A 2-year-old, female Congo African grey parrot with self-trauma of the feathers and skin was evaluated for a second opinion. Duration of the condition was greater than 1 year. Initial treatments included a topical multienzyme antibacterial and antifungal compound, injectable doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, fluconazole,metronidazole, and meloxicam.Upon presentation for a second opinion, the skin of the tail base appeared thickened and ulcerated, all rectrices and tail coverts were missing, and the uropygial gland was swollen.A complete blood count revealed relative monocytosis and relative basophilia consistent with chronic disease.Radiographs showed truncation and lysis of the caudal vertebrae and pygostyle. Histopathologic examination of the affected areas revealed diffuse, chronic active, fibrosing, ulcerative dermatitis. Fungal and anaerobic cultures were negative, and aerobic bacterial culture yielded methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The bird was treated with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole,meloxicam, fluoxetine, hydrotherapy, and topical lidocaine gel.While tail regrowth was evident 2 months later, follow-up over the next 2 years found continued self-trauma, despite repeated skin biopsies negative for bacteria. It is unknown whether a cause-and-effect relationship existed between the MRSA cultured and the feather-destructive behavior in this bird or whether earlier identification and treatment of the bacterial dermatitis would have changed the outcome. It is also unknown whether the MRSA cultured in this bird was commensal or whether the bird became infected from its environment or from humans to which it was exposed.Until more is understood about normal microflora of psittacine skin,MRSA cultured from these birds remains of unknown significance.Because of its zoonotic potential, however, owners of these birds should be advised to contact their physicians.

COMMENTARY: Feather-damaging behavior is one of the most common reasons for birds to be presented for veterinary evaluation.The causes are often multifactorial, despite the tendency to label this problem as a behavioral disorder.This article demonstrates the interaction between possible trauma, soft tissue damage, bacterial infection, and possible behavioral changes that resulted in this bird’s feather-damaging behavior.This article also highlights the lack of studies to document normal bacterial flora in parrots (and many other bird species).An assumption that a Staphylococcus species was part of the normal skin flora in this bird in the early stages of its disease may have led to lack of more specific therapy at the time of initial presentation—and the subsequent chronicity of this problem.The importance of documenting the“normal” cannot be overstated. Finally, the emergence of MRSA in companion animal species should be of great concern to clinicians and their clients.Not enough is known at this stage of its prevalence and zoonotic potential.The identification of a Staphylococcus species from a likely infected lesion should warrant further investigation, specific therapy where appropriate, and a warning to the owner of possible zoonotic implications.—Bob Doneley, BVSc, FAVSc

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus–associated dermatitis in a Congo African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus). Briscoe JA,Morris DO, Rankin SC, et al. J AVIAN MED SURG 22:336-343, 2008.