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ABV (Avian Bornavirus), PDD (Proventricular Dilatation Disease) and Prolapse

This is not an easy subject matter; this blog is long.

I have a much different "take" on what ABV and PDD are all about. 

Machelle Pacion - Avian Nutrition Specialist

Let's get started at the beginning of the Borna Virus on planet earth. 

The bornavirus was first identified in 1926, but it is believed that BV is millions of years old. Surprised? I was when I began researching and found this information. It began in primates and found a way to mutate to almost every mammal – now it is mutating to aves (birds) (parrots are not mammals, they are in a class of their own known as “aves”).

Almost EVERY living creature has bornavirus residing in their intestinal tract. This is fact. 

But, the original BV (Borna Virus which is not a mutated form) has mutated many, many times...and that is why it resides in virtually almost all living creatures. It is an opportunistic virus and mutates to survive. This is how it has found its way into all living creatures. It not only survives by mutating, but it also thrives! (Yes, most likely you have BV residing in your gut too)

ABV is the mutated form of BV...Avian Borna Virus.

It is important to understand that as long as BV remains in the intestinal tract, it is virtually harmless to the host, whether human, cattle, rodent...or bird. This is also a fact. 

However, if any mutation of BV manages to exit the intestinal tract and get into the bloodstream, that is when the host begins to suffer from extreme health problems. 

How does it get into the blood from the intestines when the digestive tract has a mucosal lining to protect the walls of the digestive tract? Leaky Gut.

Like humans, all animals can have leaky gut. It all depends on their overall health, and a creature’s diet is the strongest dictator whether BV will enter their bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the virus can travel to virtually ANY part of the body, including the brain.

Now...before I go on, know that NO ONE will tell you what I am about to tell you. Remember, "Scientific Researchers" get funded to do their research. If they are not complying with what their benefactors want them to write in their reports their funding ENDS. So, it is to their advantage to align with what their benefactors want them to say to keep their jobs! 

Who are their benefactors? Pharmaceutical companies, human and pet food manufacturers, and veterinarians (also formulators and retailers of pet foods). So, it makes perfect sense for researchers to say "We have to continue our research” regarding ABV (or any illness or disease for that matter) so that the BIG Wheels continue to turn and earn profits. 

I was already involved with avian nutrition when the big scare began about ABV and PDD. I began researching but didn't share any of my findings and thoughts at the time. I am slowly leaking my information privately to those who NEED to know because...well they have been told their beloved bird may have ABV/PDD and will eventually die. 

Let's first understand the difference between ABV and PDD. 

A bird can have ABV and not have PDD. Remember, the virus lives in the digestive tract of almost all living creatures. As long as it remains in the digestive tract, all will remain fine. Only if and/or when the virus enters the bloodstream health issues can arise. 

Tests for ABV are unreliable at best:

  1. A bird can have PDD without testing positive for ABV. How is this? PDD is caused by a couple of things: ABV and/or nutrient malabsorption. 
  1. ABV can cause PDD if ABV enters the bloodstream. It can also cause behavior disorders, seizures, and autoimmune problems. 
  1. PDD can be caused by lack of nutrition or the inability to absorb nutrients, mainly calcium. This can also cause prolapse which is often experienced along with PDD. But the lack of calcium absorption is not always due to the lack of dietary calcium actually ingested. Calcium may be abundant in the system, but the bird isn't absorbing it. This can also lead to cardiovascular disease, problems like arthritis and fibromyalgia and other soft tissue and joint issues. Also kidney stones.
  1. If the bird's feces contain undigested food, it is more likely that the bird is truly positive for PDD. But a bird doesn't always have feces filled with undigested food with PDD. In fact, in the early stages of PDD, undigested food in the feces may not be visible, but as the disease progresses more and more undigested food in the feces will probably be seen. So, it is good to have the bird tested for ABV, just understand that false positives, as well as false negatives, are very common. This is because ABV may not show up in the blood until very advanced. ABV may not show up in every fecal sample tested. It is a hit and miss kind of test.

