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Top Items Toxic to Birds!

  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Chocolate in any form
  • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate-covered espresso beans)
  • Tea
  • Yeast dough
  • Salt
  • Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
  • Potato leaves and stems (green parts)
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Alcoholic beverages

Dangerous Household Substances For Birds: For years birds have been used as sentries to unseen human toxins.  If the canary died down in the mine- everybody got out.  Therefore, it is not surprising that the avian species are sensitive to many household compounds – primarily heavy metals, gases and fumes, and pharmacological agents.  The following paragraphs describe various substances that you should be sure to protect your birds from coming into contact with.

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Heavy Metals

Birds can be very curious – making lead poisoning the most common toxicity seen in cage and wild birds.  Unfortunately, many people are unaware of all the possible sources of lead or assume their bird would never chew on lead objects.  Overlooked lead sources include the following: antiques, stained glass lead frames, tiffany lamps, weighted items, bird toys with lead weights inside, curtain weights, scuba and fishing weights, solder and some welds on wrought iron cages or perches, some putty or plasters, bullets, air gun pellets, old paint, sheet rock, galvanized chicken wire, hardware cloth, foil from champagne or wine bottles, mirror backing, linoleum, ceramic glazes, costume jewelry, some zippers, light bulb bases, and chronic leaded gas fume exposure.

Signs of exposure to lead are non-specific.  Lethargy, depression, weakness, vomiting, excessive thirst, abnormally colored diarrhea (dark green, black or bloody), and neurological signs, (head tilt, wing droop, blindness, seizures, and paralysis) are the most common clinical signs.

Zinc toxicity can be produced by galvanized containers and mesh, zinc laden pennies, hardware cloth and zinc phosphates and phosphides.  Since zinc is soluble in soft water and organic acids, food and water contamination can occur.

Gastrointestinal signs are likely to appear at low level exposure.  Kidney, liver, and pancreas are the main organs affected in higher and longer level exposures.

Iron toxicity from chipped or poorly cast cast-iron food or water bowls presents another hazard.
Because of the insidious exposure, signs are chronic and include lethargy, anorexia, and emaciation.

Gases and Fumes

Birds are more susceptible to inhalant toxins because of their unique and complex respiratory tract.  The basic rule of thumb should be: IF IT HAS ANY ODOR OR SMOKE IT CAN BE POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS and the bird should be removed from the premises immediately until the odor is undetectable.  This includes paint or hobby fumes, cleaning and spray products (including hair spray) and burning food fumes.  Polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE) found in non-stick cookware, drip pans, waffle irons, irons, and ironing board covers is the most common toxic gas.  When these surfaces are overheated (over 210 degrees C) the depolymerization of PTFE produces toxic fumes which cause acute death or at the very least weakness, inability to breathe and fluid accumulation in the lungs.

Toxic Plants

Much controversy surrounds plant toxicities in birds.  Those known to be toxic to mammals have been considered poisonous bur may not affect birds.  The potential for poisoning depends upon the species of bird and whether the plant was just chewed or actually ingested.  Oral and upper gastrointestinal irritation are the most common symptoms in plant toxicities. Some known toxic plants include Avocado, black locust, castor bean, clematis, lily of the valley, oleander, philodendron, poinsettia, rhododendron, yew and Virginia creeper.  Cyanide poisoning has occurred from consumption of large quantities of apple seeds, cherry pits, and immature almonds.

Mycotoxins can be found in poorly stored seed, peanuts, millet spray, silage and pelleted foods.  Humidity and heat promote mold growth on a variety of foods including corn, beans, cheese, bread, fruit juices and meat.  Clinical signs are sudden death, loss of appetite, weight loss, and depression, as well as immune system alterations.

Theobromine in chocolate is also an avian toxin and is only a problem when the bird ingests a considerable  amount compared to its size.  Depression, vomiting, convulsions, and death are the clinical manifestations.

Pesticides

Pesticide toxicity depends upon the use or exposure and birds can be more sensitive than mammals to its effects.  Clinical signs are similar to mammals and include loss of appetite, diarrhea, bowel slow down, clumsiness, tremors, seizures and paralysis.  Other manifestations include inability to breathe normally with congestion, slow heart rate and respiratory failure.

 

Topicals

Birds should never be sprayed with anything other than water.  The avian species cannot regulate their body temperature if any compound has matted the feathers together.  Oils and petroleum products can cause hypothermia, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, pneumonia, and hemolytic anemia.

NEVER SPRAY YOUR BIRD WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN WATER!

REMEMBER THAT BIRDS ARE MORE SENSITIVE TO INHALANT TOXINS.

BIRD OWNERS SHOULD BIRD PROOF THEIR HOMES JUST AS SOMEONE WOULD FOR THEIR INFANT OR TODDLER.  WITH SOME COMMON SENSE AND PREVENTION, TOXIC FATALITIES CAN BE AVOIDED.