Pet owners are often accustomed to cut-and-dried vaccination programs for their dogs and cats. The desire to protect a lovebird or sun conure from infectious disease can follow logically; shouldn't parrots be vaccinated, just like mammalian pets? Actually, relatively few approved vaccines are available for parrots. To complicate matters further, those that exist and have been approved are not necessarily recommended by veterinarians.
Differences of Opinion
While some veterinarians state that no vaccines are appropriate for parrots, others do recommend vaccination of birds, especially young birds. Each parrot presents an individual case.
Polyoma Virus Vaccine
Polyoma virus is one of the most feared viruses affecting parrots as it can result in rapid death with few symptoms. It mainly affects young birds, but adults who are immunosuppressed may also show signs of disease. A vaccine is available, and although it is of controversial efficacy, many veterinarians and breeders recommend nestlings are vaccinated. Your parrot will need a booster after two to three weeks of the first vaccination, and every year after at an annual checkup.
Pacheco Virus Vaccine
Pacheco's Disease is a herpes virus, and just like herpes in humans, is notoriously difficult to vaccinate against. Infection with the virus can be fatal for parrots. Although a vaccine exists, many veterinarians do not recommend its use due to unwanted side effects and high mortality rate after vaccination.
What about West Nile?
According to the National Wildelife Health Center, as of 2011, no approved vaccination for West Nile Virus for birds exists. The best way to protect your parrot against West Nile Virus is to limit its exposure to mosquitoes.
Ask your Veterinarian
To sort the matter out for your parrot, apprise yourself of the few available vaccines and ask your veterinarian to evaluate if any vaccinations are appropriate. Factors such as your parrot's age, species, health, and exposure to other birds will be considered.
- Avian Polyomavirus: My Thoughts; David N. Phalen, D.V.M., Ph.D.
- WellVet: Vaccine Protocol; David M. McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.
- "Avian Viruses: Function and Control": Prevention of Avian Polyomavirus Infections through Vaccination; Ritchie, Latimer, Greenacre et al; 1998
- Polyomavirus Vaccination for Pet Birds; Christine Eckermann-Ross, DVM
- Exotic Pet Vet: West Nile Virus: What You Must Know For Your Bird's Sake