Can My Bird Catch My Cold?

Can My Bird Catch My Cold?

 April 20th, 2012
Posted By:

Rosebreasted cockatoo 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.

Rosebreasted cockatoo

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-positive and Gram-negative stains from

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.


Facebook comments:

Add New Comment

9 Comments on “Can My Bird Catch My Cold?”

Plumbing San Jose  04/20/2012 2:27 pm

Good stuff

michael and cookie  11/07/2016 10:43 am

One of my parrot books says, if you can’t check your parrot daily, you shouldn’t have one. Although these 2 books are old and a lot of what they say has changed over the decades, its true. Check them daily. Heres what I do nightly. I take Cookie out and look at her nairs to see if open and dry.
Then I hold her up above my head, she cools me off flapping her wings, then I put her beak in my
ear so I can hear her breathing. Should be nice and clear sounding, then she goes on the scale to get weighed. I’m in Miami so it doesn’t get cold here, however, 75 is cold enough for her to catch a cold. Remember, never under 75. We like it when the temps go down, don’t have to turn on the ac, for Cookie, too cold for her so I built a way to heat her cage. I know up north they keep the heat 65 67, way to cold for parrots so be carefull. And keep in mind that wrapping the cage up with towels is a help, but its not enough. might work for little cages for a teil or lovebird, but not large cages.

MaryAnne Edler  11/07/2016 11:17 am

I take my conure outside whenever I go out. She loves just sitting on my shoulder and looking around. She also loves car rides.
Last winter she was great at stay g inside my coat and just sticking her face out every once in a while. This year she is not crazy about going in my coat but she let’s me hold my hand over her body. Am I putting her in danger?
Also cold temp does not contain germs so what kind of health problems does cold temp cause.

Val Newman Reading UK  11/07/2016 11:21 am

My yellow Naped Amazon had developed a cough – until I realised it was ME he was imitating!!.Pleased to say both parrot and owner are healthy!

Angela Rondeau  11/07/2016 11:41 am

This was great information. Please keep sending more……. Thank you.

Nel  11/07/2016 8:36 pm

What about if tiels are inside all the time, can a draft produce a cold in tiels? I wonder.
To date I weigh my tiels weekly but check their condition on a daily basis, nostrils, feathers, vent etc.
Both are 8 years old males.

Evelyn  11/08/2016 12:51 am

A few years ago, I had a bad cold. Ever since, my macaw does a perfect imitation of my sniffles, too funny!!

Yvonne Groce  12/30/2017 2:34 pm

If I get the flu, can I pass it on to my parrot?

Marisa  01/07/2018 11:34 am

We just got two young parakeets at our nursing home. Right after, our staff and residents came down with a rapid spreading gastroenteritis. Both of our new birds died. Could they have gotten it too?