Avian Poisoning information
- AVIAN POISONING
by Gillian A. Willis
1.0 HOUSEHOLD POISONS
1.1 Polytetrafiuoroethylene (PTFE, Teflon, Silverstone)
Used in non-stick surfaces of cookware, self-cleaning ovens, some
ceramic heaters, bread makers, hair dryers, ironing board covers.
Toxicity: At temperatures of 280 degrees C. or greater, pyrolysis
occurs resulting in liberation of PTFE which causes lung injury.
Clinical effects: Usually sudden death. Depression, ataxia,
respiratory distress in less severe exposures. Necropsy findings show
hemorrhage and congestion of lungs.
1.2 Air Fresheners
Used in air fresheners, carpet fresheners, perfumed candles,
impregnated "pine tree" automobile odorizers. Toxicity: Contain
essential (volatile) oils which are mixtures of terpenes, esters,
alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and phenols. Pharmacology and toxicology
differ widely. Absorbed by inhalation, through the skin and by
ingestion. Clinical effects: Highly variable. Central nervous system
(CNS )stimulation leading to seizures or CNS depression resulting in
depression, ataxia; respiratory distress, oral irritation., vomiting.
Case reports: Deaths in avians from exposure to carpet fresheners,
perfumed candles, clothing/upholstery freshener. Serious toxicity in
avians from topical exposure to teatree (melaleuca) oil.
Produced by ozone-generating air cleaners. Toxicity: Ozone reacts
primarily with lung lipids to cause lung damage. In humans damage has
occurred at concentrations as Iow as 0.5 ppm for 2 hours of exposure.
Clinical effects: Possible irritation to eyes, coughing, depression.
Ozone air purifying systems should not be used around birds. There are
also risks to human health even in Iow concentrations.
1.4 Carbon monoxide
Produced by incomplete combustion of wood, propane, kerosene, natural
gas, fuel oil.
Toxicity: Decreases ability of blood to carry oxygen.
Clinical effects: Depression, vomiting, death.
1.5 Petroleum solvents
Found in oil-based paints, paint strippers, paint thinners, spot
removers, carpet & upholstery protectants, many glues & adhesives,
furniture polishes. Toxicity: Causes CNS depression. Repeated
exposures can cause liver, kidney & brain damage.
These include chlorine-releasing agents (household bleach, chlorine
dioxide (eg Dent-A- Gene), iodophores (contain iodine), synthetic
phenolics (eg Phenokil, Lysol disinfectant spray), quaternary ammonium
compounds (eg Roccal, Zephiran), glutaraldehyde (Wavicide),
chlorhexidine gluconate (Hibitane, Novalsan), wood tar distillates
Toxicity: Variable. Deaths reported in baby birds after brooder unit
cleaned with Pine Sol. Idodine is rapidly inactivated by organic
matter and can cause toxic effects on the thyroid gland with repeated
exposure. Chlorhexidine is safe but has a limited antimicrobial
spectrum. Cheapest and most effective is household bleach. The
synthetic phenolics have a wide bacterial spectrum and have a residual
effect. The fumes from all of these agents are potentially toxic. If
used in bird room, follow label instructions and ensure adequate
ventilation. After use of any of these agents, rinse treated surfaces
2.0 HEAVY METALS
Sources include galvanized cage wire ("new wire disease"), galvanized
food dishes, bird toy snaps, quick links, zippers, keys, nails,
plumbing nuts, nuts on animal transport cages, hardware cloth,
padlocks, pennies minted after 1982, some antirust paints, zinc oxide
ointment, some soldering fluxes. Toxicity: Corrosive to
gastrointestinal tract. Absorbed zinc is bound to plasma proteins and
deposited in liver, kidney, muscle and pancreas. Causes acute and
chronic toxicity. Clinical effects: Vomiting, diarrhea, necrotizing
ventriculitis, ataxia, depression, seizures; kidney, liver and
pancreatic damage. Feather plucking. Precautions:Treat new galvanized
wire and cages by cleaning with vinegar solution and then power
washing to remove zinc spicules and zinc oxide powder.
