by Gillian A. Willis

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.
1.3 Ozone
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.
Treatment: Oxygen.
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.
1.5 Disinfectants
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 (Pine-sol).
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 well.

2.1 Zinc
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.
2.2 Lead
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.
3.2 Rodenticides
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 Iow order of acute toxicity. Does not emit toxic vapours. Can be used safely around birds.
3.6 Diatomaceous earth
Contains exo-skeletonsof diatoms. Can be used safely around birds but ingestion should be avoided.

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.
4.3 Camphor
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 arians.
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 respiratory failure.
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 depression, seizures.
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.
5.7 Nicotine
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.

6.1 Afiatoxins
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.

7.0 FOOD
7.1 Chocolate
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.
7.2 Alcohol
Toxicity: CNS depression can occur from all routes of exposure. Clinical effects: Muscle incoordination, depression, death.
7.3 Salt
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.

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, rasberries, 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.


E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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