptosporidium:
Lady Gouldian Finches and protozoan infections

By Gary & Barbara Solomon, Frisky Finches - Copyright 2006

Have you ever lost any Lady Gouldians, finches or other birds in the past to unknown reasons? Did they very suddenly become ill and die within a few days? I believe we have an educated theory to explain this!

Over the years the Lady Gouldian finch has developed a reputation as being a delicate fragile finch. We have always found this rumor conflicting as our birds are raised outdoors year round with severe seasonal weather changes yet they seem to be hearty and live long healthy lives. We have had customers ask us to sell them older breeding pairs "with them knowing" that they were over 7 years old and those birds went on to breed for years according to the feed-back we received further disproving this rumor.

It was not until we put up our website and have frequently been contacted from people all over the world with sick Gouldians, some finches and several other species of small birds that contributed to our hypothesis. So far we have had great success treating all of the sick birds inquires with the medications we suggested. Needless to say these people are all very grateful and happy to have saved their birds...

We have always known that Gouldian finches are very susceptible to bacterial problems in the digestive tract. This is why we developed our preventative maintenance program that our finches are on and why we do not give them any "wet foods" as explained on the essentials page and in the 12 steps to success pages.

Canker ProtozoaI believe a protozoan infection called Canker is the culprit and is a wide spread infection in the captive bird and finch population worldwide today.

The Lady Gouldian finch seems to be very sensitive to this protozoan infection. Finches like the society finch, zebra finches, most pigeons, doves, button quail, etc.... all have a little higher tolerance for Canker than Gouldians and most of them carry it and spread it when around other birds.

Canker is a protozoan infection (single celled organism) which usually flairs up in most birds during the stress of breeding and other highly stressful conditions in a birds life. It is passed to others by the birds droppings getting into the drinking water, grit, food, etc... and by them picking at the seed on the floor of the cage or loft. There is no permanent cure that we know of but it can be kept under control with the proper medication. Canker can ultimately kill both young and adult birds, especially in combination with stress, other infections and bacteria.

Generally speaking people who breed Gouldians also like to breed other species of birds or finches. Often they are all in the same cage or loft with the Gouldians which contributes to spreading this infection or they are in separate aviaries or lofts. This can also contribute to spreading these organisms by transferring the Canker and other diseases on the bottom of the shoes when walking from one cage into the next.

Going back many years people breeding Gouldians for profit have used society finches to foster raise their baby Gouldians to increase their annual hatch ratio. As the adult society finches feed the baby Gouldians they are passing the canker on to the next generation of Gouldians. The babies that are medicated by the loft owner to survive or the ones who manage to build up a tolerance and survive on their own immune systems, end up passing the canker on to their offspring when they are breeding... This has been going on for decades further spreading this infection throughout the captive Gouldian population.

There is a verity of birds in captivity that are more hearty and seem to have a strong enough immune system to handle the different strains of Canker, Gouldians however along with a few other finches, canary's, pigeons, doves, quail, poultry and a few others are very susceptible to this infection, especially during the breeding season. When birds infected with Canker and are confronted with "other stressful conditions" in combination with the Canker infection or a secondary protozoan infection such as (Guardia, Cochlosomosis or Cryptosporidium) death can occur quickly.

Some examples of what causes high levels of stress or sudden illness in birds infected with Canker are as follows: breeding in general, flock or group breeding, shortage of nesting boxes or materials during breeding, territory issues from over crowding, dirty water, dirty food containers or dirty living conditions, moisture which causes bacterial problems, breeding with multiple species together in the same cage or introducing new birds to your flock that are "sick" without quarantining them. Any of these conditions "combined" with a Canker infection can cause sudden death in birds sensitive to this parasite.

As you can see there are many stressful conditions combined with a Canker infection that can cause a flair up in what seems to be a perfectly healthy bird. Gouldians and other birds that are infected with Canker can quickly become sick or lethargic, sit on the bottom of the cage with puffed up feathers during the day (sometimes endlessly pecking at seed but not really eating) and sleeping during the day with their head tucked under their wing feathers on their back. Another sure sign is their droppings will become very runny and have a yellowish green color. If this occurs the bird will usually parish within a few short days.

Gouldians and other small finches have a very high metabolism "like a hummingbird". Because these birds are so small it only takes a day or two for them to become very sick and die. Once they become ill with puffy feathers, start sleeping during the day and acting lethargic, time is truly of the essence!

This can be prevented however with the proper preventative maintenance program and medication. There are a lot of medications available on the market for canker however we have found Ronsivet to be the safest, especially on baby birds during the breeding season. We do not recommend using alternative medications, of which there are many, as they can cause paralysis (twirling/vertigo) in Gouldians and even death.

Chances are pretty good it would take several days for the proper medication to arrive if ordered "after" your birds are sick which would usually be too late to save a sick Gouldian or other small birds, therefore we highly recommend having the correct medication on hand, ready to be used should your birds ever need it...

Considering what you have invested in your birds or what your about to invest in them financially and "emotionally", we feel it is a "VERY" good idea to keep a proven Canker/Guardia medication and a broad spectrum antibiotic on hand at all times ready to be used in case your birds should suddenly become ill. It's a small price to pay for the added security and piece of mind. Your birds will appreciate it too!

We hope you have found this article helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

This article is copyrighted 2006 for Frisky Finches and is not meant to be reprinted, replicated, or republished without our expressed written permission. Thank you.