Songbird Fever: The Risk To Pets

If you’ve never heard of Songbird Fever, you’re not alone. It was new to us, too. A recent blogpost published by Houston Audublog caught our eye regarding the risk of transmission of salmonellosis by birds in our own backyard. 

What is it?

According to the author, Anna Vallery, Conservation Specialist with Houston Audubon, “This bacteria is primarily transmitted through populations of birds via fecal contamination of food and water by infected birds (though bird to bird contact can result in transmission). Infected birds can shed bacteria at feeders and water features, turning those areas into disease vectors.” 

Fiona Gilchrist, DVM also notes in her article (below), “Cats, dogs and people — as well as wildlife — can be affected by the bacteria which may be ingested by contact with contaminated surfaces like wood or soil or by the infected birds themselves. A cat or dog with salmonella can pass the disease on to humans and the reverse is also true.”

Symptoms . . .

Some of the symptoms include birds that are “lethargic and slow to react, sitting on the ground, and looking thin or fluffed up.” In addition to maintaining clean bird feeders at all times, Vallery provides these tips:

  • Keep your eyes peeled for birds that appear sick or lethargic.
  • If you think a bird in your backyard is sick, take down and disinfect all feeders and water features immediately.
  • Clean up any seed shell or chaff from around your yard.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • Keep an eye on dogs when they’re outside.
  • Be prepared to continue to clean and disinfect feeders and water features.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap after handling sick birds to prevent transmitting salmonella.

As infections are reported to be on the rise in Texas this spring, you may want to read the entire blogpost, “Pine Siskins and Salmonellosis: How to Identify and Prevent the Spread” by Anna Vallery, Houston Audublog, March 5, 2021,

Other Resources . . . 

Texas Parks and Wildlife press release, “Biologists Advise Cleaning Feeders to Prevent Spread of Diseases Among Birds,” March 8, 2021,

PetMD, “Is Songbird Fever a Threat to Your Cat?” by Jennifer Coates, FVM, Updated June 5, 2019,

Hillcrest Animal Hospital, CA, “Catching Songbird Fever Doesn’t Sound Nice” by Fiona Gilchrist, DVM, May 2011, http://HillcrestAnimalHospital.CA

Travis Audubon Society, Austin, Texas,


Editor’s Note: Always contact your veterinarian for medical advice. This information is for general information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or take the place of professional medical advice from your veterinarian or healthcare provider.

Photo Credit: Mike Thompson