Household Hazards For Pet Birds


Introduction

When it comes to the preservation of their habitat, birds are wholly dependent on human beings. The quality of care we provide will determine how long they live, whether or not they are healthy, and how much stress they experience. To ensure that people have a long and healthy life, we need to provide them with suitable diet and shelter. There are numerous items found around the home that can be harmful, and even fatal, to birds kept as pets. The natural inquisitiveness of birds, the strength of their beaks, and their ability to fly put them in danger if they are not closely controlled.

The Cage

The size of the cage needs to be appropriate for the type of bird being housed. If we’re talking about the ideal situation, no cage is big enough. If the cage is too small, there is the possibility of someone getting hurt. In addition, a cage that is the wrong size can cause the feathers on the wings and tail to become damaged or frayed, as well as cause the wing tips to become beaten. When a macaw is kept in a cage that is too small for it, its lovely tail might sustain serious injuries, which is a terrible waste of a magnificent animal. It is important that the bird’s species informs the choice of material used to create the cage. Larger birds can quickly destroy a cage that was intended for a more manageable size of bird, thus the construction of this one needs to be very solid. The construction of the cage ought to involve the utilization of non-hazardous materials. If the cage is made of wood or if you are going to build your own, check to see that the wood has not been preserved with any chemicals that could be toxic. This is especially important if you are going to build your own cage. Psittacine birds have a strong urge to chew, and as a result, there is a possibility that, over the course of their lives, they could accumulate sub-lethal levels of toxic components. Creosote, bitumen paint, naptha chemicals, and pentachlorophenol are only a few examples of harmful preservatives. Other examples include creosote. If you decide to use a preservative, check to be sure it isn’t harmful to humans. Steer clear of any items that contain lead, such as solder or paint made with lead. It’s possible that the old crate that had been repainted and was found in Grandpa’s attic was repainted with paint that contained lead. If you are using galvanized metal in your cage, you should be aware of a heavy metal poisoning condition known as “new wire disease.” This condition is brought on by the zinc present in the wire, and it occurs regularly. Common sources of zinc include galvanized wire and clips that are used in the construction of cages, as well as galvanized containers and dishes that have not been adequately handled. Additionally hazardous is the white rust that forms on galvanized metal. The presence of zinc can be determined by looking at how brilliant or shiny the metal is. The ‘loose’ zinc can be removed from the galvanized metal by using a brush and a solution that is mildly acidic, such as vinegar. This can help minimize the risk, but it will not completely eradicate it. Birds who are afflicted with new wire illness may display gastrointestinal issues, drink and urine an excessive amount, experience weight loss, show signs of weakness, anemia, cyanosis, and seizures. It is possible to diagnose the condition by analyzing a blood sample for zinc levels. The clinical indicators, in conjunction with the patient’s history of contact with an inadequately treated galvanized surface, are typically what’s used to make the diagnosis. Both clinically and radiographically, lead poisoning and zinc toxicity are very difficult to differentiate from one another. CaEDTA, an agent that ‘chelates,’ or joins with the metal in the system in order to limit further absorption, is the treatment that is used for both of these disorders, which is a fortunate development. It is very vital to ensure that there is adequate bar space, especially when a smaller bird is housed in a larger cage. A bar spacing that is too large could allow the animal to escape, or even worse, their head could become stuck between the bars. It is a good idea to inspect the cage for any protrusions or sharp edges that can provide a risk to the animal’s safety. Because larger birds are more likely to cause damage to a cage over time, you should be on the watch for any pieces of metal that may have become loose or bent and could potentially cause injury.

Cage Furnishings

Perches

The perches should be constructed of a material that is simple to clean and should be meticulously sanitized on a consistent basis. It is possible that using several types of perches, such as those with varying diameters, flat perches, and different surfaces, can help to level out wear on the bottom of the feet and prevent pressure sores and ulcers. However, in order for them to function properly as perches, branches from the surrounding area should be baked for ten minutes at a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If the branches have been sprayed with insecticides or herbicides, you need to be very careful around birds because even trace amounts of the chemicals can be fatal to them.

Cage Toys

Toys for birds ought to be chosen with consideration for the species in question. Toys that are intended for smaller birds can be readily disassembled or destroyed by larger birds. Mirrors made of glass present a threat to huge birds. Keep an eye out for toys that have hooks and sharp edges because these can cause serious injuries. Many birds have been impaled on hooks that were used in the past to secure various toys. Larger birds are able to remove bells from toys, which can lead to them becoming stuck on the beak. In my experience, the lovebird seems to be the one that gets hurt the most frequently as a result of this accident. There are certain toys that have lead weights in them. Some toys that are risk-free for smaller birds can pose a threat to larger birds because the larger birds are more likely to destroy the toy, so exposing the lead weight that is contained within (such as the penguin toy). It is essential that the cage not be overcrowded with an excessive amount of toys and other cage accessories. We have seen some cages that are so stuffed with accessories that it is a wonder that the bird is able to move about inside of them at all; as a result, there is a greater chance that the bird will sustain an injury.

Food and Water Cups

The cups ought to be crafted from a material that is simple to clean. To reduce the risk of bacterial contamination as much as possible, they should ideally be cleaned every day. The cleaning process needs to be comprehensive; it is not sufficient to simply run your finger around on the inside of the cups. My gut tells me that dirty water cups are one of the most likely places for infectious diseases to be spread to pet birds.

