Do Pet Birds Need Vaccines?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

Home » Blog » Do Pet Birds Need Vaccines?

Like any other pet, birds need a healthy body to enjoy their life. Aside from the usual check-ups, vaccinations are the first line of defense in protecting animals against diseases. We’re going to explain if birds need vaccines.

Do Pet Birds Need Vaccines?

In general, caged birds don’t need routine vaccines. Vaccines for polyomavirus and Pacheco’s disease are available, although they aren’t mandatory for pet birds nowadays. While it’s optional to vaccinate your exotic bird, it’s best to bring your pet to our clinic for wellness checks to determine if your bird needs the vaccine.

Green parrot with orange and blue feathers

It’s typical for home pets to get immunization, especially dogs and cats. However, it’s a different matter altogether for pet birds.

Why Don’t I Need to Vaccinate Birds?

The United States used to import birds, causing aviary diseases to enter the country. This is why vaccinations were imperative for pet birds back then. This is particularly true for canary pox, which was common in California during summer.

When the Wild Bird Importation Act was passed in 1992, America stopped importing pet birds, leading to diseases getting eradicated. Eventually, birds got infected, yet it was rare for adult birds to suffer from diseases.

What Vaccines Do Birds Need?

While pet birds generally don’t need vaccines, there’s still an available vaccine that some clinics provide. 

What Is the Polyomavirus Vaccine?

Polyomavirus is a virus that causes benign skin tumors or warts that can infect most bird species. The avian polyomavirus has a 100% mortality rate, especially for young birds. Those who recover may act as carriers of the virus, so the vaccine is common among birds staying in nest boxes and incubators.

  • Cause of avian polyomavirus: Birds can get this virus through direct contact with infected birds. It can spread through feather dust, eggs, droppings, and aerosolized particles. This is common among large groups of birds living in nest boxes and incubators.
  • Symptoms of avian polyomavirus: Some birds die quickly with no clinical signs. However, most birds may show signs of anorexia, dehydration, weight loss, diarrhea, and wet droppings. Abdominal enlargement and tremors are also common symptoms of avian polyomavirus.
  • When to get the polyomavirus vaccine: Pet birds should get the first dose of the polyomavirus vaccine around three or four weeks of age, while the second dose comes between six to eight weeks. Older birds may get the first dose upon request, with the second dose following two weeks later. Annual boosters may be necessary.
  • Polyomavirus vaccine side effects: Our vets will only use a small needle to inject the polyomavirus vaccine under your bird’s skin. While your pet will feel a slight prick, it’s usual to show redness or irritation at the injection site. However, there are no serious side effects, so it’s mainly safe for birds to get the vaccine.
Veterinarian wearing black gloves while holding a gray owl close to her body

What Is the Pacheco’s Disease Vaccine?

Most species of birds are susceptible to Pacheco’s disease, which comes from the herpes virus. Birds coming from pet stores are at the most risk.

  • Cause of Pacheco’s disease: This mainly comes from imported wild birds, which were eradicated following the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. Infected animals may spread the disease through droppings or respiratory secretions, so it’s possible for pets to get contaminated without direct contact.
  • Symptoms of Pacheco’s disease: Lethargy, appetite loss, excessive watery droppings, and regurgitation of clear mucus are common signs of the disease. However, some birds may not show clinical signs, causing them to be simply found dead.
  • When to get Pacheco’s disease vaccine: Your pet can get immunized against the disease at our clinic upon request. It’s a two-dose injection given to infected birds at four-week intervals.
  • Pacheco’s disease vaccine side effects: The Pachecho’s disease vaccination is an oil-emulsion adjuvanted vaccine, which may cause reactions in the injection site, especially for cockatoos, who are most sensitive to such reactions. Common side effects include swelling, muscle necrosis, and granuloma formation.

When Should You Get Your Bird Vaccinated?

Most veterinarians recommend pet birds get vaccination around 21 days of age. However, birds only need a vaccine depending on the situation. If your pet bird comes from a breeder or large pet store with many other birds, it may be best for your pet to have the polyomavirus vaccine.

If you need to board your bird or bring your pet to a sitter who cares for several other birds, it would also be helpful for your pet to have the vaccine.

What Types of Birds Need to Get Vaccinated?

Younger birds, especially caiques, parrots, and macaws, are some of the breeds that are most susceptible to the polyomavirus. On the other hand, Amazon parrots and cockatoos are most vulnerable to Pacheco’s disease. 

Light brown pigeon walking on a soil covered ground

Suppose you need to expose your birds outside or to other birds with unknown health conditions. In this case, it would be a wise decision to immunize your pet against these viruses.

Related Questions

What if I Don’t Want to Vaccinate My Pet Bird?

If you don’t want to vaccinate your bird, you can still bring your pet to our clinic for check-ups and emergency services. Some companion birds may contract low-grade infections or signs of illnesses, so it’s crucial that a vet discusses how to ensure your pet has a good quality of life.

What Should I Do if My Pet Bird Gets Polyomavirus?

You must bring your bird to our clinic immediately if it contracts the polyomavirus because this is a contagious disease. You should also consider securing the vaccine if your pet survives.

What Should I Do if My Pet Contracts Pacheco’s Disease?

If your bird contracts Pacheco’s disease, you’ll need to vaccinate your pet immediately. Yearly boosters and checkups are necessary. Our clinic can also provide supportive care, such as fluid therapy and supplements.


There’s generally no need to vaccinate pet birds that don’t leave your home. However, even if vaccination isn’t typical for birds, you can still immunize your pet to improve its health. What’s important is that you bring your pets to our clinic for examinations to check for potential health problems.