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Member of the Month October 2008
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Article Excerpt from:
A Guide to Basic Health and Disease in Birds
Author: Dr Michael Cannon, Avian Veterinarian and Bird Breeder


There is no disinfectant that is suitable for all occasions. You need to evaluate your situation and then choose carefully.

In all cases, the disinfectant must be used strictly according to the manufacturer's instructions. The commonly thought principle that 'Using it at a stronger concentration so it will be more effective' is both dangerous to your birds and incorrect. Most disinfectants are actually less effective at stronger concentrations.

The build up of most infectious agents can be controlled simply by washing with hot water and a good detergent. The aim is to have the surface visibly clean. Disinfectants should only be used when you need them - when there is a disease outbreak.

Nearly all disinfectants are inactivated when any organic material is present. For the disinfectant to work properly you need the area to be visibly clean. Any organic material or debris must be thoroughly removed - you need to remove all feathers including dust and dander, any droppings or other body excretions and any food material. Putting a disinfectant on top of any of this material means that you have wasted your time and effort. There is an old saying that 'disinfection is 99% elbow grease and 1% chemicals'.

Any disinfectant solution must be in contact with the area being disinfected for 15 to 30 minutes to be effective. Once this time has passed, the area must be thoroughly rinsed to remove any residue that may harm the birds. You must never return birds to an area that has not been thoroughly rinsed.

All disinfectants should be stored in a closed cupboard in an area away from the birds or their food.

Take care using disinfectants around hatchlings and other young birds as they are more likely to have a problem with fumes from disinfectants compared to larger birds. Make sure airflows in nurseries are high enough to remove all fumes.

How do you know which product is actually in the bottle in your hand? By law, all products must have the active constituent or ingredient listed prominently on the label. Read the label and then find the active constituent. Identify it on the list following. See if it is suitable for your needs.

This product is gentle to body tissues - both human and birds. It is good for controlling viruses and Candidiasis (Thrush). It is not effective for many bacteria (especially Gram positive or Pseudomonas) or Psittacosis (Chlamydophila psittaci). In the correct dilution it is very useful to rinse or flush dirty wounds. Common brand names are Aviclens (TM), Hibiclens (TM), Hibitane (TM) and Nolvosan (TM).

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
This is a group of disinfectants. Sometimes they are called 'Quats'. Many of the disinfectants available in your supermarket contain these compounds. Those designed for use around the house are quite dilute but industrial strength is usually very concentrated. Follow all the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

These products are quite irritating to the skin. In high concentrations they can paralyse the birds breathing. Used correctly they are extremely useful. They are very effective for Chlamydophila (Psittacosis) and many bacteria and viruses. Common situations where they are recommended are for washing down tables or soaking nets, dishes or perches.

This product bleaches and deodorizes as well as killing many infectious agents. Be careful using it around any coloured fabrics as it will bleach and stain them. It breaks down quickly in bright light, especially sunlight. Any organic debris will inactivate it quickly. In high concentrations it is very irritant to the eyes., mouth and skin. It is not recommended for metal surfaces or equipment as it is quite corrosive. Avoid using the granulated form around birds, as it releases a heavy amount of fumes. Safer forms are household bleaches. Most bleaches are used at 200ml of bleach per 4 litres of water - but read the label to check this is correct.

A very useful form around many animals is chloramine. It combines chlorine and ammonia so that a lower dose of each is used. A coomon brand is Halamid (TM) or Halasept (TM).
Sodium hypochlorite is another common form of chlorine. The recommended strength to use this is at 5% dilution. It is a very safe and effective agent. It is also the active constituent in many baby bottle sanitisers. Chlorine is very effective against the active, growing forms of viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae. It is not effective for their spores.

Tertiary Amines
These are relatively new disinfectants and are quite effective against a wide range of bacteria and viruses. In the diluted form they are safe around birds. They are quite useful in sterilising utensils and equipment used when handrearing birds. A common brand available is Avi-Safe (TM).

Normal iodines are not used because they stain most surfaces. The best ones to use are the 'tamed iodines' - the iodophors. This has a slow release of iodine when used in its diluted form. They are not corrosive and only lightly staining - that washes out in water. They are very effective against a wide range of bacteria and fungi. They are not useful for viruses.
Common brands are Betadine (TM), Iovone (TM).

This is a very effective disinfectant that has a wide range of activity. It kills most bacteria, Chlamydophila psittaci, oocysts (Coccidiosis) and viruses. In the concentrated form it is extremely irritating to skin, eyes and mouth.
The major drawback is that it has been proven to cause cancer in humans with chronic exposure, so it must be used with protective clothing, boots etc. Common brands are Neo-Quat L.A. (TM) and Parvocide (TM).

There are a couple of others but most people would be unlikely to use them and there uses are covered in the ones mentioned above. They are the Phenols and the Alcohols.

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