Illustrated Articles

Birds + Infectious Diseases

  • The papilloma virus causes non-cancerous tumors (warts) in many pet birds. The virus belongs to the family papovavirus, the same family as the polyoma virus, which also infects birds.

  • COVID-19 is a human respiratory disease that was initially discovered late in 2019. This disease is caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that has not previously been identified in humans. Physical distancing, or social distancing, is one of the most effective strategies available to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While physical distancing, walking your dog is fine as long as you are feeling well and can remain at least 6 feet away from other people. If you have cats, find new ways to play with them indoors. Many veterinary clinics are adjusting their policies to reflect physical distancing guidance related to COVID-19. If your pet needs veterinary care (or if you need to pick up medication, a prescription diet, etc.), call your veterinary hospital first to determine how to proceed.

  • Avian polyomavirus infection (APV) of pet birds belongs to the family Polyomaviridae. APV can cause benign feather lesions in budgies, slow crop emptying in weanling parrots, hemorrhages on the skin, or acute death. Species particularly susceptible to APV infection include budgies, Eclectus parrots, Caiques, and hawk-head parrots. Clinical signs, diagnostic testing, and preventive measures are explained in this handout.

  • Poxviruses can infect many species of birds, and each species of bird may have its own unique species of poxvirus. This handout explains three forms of the virus: cutaneous, diphtheroid, and septicaemic. Each of these forms has distinct clinical signs. Diagnosis, treatment, and ways to minimize the risk of infection in your bird are explained.

  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a serious condition in parrot species for which there is no cure. The highly contagious virus attacks fast-growing epithelial cells, commonly causing visibly abnormal formations of the beak and/or feather follicles. The clinical signs vary depending on the species of bird and the age at which it was infected. Diagnostic testing is available and precautions must be taken when purchasing a new bird.

  • **This article has been specifically written for pet sitters and how they can reduce their exposure to COVID-19.** COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease in humans, initially discovered late in 2019. Although all coronaviruses are related, they are not all the same virus. As a pet sitter, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice physical distancing even with clients who appear healthy. It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated, wear a mask, and maintain at least 6 feet distance from your clients. Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.

  • The West Nile Virus (WNV) is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito (primarily Culex species) that is infected with the virus. Birds are both susceptible to the virus and can act as a host, though indigenous birds such as owls, hawks, eagles, crows, and jays appear to be most at risk in comparison to pet birds. There is no specific treatment once a bird is infected so prevention is of high importance.