Does my pet bird carry disease? And other questions about bird-related illness

Birds have perhaps got more of a name for themselves than other pets for causing disease. Epidemics like “bird flu” have not helped to improve that reputation. However, what really is the truth behind having pet birds, as opposed to wild birds, and whether they will cause us harm?


Well, does my pet bird carry disease? Maybe or maybe not. They certainly do carry germs, in the same way that you carry germs on and in your body too. Only sometimes will these germs make you sick.

There are 3 particular diseases which can be associated with birds which often do not show symptoms in the birds themselves:

  • Cryptococcosis: spread by droppings, rare in the healthy human, seen more in those with weakened immune systems
  • Histoplasmosis: also spread by bird dropping and though less common, the elderly are most at risk
  • Psittacosis (a.k.a. parrot fever): spread by droppings and respiratory secretions, most commonly found in people who regularly handle birds



While these are real diseases from birds, the likelihood of you catching it is low, particularly if you follow certain precautionary measures.

Hand Washing

After handling your birds, particularly any droppings, make sure to wash your hands. Encourage children and/or guests to do the same.

Clean Cages

Clean out the bird cages regularly and use specific equipment that is only for the birds. Make sure that anything that you wash is done away from food preparation areas.

Protection from Bites/Scratches

Minimise bites and scratches by wearing protective gloves as applicable, and also using perches, cuttlebone, or shell grit to wear down beak and claws. If you do get a bite or scratch, be sure to thoroughly clean it. If it is infected, or sore, or if your bird is sick, be sure to seek medical attention.


Make sure your bird is well and healthy on a regular basis. They should be bright, alert, and active. Keep an eye on any behaviours that are abnormal, such as being static, or failing to preen themselves.

When you buy a new bird, look out for all those signs. Be sure to also take them to an Avian Vet for a check-up shortly after purchasing.


The risk of these diseases should not prevent you from getting a pet bird. They are fun and intelligent pets, that have their own unique personalities. With good care and handling, having a pet bird should in no wise affect your health.



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