Pet birds and parrots are curious by nature, and their inquisitive behaviour and desire to chew and explore household items can be a cause for concern. There are many household substances and products that our feathered friends are particularly sensitive to, some of which can be life-threatening if consumed, inhaled or chewed.
There are several reasons for a bird’s sensitivity to everyday household items, including their small body size, fast metabolism, and the hyper-efficient avian respiratory system. Knowing what these potential dangers are will provide peace of mind and help you create a safe living environment for your bird.
Heavy Metal Toxicity
Lead and zinc poisoning are the two most common heavy metal toxicities seen in bird patients. These two materials are also frequently found in and around the home environment.
People are often unaware of just how many household objects still contain lead. That is, until their curious parrot starts chewing items around the house and becomes unwell.
Lead toxicity in birds usually requires the bird to ingest the lead. This is because lead can be readily absorbed in acidic environments like the proventriculus (first stomach). From here, the lead is absorbed and transported by the blood into the kidney, bones and nervous tissue like the brain.
Clinical Signs Of Lead Toxicity Include:
- Increased urination volume
- Ataxia (wobbly or weak on their legs)
- Other neurological signs (head twitching, rolling of the head from side to side)
- Anaemia (low red blood cell count)
An affected bird may have one or all of these symptoms. It will depend on how much lead was ingested, how long it has been in the bird and where the lead has been distributed in the body.
If left untreated, lead toxicity can cause death in birds, it is important to contact your nearest avian veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms at home.
Zinc is commonly found in the environment, particularly to treat iron cages and wire in the process known as galvanisation. Zinc is most toxic in newly galvanised materials and thus has been nicknamed ‘new-wire disease’ in birds.
What Are The Symptoms Of Zinc Toxicity In Birds?
The symptoms of zinc toxicity vary considerably. Some affected birds show gastrointestinal signs including regurgitation and vomiting, whilst others drink more often and produce more urine than usual.
These are only a few of the signs to watch out for as the symptoms can vary a lot. Zinc can also cause significant inflammation to the pancreas (causing pancreatitis), which leads to very painful, lethargic-looking birds.