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Toxins in Pet Birds

If your bird is exposed to any of the following toxins, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Teflon
Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene) is used to make the non-stick coating for cookware. Items that may contain Teflon include pans, pots, toasters, and stoves with a self-cleaning oven feature. Hair dryers and irons may also contain Teflon. When Teflon is heated to a high temperature, vapours are emitted. Birds are very sensitive to these vapours and are likely to die acutely (quickly) when exposed, therefore, all items containing Teflon should be avoided in homes with birds. If exposed, the bird should be immediately moved to a well-ventilated area, followed by a veterinarian. Unfortunately, most birds are found dead after exposure, and those that are alive after exposure usually succumb.

Aerosols
As with Teflon, birds are very sensitive to other aerosols and vapours. Birds have a very delicate respiratory tract. The products listed below are examples of products that should never be used in a home with birds. If they are accidentally exposed, they should be immediately moved to a well-ventilated area and be brought to a veterinarian if breathing does not quickly return to normal.

Heavy Metals
Heavy metals can cause damage to the nervous system and the gastrointestinal system. Signs that you may see include imbalance, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea. Examples of what metal can be found in include paint, wire and zippers, and old toys. It is important to prevent birds from chewing on any object that is not specifically ‘bird safe.’ Treatment at a veterinarian is essential for exposed animals. It is important to communicate with your veterinarian about any possible exposure at the time of presentation so that an appropriate treatment plan can be created.

Avocado
Avocado contains a fat-soluble compound called persin. This compound is harmless to humans but can be very dangerous to birds, even in small amounts. Persin is found in all parts of the avocados, bark, and leaves. Signs can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion and may last up to 30 hours. Signs include weakness, depression, problems breathing, and death.

Caffeine
Caffeine can be toxic to birds, even in small amounts. Do not allow your bird to even take a lick of any substance containing caffeine (pop, coffee, tea, etc). Exposure can cause increased heart rate, hyperactivity, and even cardiac arrest/death.

Chocolate
Chocolate contains caffeine (see above). Chocolate can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in birds. Avoid giving birds any chocolate.

Written by: Nicole Mann, DVM

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