Polly might want a cracker, but should she have one? It depends on what’s in it or on it. More than 500 cases of pet bird poisoning were reported in 2005, according to the Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). It’s very likely many more went unreported.
The heaviest hitters were medications, which accounted for 37% of the cases documented. Miscellaneous toxicants were the culprit in 23%, while 18% involved cleaning agents, and 13% were attributed to pesticides. The remaining 9% were linked to plants.
Since the majority of pet birds are seldom outside their cages, poisonings are not really considered common. For birds with free access in the home, however, the risk of being exposed to toxicants is obviously much more significant. Birds are by nature curious creatures attracted to many objects.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, an allied agency of the University of Illinois, is the only facility of its type in the United States and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It includes a staff of 25 vets and 9 board-certified toxicologists. They’re assisted by 14 certified veterinary technicians. In 2005, the Center dealt with more than 100,000 cases of pet poisoning. The staff offers these tips to help keep your pet bird safe:
Know the plants you have in your Home
If your bird consumes azalea, oleander, rhododendron, or yew, this could cause a life-threatening problem.
Keep all cleaners, pesticides, and drugs out of your bird’s reach. Some cleaning products can cause severe tongue, mouth, and crop burns. Most commercial pesticide baits contain ingredients your bird might find attractive, such as sugars and grains. You must place baits and traps for insects and rodents in areas that are inaccessible to your pet. You should never give any medication unless your vet directs you to do so. And both prescription and non-prescription medications safe for human consumption can be deadly for birds They include anti-cancer meds, painkillers, vitamins, diet pills, antidepressants, and even cold medicine.
Be aware of potentially dangerous foods and beverages. The list includes coffee in all forms, tea, onions, chocolate, garlic, yeast dough, potato leaves and stems, and rhubarb leaves. Also watch out for salt, tomato leaves and stems, avocados, any tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and moldy or spoiled food.
Prohibit access to common household items. Make sure your pet bird cannot get to any mothballs, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, potpourri oils, batteries, automatic dishwasher detergent, and pennies issued after 1982.
Avoid exposure to sprayed or fogged areas. Don’t allow your pet bird access to areas where foggers or sprays for insects have been used until the period indicated on the label has passed. Birds are sensitive to inhaled substances and usually require even longer periods away from areas you have treated. If you are uncertain from the label, contact the manufacturer.
Spray somewhere else. Birds are very sensitive to inhaled fumes. Do not spray near them with aerosol products such as perfumes, air fresheners, and hairsprays. Also watch out for overheated cookware, tobacco or other smoke, fumigants intended for insects, automobile exhaust, paint, and glue.
If you suspect your pet bird has been exposed to any of the offending substances, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.