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Pet Bird Health Topic: Avian Pox

Updated on December 30, 2015

Birds with lesions in or around the mouth and face may be suffering from an avian poxvirus. Although the lesions often look like canker sore lesions that humans get, avian pox is a different illness and not transmittable to humans. This virus can strike most any bird species, including pet birds. With some basic understanding of the disease, pet bird owners can take steps to prevent the spread of the virus and recognize the symptoms so the bird can receive medical care quickly.  

Avian Pox Symptoms

The cutaneous form of avian pox causes lesions that look like dried up scabs, usually on un-feathered skin such as the face and legs. In the diphtheritic form, the lesions are found inside the mouth, throat, respiratory tract and intestines. Birds can suffer from both forms of the disease simultaneously.

What is Avian Pox?

Avian pox is a virus that affects only birds. There are several types of avian pox; fowlpox is the type most often seen in poultry including chickens and turkeys. Other pox strains can specifically target parrots, canaries and many wild species of birds.

Avian Pox Transmission

Avian pox is highly contagious. Birds become infected with avian pox by touching other birds with active lesions and from mosquito bites.

Avian Pox Prevention

Controlling the mosquito population helps to  prevent the spread of avian pox. Poultry vaccines are also available for pet birds.

Avian Pox Treatment

Birds with symptoms of pox need to be seen by an avian veterinarian. Care may include cleaning the lesions, surgical removal of the lesions and/or antibiotics to prevent infections from open lesions. There is no treatment that can cure avian pox, only supportive care can be provided.

Each bird reacts differently to avian pox. Some survive without any further complications, while others die from the disease. Recognizing what avian pox looks like and getting veterinary treatment gives your bird the best possible prognosis.


The Complete Bird Owner’s Handbook: Gary A. Gallerstein, D.V.M.: 1994

The Merck Veterinary Manual: Editor Susan E. Aiello, B.S., D.V.M., E.L.S.: 1998


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