Exotic-Animal Puzzler: What caused this cockatiel's temporomandibular rigidity? - Veterinary Medicine
Medicine Center
DVM Veterinary Medicine Featuring Information from:


Exotic-Animal Puzzler: What caused this cockatiel's temporomandibular rigidity?


Recently, lockjaw syndrome was reported in 3- to 10-week-old cockatiels.3 This report indicated that not only B. avium but numerous other bacteria were isolated from affected juveniles.3 Other organisms isolated included Escherichia coli, Enterococcus species, Aerococcus species, Bacillus species, Klebsiella species, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, and Mycoplasma synoviae. These researchers observed that all reports had been restricted to sinusitis and upper respiratory problems in captive-reared, young cockatiels. Thus, they suggested that cockatiels may be predisposed to bacteria-related lockjaw because of an unusual cranial air sac or nasal sinus conformation through which an upper respiratory infection can easily disseminate to adjacent muscles, nerves, or joints. An alternative hypothesis was that young cockatiels have weaker local immune responses in their nasal passages than other young psittacine species.3

Bordetella avium can cause turkey coryza, a highly contagious upper respiratory tract disease in young turkeys.4 And both B. avium and B. bronchiseptica have been indicated as a cause of pseudomembranous tracheitis and septicemia in ostrich chicks.1 Both Bordetella species produce a dermonecrotic toxin. The toxin produced by B. bronchiseptica can cause atrophic rhinitis in swine.5 So a dermonecrotic toxin produced by B. avium and B. bronchiseptica may play an important role in producing rhinitis, sinusitis, and temporomandibular osteomyelitis. Additionally, damage caused by a dermonecrotic toxin produced during a subclinical Bordetella species infection could predispose cockatiels and other psittacine birds to secondary opportunistic bacterial infections. Secondary invaders could rapidly become the predominant organisms since Bordetella species proliferate at a slower rate than many of the other cited organisms, at least when grown on culture media.

No effective treatment is available for cockatiel chicks or fledglings exhibiting signs of disease. Euthanasia is the most humane solution. A vaccine is not available for use in cockatiels, though vaccines are available for use in turkeys.


1. Clubb SL, Homer BL, Pisani J, et al. Outbreaks of bordetellosis in psittacines and ostriches, in Proceedings. Annu Conf Assoc Avian Vet 1994;63-68.

2. Greenacre CB, Wilson GH, Ritchie BW. Enterococcus species-associated temporomandibular arthritis in cockatiels. Vet Med 1999;94:907-909.

3. Fitzgerald SD, Hanika C, Reed WM. Lockjaw syndrome in cockatiels associated with sinusitis. Avian Pathol 2001;30:49-53.

4. Skeeles JK, Arp LH. Bordetellosis (turkey coryza). In: Calnek BW et al, eds. Diseases of poultry. 10th ed. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1977;275-288.

5. Brockmeier SL, Register KB, Magyar T, et al. Role of the dermonecrotic toxin of Bordetella bronchiseptica in the pathogenesis of respiratory disease in swine. Infect Immunol 2002;70

The information for this case was provided by Neil Allison, DVM, DACVP, and Alice Smith, BS, C.E. Kord Animal Disease Laboratory, Ellington Agriculture Center, 440 Hogan Road, Nashville, TN 37220. Dr. Allison’s current address is Experimental Pathology Laboratories Inc., P.O. Box 12766, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.


Click here