For years researchers thought (actually said) that PDD was from an airborne virus. Well, this is only partially true. If a bird has the virus in its digestive tract, and almost all birds do, then it is possible for the virus to become airborne...but not likely. What is likely is that some other bird is walking in and through the infected feces of an infected bird. Or by digging in the feces of another bird, even eating the feces of other birds. Or if the human caregiver has BV in their system and the saliva gets on the bird, and the bird ingests the saliva, the bird may now how BV. If the caregiver has had their hands around their mouth and their hands are dirty when they touch the bird's food or the bird itself, the BV can be ingested by the bird and bam, the BV is transferred. Once in the bird’s digestive tract, It can quickly mutate into ABV endogenously (within). 

Okay, so how does ABV enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract when the digestive tract is "sealed off from the bloodstream" by the mucosal lining and the digestive tract walls?

As previously discussed, all living creatures including birds can have leaky gut. My theory is very simple, but since researchers are paid by benefactors such as vets, commercial pet food manufacturers, etc., they have to report misleading information so that the commercial profit wheel continues to get lubricated with funding so the benefactors can keep making profits. Anyway, when a living creature has leaky gut everything that passes through the digestive tract leaks into the bloodstream; minute food particles, bacteria, fungus, and viruses. The bloodstream is not designed to handle these. But once in the bloodstream, ABV can travel anywhere in the body, even the brain (mammalian BV has been found to cause brain and neurological disorders in humans). If ABV gets to the brain seizures can occur as well as messed up neurotransmitters that wreak all kinds of havoc on logic and emotions. This is only one reason why we see so much feather destruction in our birds. This is partially the reason for aggression, lethargy, anxiety, depression and other behavior disorders.

How does anyone acquire leaky gut? Mostly from a very poor diet extremely high in Omega 6s and starches. -Where do pet birds obtain high Omega 6s and hard, waxy starch? Highly processed foods (pellets and highly-processed treats). Also, if a bird was, or is fed a high-cellulose diet, i.e., botanical veggies such as mature kale, chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard and beet greens, cauliflower and other botanical veggies, the cellulose literally scrapes destroying the mucosal lining. The walls of the digestive tract become wounded, and the viruses pass through to the bloodstream. Eventually, the digestive tract becomes scarred from trying to heal over and over again, and nutrients are not absorbed. BAM.

This is one reason we are seeing more and more feather destruction in younger birds, even baby birds. If they are not allowed to consume food from the crop of their parents, and they are fed highly-processed baby bird food, the beginning of the degradation of their digestive tract immediately begins. Or, immediate degradation of the baby birds’ digestive tracts begins occurring even if they are allowed to consume their parents’ crop food if the parents are fed highly-processed foods and/or a high-botanical vegetable diet along with foods containing high amounts of starch. Diets like these destroy healthy gut flora, and gut flora is one of the main contributors to brain health and functions. This continual wounding and scarring can, and usually does lead to leaky gut which then can lead to auto-immune disorders, poor production of brain neurotransmitters, the transfer of ABV into the bloodstream, which then contributes to poor brain function and overall neurological disorders and more.

I have devoted an entire chapter in my book “You Can’t Take the Rainforest Out of the Bird” about a parrot's unique digestive tract. The digestive tract of a parrot is very different from any other species of bird. This is something no one has bothered to educate the avian community about. In fact, after the publication of my book citing this official scientific information, public access to the information was removed from the Internet. I was able to retrieve a copy of the scientific information and save it to my own drive. (In fact, many of the links I provided as references in my book have been taken down since my book was published.)

Interestingly though, once someone who has a bird with actual PDD and/or prolapse and the diet is changed to a healthier raw (can be dehydrated) diet the bird’s health improves. I can't say "healed" because once ABV is in the blood, there is little that can be done to eradicate it, as far as I currently know. This is a dire shame because, in my opinion, the very people funding the research are the people contributing to the disease. And they will not allow the truth to be told because they would lose money.

