When we have children, doctors recommend that we have them vaccinated for things like Chicken Pox, Hepatitis, and Measles.
In some countries vaccinations for our babies and children are actually required before a child can enter into the education system.
The same goes for many of our pets.
When we get a dog or a cat, we expect that they will need certain vaccinations like parvovirus and distemper.
But what about our birds?
Do our parrots need vaccinations too?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. To date, there is one vaccination available for parrots – the Polyomavirus Vaccination. With that being said, the majority of caged parrots do not get this vaccine. In other words, it’s optional but not necessary.
But what exactly is the Polyomavirus Vaccine for?
And should you consider getting it for your parrot?
Today we will answer both of these questions and more including:
What is the history of parrot vaccinations?
When should you get your parrot vaccinated?
What can you do to stay safe?
And so much more.
So let’s not waste another minute!
The History of Parrot Vaccinations
Before we dive into more information about the Polyomavirus vaccine, let’s first talk a little bit about the history of parrot vaccines in general.
In history, vaccines for parrots were a lot more common than they are today.
It wasn’t until the Wild Bird Importation Act was passed in 1992 that vaccinations became less popular.
Why were they given less?
For the simple reason that when birds were no longer allowed to be imported, diseases started to eradicate themselves.
In return, vaccines weren’t needed.
And while the Polyomavirus vaccine is the only vaccine available for parrots today, vaccines against Canary Pox used to be quite common.
The Canary Pox Virus, or CNPV for short, can affect a wide variety of bird species including parrots.
The main side effect of the virus is crusty lesions around the face, eyes, beak, legs, feet, or other unskinned areas of a bird.
Other symptoms may include labored breathing, rapid breathing, weight loss, and in severe cases sudden death.
Today there is no vaccine for the virus, though there isn’t much information surrounding the reason for its eradication.
What is the Polyomavirus?
Polyomavirus is a type of infection that can affect different parts of a bird’s body as well as their organs.
While it can affect adult parrots, it’s more commonly seen in younger birds from the age of 14-56 days of age.
Not only are younger parrots more at risk of contracting the disease, but the effects of the disease are also more fatal at this age.
Birds with the Polyomavirus may or may not display symptoms including a swollen abdomen, regurgitation of food, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or depression.
Other symptoms can include weight loss, excessive urination, tremors, and even paralysis.
Because the Polyomavirus attacks the immune system of a parrot, birds with the illness are also more susceptible to other bacteria, viruses, and secondary infections.
Death can occur from the disease within as quickly as 1-2 days.
How is the virus contracted?
The most common way to contract the Polyomavirus disease is through direct contact with another infected bird.
With that being said, the illness can also be contracted through air, dust, dander, incubators, or infected parents.
Should I get my parrot vaccinated for Polyomavirus?
The reality is, the majority of parrots don’t actually need to get the Polyomavirus vaccine.
If your parrot stays at home or is alone most of the time, the vaccine won’t really hold any benefits for them.
The only time that you need to worry about your parrot contracting the disease is if they are in close contact with other birds.
You may want to get your parrot the vaccine if you are a breeder who has other parrots or birds in the same vicinity as your parrot, if the parrot is going to be in a pet store around other birds, or if you are going to board your parrot somewhere while you are away.
Otherwise, a parrot that sits at home in a cage by itself won’t need to be vaccinated simply because it won’t be exposed to the disease.
Furthermore, young parrots that have recently been purchased from a pet store or breeder may already have been exposed to the Polyomavirus.
Some birds carry the disease without symptoms ever arising.
If your parrot is already sick, the vaccine will not work.
Therefore, it’s important that your parrot be tested for Polyomavirus before they get the vaccine.
When should you give your parrot the Polyomavirus vaccine?
If you would like for your parrot to have the Polyomavirus vaccine, it should be given at a young age.
More specifically, the first dose of the vaccine is given around 4 weeks of age, and then a second dose is given between 6-8 weeks.
If you have an older bird that you would like to get the vaccine, double doses are then required.
The first dose will be administered upon your request, and then the second dose will be administered 2-4 weeks later.
Yearly boosters will be required thereafter.
Keep in mind that even though the Polyomavirus vaccine is available for parrots, it’s effectiveness is not proven.
Therefore, even if you do decide to get the vaccine, your parrot could still contract the disease.
And remember, a veterinarian will probably request that your parrot be tested for the disease before they administer any vaccinations.
If your parrot is already infected, a vaccine will have no effect.
How can I tell if my parrot is infected with Polyomavirus?
The only way to really know if your parrot is already infected with the Polyomavirus is by having it tested with a cloacal swab by a veterinarian.
With that being said, most birds that do have the disease die quickly and suddenly.
If you own multiple parrots and have just lost one to a sudden death, you may want to have the others tested for Polymovirus, even if they have been vaccinated previously.
Is there any treatment for Polyomavirus?
Unfortunately there is no current treatment for the Polyomavirus in parrots.
To date, supportive measures to keep your parrot comfortable are all that can be offered.
In most cases death occurs so quickly that treatment would not be effective even if there were one available.
How can I keep my parrot safe from Polyomavirus and other diseases?
Because Polyomavirus is the only vaccine available for parrots, it’s important that you do your best to keep them safe and protected from illnesses and disease.
Here are some tips to help keep your parrot healthy:
Have your parrot checked out by a veterinarian when you bring them home.
Parrots should always have a checkup before they are brought into your home, especially if you have other parrots living with you.
Parrots can easily be carriers of a disease or illness without having any symptoms, thereby putting other parrots at risk of contracting it from them.
Keep your parrots distanced from other parrots and birds.
As we just mentioned, many diseases and illnesses can be carried without symptoms and another bird can be infected without their owner even realizing it.
The best way to keep your parrot protected from diseases that are spread is by keeping them distanced from other unknown birds.
Disinfect your parrots surfaces regularly.
If your parrot is sharing a space with another bird, be sure to disinfect surfaces regularly.
This can help to reduce viral contamination.
Take your parrot for regular veterinarian checkups.
Putting your parrot on a regular checkup schedule with a veterinarian is of utmost importance for keeping them healthy.
Not only will veterinarians be able to test for different illnesses or diseases, but they can also provide you with advice for prevention measures based on your particular situation and environment.
In conclusion, there is only one vaccination currently available for parrots and that is the Polyomavirus vaccination.
To date, there is no evidence that this vaccination is effective, and if your parrot is not in close contact with other birds then the vaccination doesn’t really hold a purpose.
This vaccine is only recommended if you have multiple parrots, if you are breeding parrots, or if you intend to board your parrot.
If you live in a single parrot home, the Polyomavirus vaccine is not necessary.