Can My Bird Catch My Cold? (2024)

Can My Bird Catch My Cold? (1)

Rosebreasted co*ckatoo and Jamie's mom

Q: I am at home sick with a cold. Can my bird catch it?

— Justine, V., Fairfax, VA

A: A veterinarian once told me that a client brought her amazon in with a “terrible cold”. It was coughing, sneezing and sniffling with a “runny nose”. The doctor dutifully examined the bird, feeling pretty confident about the outcome.

When he was finished checking the bird, the vet asked her client if she, herself, had recently been sick. She replied that she’d had a cold and that she felt terrible about passing it on to her bird. The doctor explained to her that her bird was perfectly healthy, but had a “sick” sense of humor.

Humans do not transfer cold or flu viruses to their birds. In fact, there a only a couple of uncommon viruses that can be passed along to them, but it is very difficult to do so. We spend much more time in and around their body fluids than they do ours.

Can My Bird Catch My Cold? (2)

Rosebreasted co*ckatoo

Of bigger concern is transmitting Gram-negative bacteria to our birds through our saliva. In our mouths, in fact in the mouths of all mammals, are bacteria that the avian body does not carry and are unequipped to deal with. We should never let our birds eat from our mouths, share food we have bitten into, or eat from our utensils. When we kiss our birds, we should be very careful not to transfer saliva. (I wouldn’t DREAM of asking you not to kiss your birds!)

Gram-negative bacteria can also be present on the claws of our four-legged pets through their saliva. If your bird is ever bitten OR scratched by another pet it requires immediate veterinary care.

For those of you curious as to what Gram-negative bacteria is…

“Gram staining” is a process your veterinarian uses to separate into two groups the bacterias found in samples taken from your bird: negative and positive. A purple dye is introduced to the sample for staining.

Gram-negative bacteria has a thicker cell wall than Gram-positive bacteria and resists absorbing the colorant used in staining. Gram-negative bacteria, which prefer a wet environment, turns pink in the gram staining process – Gram-positive bacteria, which thrives in a drier place, such as skin, turns purple. Human pathogens are mostly Gram-negative.

A Danish physician, named Hans Christian Joachim Gram, further advanced the technique originally developed by a German biologist and the process used today was named for him.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

Can My Bird Catch My Cold? (2024)


Can My Bird Catch My Cold? ›

While it is rarer to get sick from humans, birds can develop respiratory infections from other sources, so if your bird is coughing or sneezing ensure it is playful imitation rather than actual symptoms. In the majority of cases, your bird picking up your cold is very rare.

Does the cold affect birds? ›

Just like people, birds shiver to stay warm. Birds have much higher metabolic rates and burn more energy to stay warm than we do. Black-capped chickadees weigh less than half an ounce and can maintain a body temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit - even when the air is 0 degrees!

Can birds catch human cold? ›

The doctor explained to her that her bird was perfectly healthy, but had a “sick” sense of humor. Humans do not transfer cold or flu viruses to their birds.

Can birds get the flu? ›

Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans.

How do I tell if my bird has a cold? ›

Avian "colds"
  1. Increased respiratory rate.
  2. Tail bobbing at rest.
  3. Noisy breathing.
  4. Coughing.
  5. Sneezing.
  6. Nasal or eye discharge.
  7. Swelling around the eyes.
  8. Change in tone or voice.

How cold is too cold for my bird? ›

Birds (especially larger parrots) can generally tolerate temperatures as low as the 50s, but once the thermometer drops below that, they may get fluffed up (expending all of their energy trying to trap warm air between their feathers and their bodies to keep warm) and stop eating.

Do birds feel pain? ›

From transduction to transmission, modulation, projection, and perception, birds possess the neurologic components necessary to respond to painful stimuli and they likely perceive pain in a manner similar to mammals.

Can birds get sinus infections? ›

Birds have a very complicated sinus system (a part of the respiratory tract) with lots of interconnecting air pockets that can readily get infected. Infections can start in one site and move through the sinus system to attack most areas of the skull.

How to treat cold in birds? ›

Treatment of hypothermia

Use a heat lamp. Simply get a normal desk lamp and put a 40 watt pearl light bulb in it. Then place the lamp outside the cage right next to where your bird is sitting "fluffed up" to allow it to keep warm. The light can be left on all night and day for up to 48 hours.

What does it mean if your bird sneezes a lot? ›

While birds do occasionally sneeze, frequent or violent sneezing can indicate respiratory illness. When it comes to respiratory health in pet birds, preventing problems in the first place is key.

Can birds cause respiratory problems in humans? ›

Bird Fancier's Lung is a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an immunologically mediated lung disease due to repetitive exposure of air-borne avian antigen. This was first described in 1965 and is known as one of the most common causes of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

What is bird flu in humans? ›

The reported signs and symptoms of bird flu virus infections in humans have ranged from no symptoms or mild illness [such as eye redness (conjunctivitis) or mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms], to severe (such as pneumonia requiring hospitalization) and included fever (temperature of 100ºF [37.8ºC] or greater) or ...

Can birds get strep throat? ›

Streptococcosis has been reported in numerous bird species, including turkeys, ducks and geese, and chickens. It has a worldwide distribution. Flock mortality rates of streptococcosis can be as high as 50%. Streptococcal infection is transmitted via oral or aerosol routes, as well as through skin injuries.

Can my bird get sick if I'm sick? ›

While it is rarer to get sick from humans, birds can develop respiratory infections from other sources, so if your bird is coughing or sneezing ensure it is playful imitation rather than actual symptoms. In the majority of cases, your bird picking up your cold is very rare.

Why does my bird puff up when he sees me? ›

A bird puffing up their feathers can be a sign of fear, aggression, a friendly or even a mating signal. You need to know your bird well to know which it is. Signs of fear and aggression can get confused as fear may slide into aggression. An aggressive bird enlarges their body as much as possible.

How do you know if a bird is happy? ›

Birds often talk, sing or whistle when they are happy. They also click their tongue as a sign they want to be petted. If you have noticed your bird hanging upside down, this usually means he is happy and comfortable in his environment.

Are birds affected by temperature? ›

Like people, birds can withstand changes in the weather and maintain their body temperature whether it's hot or cold outside, but there are limits. When summer temperatures are on the rise, birds depend on adaptations to keep from overheating.

Why do birds puff up in cold weather? ›

“A bird's body heat warms the air between its feathers,” Marra explains. “So birds fluff up in the cold to trap as much air in their feathers as possible. The more trapped air, the warmer the bird.” So feathers are great for the parts of a bird that have feathers, but what about a bird's legs and feet?

What do birds do when the weather is bad? ›

Seek Shelter

Because many birds are so tiny, even tucking against the trunk of a tree can be good shelter from the worst wind, driving rain, or stinging snow. Birds will seek out hidden cavities or nestle under branches, brush, or other shelter to keep out of bad weather.

Do birds eat more when it's cold? ›

They'll need to eat lots of fatty foods before nightfall and lots more when they wake in the morning. Birds such as tiny Chickadees and Titmice can actually eat 20 times more food in cold weather than they do in warm weather.

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