So many people think the big pet food manufacturers have the wellness of our pets at the core of their heart. This misnomer couldn't be farther from the truth. Their MAIN concern is the bottom line $ for their own benefit. I have found this to be true over and over again as I performed the research for my avian nutrition book. They keep their foods “just safe enough” not to get bad press about birds their food has negatively affected and also, so they don't get sued with a class-action lawsuit. 

You see, dry highly processed kibble and cellulose from botanical vegetables scrape the mucosa from the walls of the digestive tract exposing the walls to all kinds of wounds made by extremely high Omega 6 and starchy highly cooked foods. ABV enters the bloodstream. Not only that but cellulose leaches nutrition from the system as it passes through the digestive tract leaving birds malnourished. -Then adding insult to injury, someone comes along and tells the entire avian community to feed more vegetables (again botanical, not culinary. Culinary veggie-like fruits are fine such as bell pepper, okra, squash in limited amounts, zucchini and more. Anything with the cellulose (skin) on the outside that birds can peel off and discard. When a high vegetable diet is fed, one containing cellulose is tightly woven into the meat of the veggie, along with high amounts of starchy foods is the main staple of the diet, the bird is forced to eat these to prevent starvation. On the foundational level these birds are starving because they aren't getting the kind of foods Nature intended for parrots: lots of fruit, specifically tropical fruit and very young and tender greens, insects...) Parrots consume mostly tropical fruit and tender greens along with insects in the wild. Some also consume mollusks. A few ground foragers consume a limited amount of grains – living grains, not dried out, dead grains.

People tell the avian community to cook grains and legumes and feed them along with the botanical veggies in a certain mix that has been given a coined term. In my opinion, these people have done nothing to help parrots but instead has only placed the finishing touches on what large commercial bird food companies started with their highly processed kibble malnutrition (lack of proper nutrition).

When we look at the timeline, and I have been in the avian community long enough to watch one really had problems feeding their birds until pelleted foods had been around for 15-20 years. Then feather destruction began. Then about the end of 2008, early 2009 a high botanical veggie mix and cooked grains and legumes were introduced and spread like wildfire. Soon after, about 5 years all kinds of birds began being diagnosed with ABV and PDD. Hmmm...coincidence? I don't think so. 

Now we reach the end of my theories and suspicions. You need to decide what you think is best for your bird. I can't do that for you. I can suggest though. And my suggestion is that you do not place your bird on any meds, but instead fix the digestive tract and feed only foods that will support a healthy digestive tract and gut flora. IF your bird has ABV in the blood little can be done about that at this time until...more research becomes available. And with big commercial bird food companies in the back pocket of scientific researchers, there is little to no chance of reliable ABV and PDD information coming to the forefront where the general public has access.

What can you do?  Go back to the beginning and deal directly with the root of the problem - what you feed and how you fed it. IF your bird becomes too sick, then yes, cooked foods will be important, but ONLY if your bird cannot digest its foods. And the foods need to contain fiber a parrot can properly digest: pectin from fruit and hemicellulose from young, tender greens. I would suggest you detox your bird's digestive tract even if you have been feeding Origins Wild Diet for quite some time (raw and gently dehydrated, gluten-free, dairy-free, low in starch and no botanical veggies containing tightly woven-in cellulose). I suggest you cleanse and support the liver. On our website, we offer Liver Pur for detoxing the liver.

Begin deeply thinking about what your bird may have eaten in the past and recent past. Make a list and feel free to send it to me. I will scour it and let you know if I see any foods on your list that may have contributed to ABV existing the digestive and potentially causing PDD. You can email me at

Anyway, if you want more help in all of this let me know. In the meantime, you might want to have your bird checked for ABV.  Get your bird tested for ABV for the “official” (actually unofficial) diagnosis. ABV doesn’t always show up in one or two tests. You can’t be sure if the test returns positive or negative for ABV. No matter what the results are, I suggest you test at least two more times 6 months apart each. And continue watching for undigested food. Have your vet check the cloaca to ensure it is not prolapsing. 

Happy foraging!

©5/8/2018 2:01:33 PM Passion Tree House LLC – All Rights Reserved –


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