Sources include lead curtain & fishing weights, lead shot, lead
solder, stained glass seams and frames, tiffany lamps, bird toys with
lead weights, bells with lead clappers, foil from some champagne/wine
bottles, some welds on wrought iron cages, improperly glazed ceramics
and old paints containing lead.
Toxicity: Impairs hemoglobin and enzyme synthesis. Causes damage to
the central nervous and blood-forming systems, as well as to the
gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, heart and thyroid. Causes acute and
chronic toxicity. Clinical effects: Depression, weakness, ataxia,
diarrhea (green, black or chocolate-coloured feces), thirst, increased
urination, head tilt, wing droop, blindness, paralysis, seizures.
3.10rganophosphates & carbamates
Includes diazinon, malathion, dichlorvos (Vapona No Pest strips)
chlorpyrifos (Dursban), carbaryl (Sevin). Toxicity: Bind to the
enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, resulting in accumulation of
acetylcholine at nerve endings. Absorbed from all routes. Clinical
effects: Diarrhea, ataxia,, tremors, seizures, dyspnea, respiratory
failure, increased secretions, paralysis. Case reports: Deaths in
canaries exposed to Vapona No-Pest strips used in aviaries.
3.2 Pyrethrins and pyrethroids
Includes pyrethrins obtained from the chrysanthemun flower and
pyrethroids (allethrin, permethrin, resmethrinm tetramethrin,
cupermethrin, fenvalerate). Usually formulated with the synergist
piperonyl butoxide. Toxicity. Birds and mammals are relatively
resistant to toxic effects (can rapidly inactivate these compounds).
Toxicity reported in avians exposed to pyrethrin-based foggers. Birds
should be off premises for 36-48 hours after use of foggers. Clinical
effects: Depression, weakeness; possible tremors, seizures.
Most products available for domestic use in Canada are anticoagulants
and include diphacinone, chlorphacinone, brodifacoum, bromadiolone.
Some contain cholecalciferol (Vit D3). Toxicity: Anticoagulant type
interfere with Vitamin K metabolism. Clinical effects (anticoagulant
type): Depression, hemorrhages.
3.2 Adhesive rodenticide strips (eg. Mouse Glue).
Are nontoxic. Can adhere to feet or feathers of birds causing marked
stress during attempted removal. Treatment: Can apply corn starch to
reduce stickiness. Application of peanut butter followed by washing
with water has facilitated removal. Avoid petroleum-based solvents.
Supportive care for stress.
3.3 Moth repellants
Include naphthalene, paradichlorobenzene. Toxicity: Napththalene
metabolites cause destruction of red blood cells. Unknown mechanism
for paradochlorobenzene. Clinical effects: Vomiting, depression,
ataxia, anemia, kidney damage. Deaths reported in canaries and finches
from moth-repellant contaminated seed.
3.4 Flour moth traps
Contain adhesive paper and an attractant. Nontoxic. Potential risk of
small birds adhering to paper.
3.5 Boric acid/borax
Relatively low order of acute toxicity. Does not emit toxic vapors.
Can be used safely around birds.
3.6 Diatomaceous earth
Contains exo-skeletons of diatoms. Can be used safely around birds but
ingestion should be avoided.
4.0 THERAPEUTIC AGENTS:
4.1 Vitamin A
Toxicity: Is usually the result of dietary oversupplementation.
Clinical effects: Poor feathering, dry skin, irritability, "bulging" eyes.
4.2 Vitamin D 3 (Cholecalciferol)
Present in some rodenticides. Toxicity: Is usually a result of dietary
oversupplementation. Macaws and African Grey parrots may be more
susceptible. Clinical effects: Increased plasma calcium; calcium
deposits in kidneys, liver & heart, bone demineralization.
Present in topical liniments and rubs. Toxicity: Stimulates central
nervous system (CNS) to cause seizures. Toxic from all routes of
absorption. A budgie developed seizures as a result of skin
absorption, vapour inhalation and ingestion when the owner handled it
after using Campho-phenique without washing his hands.
