Do Birds Need Vaccines?

With all the attention on vaccines for people, we investigate what vaccines parrots may or may not need.

Black-headed caique
Caiques, like this black-headed caique, can be susceptible to polyomavirus, but they don’t need always need to be vaccinated.

The recent measles outbreak in Disneyland has started a national discussion about vaccines and a parent? right to choose. The pet world is no stranger to this debate, but unlike the numerous vaccines for cats and dogs, parrots really only have one: the Polyomavirus vaccine. (A brief description of polyomavirus can be found here.) 

But, as it turns out, your parrot might not even need it.

“Birds only need the [polyomavirus vaccine] in certain circumstances,?said Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice), owner and medical director of Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, N.Y. “Polyoma is a virus that we used to see a lot more of, but really the only [parrots] that tend to need it in my opinion ?and I would bet in many avian veterinarians?opinions ?are ones that are breeders or they?e going to be in pet stores around a lot of other birds.?lt;/span>

That? something that Larry Nemetz, DVM, owner of The BIRD Clinic in Orange, Calif., agreed with.

He said that he sometimes have people coming into his clinic, asking for the vaccine, but he always recommends testing first. “How do you know bird isn? already sick??he said, “Birds, like people, can carry diseases all the time. And if a bird already has polyoma, the vaccine won? work.?

Who Needs To Be Vaccinated?
Younger birds, macaws and caiques are some of the birds that are the most susceptible to polyoma, according to Nemetz. But, again, that doesn? necessarily mean you need to vaccinate your bird.

Hess says vaccinate, “If [your bird] going to be exposed to a lot of birds regularly who have unknown health benefits.?But if your bird is sitting in your house, she said, “it? not like they?e going to get polyoma.?

Basically: If you?e going to board your bird, vaccinate. After you test your bird for polyoma, of course. (And if the facility your bird is going to board at doesn? recommend polyoma vaccines or even testing, run!)

History Of Bird Vaccines
Vaccines were used more back when birds were still being imported into the United States, Nemetz said. However, veterinarians no longer need to vaccinate for two main reasons: birds stopped being imported when the Wild Bird Importation Act of 1992 passed in the United Stats, along with the diseases being eradicated.

Which doesn? mean diseases don? still pop up now and then, according to Nemetz. “We used to vaccinate against canary pox, but unfortunately the vaccine is no longer produced,?he said. Every summer in California, he sees cases of canary pox in canaries.

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