Poxvirus Infections in Birds

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 1, 2008

Avian Poxvirus Infections

Poxvirus infections can happen in any bird, and is named after the specific bird species affected by it, like turkey pox, pigeon pox, canary pox, etc. The incidence of Poxvirus infections in pet birds has been greatly reduced due to the import restrictions of exotic birds. Poxvirus infections at one time were very common in the blue-fronted Amazon parrots which were imported to America and Europe as pet birds. The severity of Poxvirus infections can range from mild, to more serious and deadly.

Symptoms and Types

Three different types of symptoms appear in infected birds. They are listed below according to their level of severity.

  1. The severest form of Poxvirus infections affect birds quickly and is fatal. It affects almost all parts of the body, causing depression, blue tinting of the skin, and a refusal to eat (anorexia) in the bird.
  2. Wet or diphtheritic type of Poxvirus infections usually follow the skin infections, but can also occur without the skin symptoms. This form of Poxvirus infections is more serious than the skin type. The bird's eyes get swollen and have a discharge. There is inflammation of the inner throat, trachea and esophagus, making eating and breathing difficult for the bird.
  3. Skin symptoms are the most common signs in birds infected with Poxvirus. Owners will see small tissue growths and abscesses on their birds. Areas that are not feathered, like the face, legs and feet can also have crusty scabs, especially the area around the eyes and mouth.


Poxvirus infections spread through insect bites, such as mosquitoes. Birds kept outside which have cracks or breaks in their skin, are more likely to get infected.


The veterinarian, after diagnosing the infection, will treat with with antibiotics and ointments for the skin symptoms. Vitamin A is commonly used as a part of the Poxvirus infection treatment.

Keeping the bird in a hot and humid environment, cleaning the infected area every day and will help the bird recover quicker from the Poxvirus infection. But make sure you paying close attention to the bird’s diet.


Poxvirus infections can be controlled by housing the bird indoors. If it must be kept outdoors, make certain mosquitoes are not able to get to your bird.

Vaccines for individual species are also available. Check with your veterinarian to see if there is one for your bird's particular species.

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