The world is full of dangers for your bird. From the obvious like lead to the unassuming like avocado, there are many things that can harm and downright kill your bird. It’s important that we, as owners, understand these risks and dangers and ensure the best possible scenario.
Outlined below are six common things that are toxic to birds, and how to avoid them. It’s important to understand that there are many more dangers than the obvious listed below. A good rule of thumb is this: if you don’t know if it’s safe, don’t do it around your bird.
Teflon & Non-Stick Coatings
A silent killer, Teflon and other non-stick coatings are found on non-stick cookware and appliances. When non-stick coatings are heated to high temperatures, they emit a colorless, odorless gas that is deadly to birds. It can cause instant death in some cases, but more often than not it can cause a slow and painful death for birds.
Teflon and other non-stick coatings can be found on pots, pans, toasters, air fryers, and even some stoves.
As soon as these gases are inhaled, severe irritation of the lungs will occur. Symptoms before death include shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, arrhythmia, and visible discomfort.
When cooking, ensure your bird is far from the kitchen and that your kitchen is well ventilated. Avoid buying appliances that contain Teflon or other non-stick coatings. If your bird has been exposed, move them outside so they can breathe. Call an animal emergency care facility immediately.
Heavy metals, especially zinc, copper, and lead, are extremely toxic for birds. Lead poisoning is one of the biggest killers of both captive and wild birds. The worst part is that almost every room of the house contains heavy metals in some way. You might even have heavy metals on your clothes or jewelry.
Potential outlets for heavy metals include old paint, electrical wires, soldering, light bulbs, air gun pellets, ceramic glaze, nails, screws, jewelry, coins, twist ties, some zippers, galvanized chicken wire, and low-quality bird toys and bird cages.
Heavy metals can cause neurological damage, as well as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. It can severely damage the kidneys, pancreas, and liver in high doses. Heavy metals are a slow and painful killer.
Avoid low-quality cages and toys for your bird. If you have old paint in the house, paint over it – lead paint is toxic not only to birds but to humans as well. When your bird is outside of the cage, keep a close eye on them to ensure they’re not chewing on things they’re not supposed to. Make sure the house is cleaned frequently so loose objects like coins and twist ties.
Although heavy metals are common, it’s fairly easy to keep your bird away from them, as long as you are watching them when they’re outside the cage and the house is regularly cleaned.
Fumes, Smoke, & Aerosols
Fumes from stovetops, scented candles, hair spray, perfumes, cigarettes, vapes, and spray cleaners are all toxic for birds. Much like Teflon, these fumes can irritate the lungs and cause shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, and suffocation.
It’s easy to avoid these objects, while in the presence of your bird. Just use them in a separate room. Make sure though, when using these objects in any room of the house, that you ventilate the area thoroughly.
Artificial Sweeteners, like Xylitol, contain chemicals that can damage the liver and cause hypoglycemia in dogs. While the long term effects of artificial sweeteners on other pets aren’t well-known, it’s safer to just avoid giving them altogether.
Artificial sweeteners can be found in sugarless gum, tea, diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, and diet meal plans.
You shouldn’t give foods with any sugar to your bird, unless that sugar is from a fruit.
Caffeine & Chocolate
Caffeine and chocolate are both highly addictive chemicals to birds. Once they try a bit of coffee or chocolate cake, they may beg and whine for more. It can be tempting to let them have little bits here and there, especially when their begging can be so cute, but caffeine and especially chocolate are both incredibly dangerous to birds.
Even small amounts of caffeine can cause rapid heart rate, arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. Over a period of time, it can cause high blood pressure and severe and chronic dehydration. Not only does this lower your bird’s quality of life, it puts them at risk of an early death.
Caffeine is most commonly found in soda, coffee, chocolate, and tea.
Not only does chocolate contain caffeine, it also contains theobromine, which causes rapid heart rate, and seizures. Chocolate contains sugars that can cause diabetes in the long-term.
Make sure you’re not giving them foods that potentially have chocolate and caffeine. Instead, give them foods that are 100% approved and recommended for consumption, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
Salt & Fat
Salt is a major contributor of dehydration and high blood pressure in birds. Due to the way that sodium and potassium swap places in our cells, too much salt can result in electrolyte imbalance. This can lead to your bird becoming lethargic and thirsty. The smaller the bird, the less salt it takes to tip the balance in their body.
Salts can be found in salted nuts, buttered popcorn, and some packaged bird treats/pellets. Salt is used as a preservative in bird foods, so keep an eye out for it on the ingredients label.
Fats are especially dangerous. Too much fat and cholesterol can cause heart disease and artery plaque buildup. Fats are found in meat, eggs, seeds, and nuts. This is why nuts and seeds should only be given in moderation. Too much, and you increase the risk of your bird having a heart attack or stroke.
Always Take Caution
Never take something for granted. Just like ammonia kills fish and cyanide kills humans, many things can instantly kill a delicate bird. Always watch them outside of the cage, and never feed them something if you don’t know it’s safe. The more vigilant you are, the better your chances of catching something before it becomes deadly.
If you have any questions, comments, or tips on other toxic substances, leave a comment below!