Bacterial Alert – “The Kiss of Death”

Our companion parrots adore our lips, using them to kiss us, eat from us, feed us, and clean our teeth (they’re all aspiring dental hygienists!). We love them back and want to kiss them, share our food, nuzzle, and connect with them. Unfortunately, the human mouth provides a breeding ground for numerous infections that are dangerous to birds, including bacteria such as E. Coli. Even though I continuously tell people not to allow their birds come into touch with their saliva, it still happens.

I understand how difficult it is to resist a lovely tiny beaker and probing tongue on our cheeks and lips, but the repercussions may be fatal. I’ve met individuals who fed their unweaned newborn parrots from their lips on a daily basis, or who prechewed almonds for their birds, or who had their companion clean every single tooth in the evening as they sat and watched TV together. It seems to be benign enough – most of us aren’t concerned about getting anything from our birds, and there are very few illnesses that WE can acquire from THEM.

But the risk we don’t consider is that WE will infect THEM!! Because we humans have extremely different digestive and immunological systems than our parrots, many common germs in our mouths and bodies that do not make us ill may be lethal to our birds. In fact, there aren’t many locations on the planet that are nastier than the human mouth!! (Ask a doctor about the severity of a human bite!) Last year, some of my friends lost one of their beloved Quakers and spent months bringing the other back to health after contracting E. Coli from human saliva.

Another acquaintance just learned that her African Grey has a bacterial illness caused by – you guessed it! – SALIVA!! Fortunately, it is minimal, but he must still take antibiotics for 10 days. So, please, please, PLEASE – avoid the urge to “exchange spit” with your birdie – we can communicate our love in far safer ways that don’t put our loved ones in danger of disease or even death!!

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