4.4 Ivermectin (Ivomec)
Toxicity: Deaths reported in finches and budgies with intramuscular
administration of therapeutic doses. Clinical effects: Depression,
weakness, ataxia, tremors, seizures, respiratory distress.
Plants listed as toxic for humans should be considered potentially
toxic for birds although some avian species reportedly have died from
ingestion of a toxic plant, while others have experienced no untoward
effects. Some plants that are considered nontoxic to humans have
caused toxicity in some animals and in avians.
5.1 0xalate-containing plants
Includes dieffenbachia, pothos, shamrock (Oxalis), philodendron, Calla
lily, Monstera, Elephant's ear (Colocasia spp.), caladium., rhubarb
leaves. Toxicity: Contain needle-like calcium oxalate crystals.
Produce irritation and swelling of oral mucosa. Possible kidney
damage. Clinical effects: Oral irritation & edema, vomiting, dysnea,
respiratory distrress. Deaths have been reported in avians from
5.2 Euphorbia-containing plants
Includes poinsettia, Euphorbia cactus. Toxicity: Contains a vesicant
sap. Clinical effects: Oral irritation and swelling, vomiting.
5.3 Grayanotoxin-containing plants
Includes Pieris japonica (lily-of-the-valley bush), rhododendron,
azalea Toxicity: Grayanotoxins cause toxic effects in skeletal and
heart muscle, and in the central nervous system. Deaths in lovebirds
fed Pieris japonica "berries." Clinical effects: Oral
irritation,vomiting, depression, ataxia, bradycardia, respiratory
5.4 Taxine-containing plants
Toxicity: All parts EXCEPT the flesh of the berry contain taxine which
causes cardiac toxicity. Deaths in lovebirds fed berries. Clinical
effects: Weakness, depression, seizures, irregular heart beat,
hypotension, respiratory distress.
5.5 Avocado ( Persea americana)
Toxicity: Toxic principle unknown. The FLESH of the avocado has caused
death in canaries and budgies. Necropsy findings showed generalized
congestion--especially the lungs. Clinical effects: Weakness,
depression, anorexia, fluffed up appearance, increased respiratory
rate, death usually occurs > 20 hours post ingestion.
5.6 Cyanogenic-glycoside containing plants:
Includes many plants of the Prunus genus such as cherry, cherry
laurel, plum, peach, apricot, nectarine and bitter almond. Toxicity:
Generally all plants of the Prunus genus EXCEPT the pulp of the fruit
contain amygdalin or related glycosides which are slowly hydrolyzed to
hydrocyanic acid. Apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanogenic
glycosides. A few seeds may be fed to birds as a treat. Case reports:
(a)The owner of an Amazon parrot would take his clipped bird outside
and allow it to perch on a cherry tree while he was in the yard. The
Amazon was in the habit of chewing the wood. This bird presented at
the avian vet's very depressed. All other causes for the bird's sudden
onset of illness were ruled out. The bird recovered uneventfully with
gastrointestinal decontamination and supportive care. (b) Anecdotal
report of deaths in Amazons who chewed on pesticide-free peach
branches. Clinical effects: Possible vomiting, weakness, depression,
respiratory distress, death.
Includes tobacco plant (Nicotiniana spp.), tobbaco, cigarretes,
nicotine patch and gum). Toxicity: Causes toxic effects in the CNS,
gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. Clinical effects:
Vomiting, tremors, seizures, death. Exposure to tobacco smoke can
cause sneezing, sinusitis, nasal discharge, eye irritation.
Pododermatitis can occur from direct contact with
nicotine-contaminated hands/surfaces. Possible feather plucking.
5.8 Safe Woods The following are safe for natural wood perches: Apple,
Arbutus, Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood,
Elm, Fir, Hawthorn, Larch, Madrone, Magnolia, Manzanita, Mountain ash,
Oak (mature trees - not young shoots which contain tannins), Pine,
Poplar, Sequoia, Willow.
