Having and caring for a pet can be one of the most beautiful and fulfilling things we as humans can do. The unconditional love and affection an animal can bring into your life and your home are unparalleled. But what you may not think about is that they can also carry diseases that can make you or your family ill. It’s a scary thought, I know, but it’s always better to be prepared and educated so to avoid such issues before you bring an animal into your home.

Like their owners, pets are not resistant to diseases, and a portion of these ailments can even be passed from pet to owner. Pet owners may contract infections that are transmitted via their pets with whom they have regular, daily direct physical contact with, for example, a pet dog or a pet cat. But what you may not realize is that your pet parrot can also carry and transmit diseases to you. For the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on pet parrots and what types of illnesses they can transmit to humans.

I know it may seem farfetched and hard to believe, but it is true, your beautiful pet bird can make you very ill. Mind you; simple, good hygiene practices can prevent most of these illnesses. Not all birds carry these types of infections, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when handling your pets.

You may wonder who is at risk for contracting these types of illnesses? More often than not, the people who contract these diseases or have an already weakened immune system, are tiny children, are very old individuals, or are people who are already ill. But anyone can contract these illnesses.

When speaking about diseases transmitted from animals to humans, they are called zoonotic diseases which is used to classify all animal to human disease transmission. There are several main types of illnesses that you can contract from your pet parrot. Below we will talk about the top few that are most common and how to prevent them.

The first and most common disease that can affect you and your pet bird is called Parrot fever, also known as both chlamydiosis, and psittacosis, this common parrot disease is transmitted to humans. In most individuals, this disease causes flu-like symptoms. You will get a fever; you will have chills and, more often than not, a headache. It can also cause diarrhea and, in some cases, eye infections. If you do not treat Parrot Fever, it can cause a host of other problems such as liver and kidney damage or failure and even meningitis. This disease is transmitted to humans through bird feces and infectious particles that get into the air, like when you are cleaning your bird’s cage. The treatment for Parrot Fever is antibiotics, and it is highly contagious. If you or anyone in your family is feeling ill and your parrot is also looking worse for wear, contact both your primary care physician as well as your parrot’s veterinarian. (1)

Another common type of affliction that can affect you, caused by your parrot, although not considered an actual “zoonotic disease” is Allergic Alveolitus. This is simply because this does not affect the pet, only the owner. Bird owners can contract Allergic Alveolitus by inhaling particles of bird dander in the air. Allergic Alveolitus is also known as ​Pigeon Lung Disease​ and Parakeet Dander Pneumoconiosis. (2) Treatment of this condition can be relieved by proper ventilation of the area as well as using an air filtering mask. In extreme cases, your parrot may have to be given to someone else to care for it, who does not suffer from the same allergic reaction you do.

Parrots can also cause a few different gastrointestinal diseases in their owners. One being campylobacteriosis, which is a bacterial infection that causes severe digestive issues. It is typically transmitted through fecal contamination of your food and drinking water. The common symptoms of campylobacteriosis are diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy. (2) It is also prudent to note that it can also be present in your pet bird even if your bird shows no symptoms of being sick. The treatment for this illness can be self-limiting, and you can recover without treatment in a week or two. It can also be treated with antibiotics, which will help you improve much faster.

The other most common gastrointestinal disease your pet bird can transmit to you is Giardia. This disease is transmitted to humans through the ingestion of contaminated food. Symptoms of Giardia infection are dehydration, severe diarrhea, malnutrition, vomiting, weight loss, and cramps. It is also a common disease among dogs and cats. It can be very quickly passed around in areas where people or animals drink untreated water. One of the best ways that you can prevent Giardia is to wash your hands frequently. (2) The treatment for a Giardia infection can be antibiotics. Typically though, you will get better on your own, but if symptoms do not lessen, you will need medication to recover fully.

While these are the most common diseases that are passed from parrots to humans, it is by no means a full listing. A simple internet search will show you all you need to know regarding the health, care, and raising of pet parrots. Remember, just because an animal as the ability to pass a disease to their owner does not mean that they will. Good hygiene can prevent most of these diseases, and proper veterinary care can keep both you and your pet parrot healthy and happy for years to come.

References:

  1. https://www.petassure.com/new-newsletters/diseases-transmitted-by-pet-birds/
  2. https://www.thesprucepets.com/can-my-bird-make-me-sick-390445
  3. https://www.willistonherald.com/news/health/parrot-fever-and-the-threat-it-poses-to-humans/arti cle_264dccc2-5ee5-11e9-8c42-9f31a121b466.html

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Author

  • Sarah is the managing editor and a frequent contributor at Creature Companions. Sarah is originally from sunny Florida, but has lived in Cyprus, China and Northern Ireland from 2009-2018. She currently resides, with her husband, Derek, in the City of Love, Philadelphia. Sarah is passionate about helping pet parents create a healthy lifestyle through preventative healthcare and positive enrichment for a long, vibrant life of their four-legged friends. She's had pets (mostly dogs) and has been writing about pet-focused topics, advice and trends since 2012.

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