can i give my bird the flu

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.

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.

“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.

Given that many bird species are both playful and intelligent, some owners have noticed that their birds mimic their sick owners’ coughing, sneezing, or sniffling behaviors. Although human illness is less common in birds, other factors can cause respiratory infections, so if your bird is coughing or sneezing, make sure it’s a playful imitation rather than a real illness.

Knowing the joy that birds can bring, we at myBird aim to arm avian enthusiasts with the knowledge they need to provide the best care for their pets. Take our quiz to find out which kinds of birds might be best for you, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram! You can also read through our other posts about birds.

Although it’s normal to be concerned about your bird or pet contracting an illness from you, most human diseases are largely prevented by the immune systems of birds. Although birds are less resistant to some bacterial strains and types, risk can be reduced by adhering to good hygiene practices and minimizing handling and exposure. However, some strains, such as Gram-negative bacteria, can spread through saliva, so pet owners need to take extra precautions to avoid kissing or feeding their bird. Additionally, pet birds are prone to strep throat, so it’s a good idea to keep the bird away from any sick family members.

Seasonal illnesses like colds and flu are commonplace, frequently necessitating missed work or school. Pet owners may be concerned that their illness could spread to their non-human household members. Although it is uncommon to infect a bird with a disease, there are a few things to consider if you or a family member is unwell and you want to make sure your birds stay healthy. Here are some ideas to keep in mind to safeguard your pets during flu season and beyond.

Birds do not contract the flu or the common cold from humans. Actually, only a few rare viruses can infect them, and even then, transmission is exceedingly difficult. Compared to them, we spend a lot more time in and around their bodily fluids.

A vet once told me about a client who brought her Amazon in with what she described as a “terrible cold.” It was coughing, sneezing and sniffling with a “runny nose”. The physician diligently examined the bird, feeling reasonably optimistic about the result.

Your veterinarian will use a technique called “gram staining” to divide the bacteria in samples taken from your bird into two groups: positive and negative. A purple dye is introduced to the sample for staining.

After examining the bird, the veterinarian inquired with her client about any recent illnesses she had. In response, she said that she had a cold and regretted giving it to her bird. Her bird was completely healthy, the doctor informed her, but it had a “sick” sense of humor.

The spread of Gram-negative bacteria to our birds via our saliva is a greater worry. There are bacteria in our mouths—in fact, all mammals’ mouths—that the avian body does not contain and is ill-prepared to handle. Never should we give our birds access to our mouths, bite-sized portions, or utensils. We should be extremely cautious not to transfer saliva when we kiss our birds. (I would NEVER, ever ask you to stop kissing your birds!)


Can I pass the flu to my bird?

Can I Get My Bird Sick? While the worry of transmitting illness in your household to your bird or pet is a common one, for the most part birds’ immune systems protect against the majority of human diseases.

Can I get my bird sick if I’m sick?

Humans do not transfer cold or flu viruses to their birds.

Can indoor pet birds get bird flu?

Backyard flocks (poultry or non-poultry) are also at risk, as are captive or pet birds with access to the outdoors, where they could be exposed to infected wild birds. “Highly pathogenic” avian influenza (HPAI) viruses are of particular concern because they cause severe disease and death in poultry.

Can a cockatiel get sick from a human?

Symptoms such as congestion, a sore throat or the flu can be spread to your cockatiel. While you are ill, keep contact with your bird to a minimum. Wash your hands before and after cleaning the cage or handling feed dishes. Avoid coughing or sneezing near the bird cage.