Produced by Aspergillus spp. which can grow on many foods including
peanuts, corn, grains, cereals, bread, cheese and meats. Toxicity:
Afiatoxins primarily cause hepatotoxicity. Clinical effects:
Depression, anorexia, weight loss, poor feathering, gastrointestinal
hemorrhage. Necropsy findings include an enlarged, pale liver (from
fat infiltration), necrosis; Gl hemorrhages, kidney lesions, enlarged
spleen and pancreas. Treatment: Low fat diet. Consider use of
silymarin (Milk thistle) as a hepatoprotectant.
Toxicity: Contains theobromine- a xanthine alkaloid which is a potent
CNS stimulant. Death reported in an Amazon who collapsed 30 minutes
after eating a small piece of a chocolate brownie. Note: Carob
(Ceratonia siliqua) does not contain toxic alkaloids and is safe in
moderation for birds. Clinical effects: Vomiting, diarrhea,
hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, depression, death.
Toxicity: CNS depression can occur from all routes of exposure.
Clinical effects: Muscle incoordination, depression, death.
Toxicity: Excessive dietary intake increases plasma sodium, total body
sodium and extracellular volume causing brain cell dehydration and
injury. Clinical effects: Vomiting, tremors, hyperexcitability,
polyuria, polydipsia, ataxia, depression, death. Necropsy findings are
cerebral edema and hemorrhage.
8.0 FOREIGN BODIES
Includes material used for nests and for cage bottoms. Ingestion of
foreign bodies can cause trauma or obstruction of the proventriculus
or ventriculus. Pine shavings are safe for nesting material and paper
is the lining of choice for cage bottoms.
8.1 Nesting material
The following should be avoided: Cedar shavings (contain volatile oils
which can cause skin irritation and allergic symptoms. Corn cob
material- ingestion caused obstruction and hemorrhagic enteritis in a
Severe Macaw. Can grow Aspergillus. Eucalyptus (dried leaves). Can
grow Aspergillus. Peat moss - can grow Aspergillus. Walnut shells -
can grow Aspergillus.
8.2 Kitty litter
Contains bentonite - a clay which swells to 14 times its volume in the
presence of fluid leading to possible obstruction.
Edited and prepared for this site from the Avicultural Journal -
Jan./Feb. 2001, Volume 24 #1 with thanks.
Aerosols, Drain cleaner, Pine Oil, Alcohol, Gasoline, Paint remover,
Antifreeze, Insecticides, Paint thinner, Aspirin, Kerosene, Rat/Mouse
poison, Bleach, Shellac, Caffeine, Mothballs, Shoe Polish, Cigarette
smoke, Paint (Lead-based), Suntan lotions, Deodorants, Perfume, Waxes,
Dishwasher detergent and any Pesticides, pencil tips, pungent spices
and Teflon coated pans.
Know what they are and keep 'em away from the birds. Keep a list of
toxic plants (call your avian vet or call your local poison control
center) and keep it handy. Find any and all sources of lead and get
rid of them. In case your bird wanders get child-proof cabinet
closures and move all air fresheners, cleansers, detergents,
insecticides (which should never be kept or used near a bird) to an
upper cabinet. Anything that gives off fumes or strong chemical odors
must not be used near birds. If you are painting or fumigating, board
your birds and don't bring them back until the house has had plenty of
time to air out, at least 24 hours after the work has ceased and any
smell has dissipated.
Safe Fruits & Vegetables
Some of the fruits: that can be given to parakeets are apple, banana,
orange, tangerine, raisins, apples, pear, currants, strawberries,
apricots, fresh pineapple, blackberries, mulberries, loganberries,
lemons, dates, raspberries, grapefruit, juniper berries, cranberries,
cherries, blueberries, kiwi fruit, grapes, gooseberries, rowan
berries, mandarins, melon, peaches, plums, rose hips, hawthorn
berries, wild elderberries and figs. Too much fruit can also cause
loose droppings. Vegetables (all washed thoroughly if not organically
grown) such as Carrot, Spinach, Broccoli, Lettuce, endive, Brussel
Sprouts, and kurly kale are good for parakeets.