Water that has been left out for several days is more likely to become contaminated with bacteria that are present in the environment. The water is made even more conducive to the growth of bacteria as a result of the inclusion of vitamins and many other substances. When there are pieces of food or droppings in the water, the problem will become even worse. It is impossible for me to overstate how vital it is for the well-being of our companion birds to have access to water that is both pure and current. In order to prevent feces from contaminating the food and water containers, they should either be shielded or covered, or positioned in a location that prevents contamination. We observe far too many instances of cups that have droppings in the meal or that have floating debris in the beverage.

Food

The food must to be spotless, recently prepared, and sourced from a reliable establishment. Mycotoxins are a class of chemical metabolites that are created by a wide variety of fungal species when they feed off of grains and other food stuffs. Even after the fungus has stopped producing offspring, the toxin it produces may still be present. The amount of toxin that is present can vary depending to the many elements at play; nonetheless, it is extremely common for the toxin to be concentrated on specific regions of the grain, resulting in “hot spots.” The consequences are different for each type of poison, bird species, as well as the nutritional and physiological state of the bird. A bird that is healthy is less likely to be afflicted by the condition than one that is under stress and eating poorly. It is difficult to diagnose the disease because it has symptoms that are similar to those of so many other conditions. Furthermore, by the time the disease manifests itself, the meal that caused the reaction may no longer be present, further complicating the process. Because there is no known specific antidote, the best way to deal with the illness is to avoid being exposed to it. It is imperative that any and all foods and seeds offered to birds be sanitary and current. Steer clear of damaged foods and grains that are moldy or unclean because they could be a source of fungal infection. The proper way to keep food is in a location that is dry and free of dust and moisture. Caution is especially warranted with low-quality corn and peanuts, as these foods frequently contain molds that can produce toxins.

A lot of folks keep their seed in the refrigerator. The process of “heating” seeds and pellets has been the subject of much debate. It is claimed that by doing this, possibly disease-causing gram-negative bacteria that contaminate the food material will be eradicated or at the very least reduced in number. The opponents of the proposal are concerned that the meal may lose some of its nutritious value. 1) A regular oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes, and 2) a microwave for two and a half minutes on the lowest level. These are the settings that are recommended. After cooking, the food must be preserved in an appropriate manner.

It is important to properly wash fruits and vegetables in order to eliminate any insecticide residue that may be present. You should give these foods a more thorough cleaning than you would for yourself before giving them to your birds. Birds are especially vulnerable to the effects of any insecticide sprays that may have been employed.

It is not suggested that birds consume chocolate. It may cause hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac abnormalities, seizures, droppings with a dark color, and even death. If significant amounts are consumed, there is a greater likelihood that symptoms will progress quickly. Problems might arise from taking in an excessive amount of salt. It has been demonstrated that avocados are poisonous for birds kept as pets. At first, it was believed that the pit was the only part of the plant that was poisonous; however, recent research suggests that the entire plant, including the fruit, is poisonous. There has been no description of the real poison. There are various types of avocados that are available for purchase, and it appears that the levels of toxicity in each of these varieties varies. Ruffling of the skin, increased breathing rate, vomiting, weakness, loss of appetite, and ultimately death are all indicators of hazardous exposure. The deterioration is quick, and the lungs are the organ most severely impacted. The treatment is non-specific and focuses primarily on providing supportive care.

An excessive amount of vitamin supplements (Hypervitaminosis) Calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D3 are three nutrients that are of particular significance. There are a lot of prepared diets out there that already include excessive quantities of these elements, and supplementing these diets with additional vitamins and minerals can result in toxicities that are potentially fatal. Changes to the bones can be brought on by an excess of vitamin A. Mineralization of the liver, stomach, intestines, and blood vessels can be caused by an excess of vitamin D3, as can the mineralization of blood vessels. Can cause elevated calcium levels, which in turn affects the action of the heart and the muscles. Excess calcium can lead to skeletal abnormalities.

Grit

Another contentious issue concerns the utilization of grit. Due to the fact that it is not required constantly in the cage, we suggest using it in only small amounts. It is not necessary to give grit to a bird on a daily basis because the grit will remain in the bird’s gizzard. The difficulty is that unwell birds, especially those with digestive tract abnormalities, have a tendency to overeat grit, which can lead to impaction. This problem is most prevalent in older birds. Keep an eye on the eating patterns of your bird because an abnormally high consumption of grit may point to a health issue. On occasion, we have had customers bring us sick birds who were under the impression that their birds were still feeding while, in reality, they were only eating grit. Grit on its own is not a particularly reliable supply of minerals, which is one of the reasons why this need must be met. Bones, mineral blocks, crushed eggshells, crushed oyster shells, and cuttlebone are all excellent mineral supplements. Commercial mineral preparations are another good source of minerals.

Bedding

Paper is recommended because it allows for easier monitoring of the droppings, both in terms of their quantity and their appearance. An useful method for the early diagnosis of potential disease issues is to carefully inspect the droppings and keep an eye out for any changes that are out of the ordinary. If corncob or wood shavings are used as bedding, an additional special effort should be made to make sure that droppings are monitored on a regular basis. This is because droppings can become lost in the bedding. It is imperative that the bedding come from a reliable vendor. Bedding that is dusty or unclean has the potential to be a source of bacterial or fungal pollutants, respectively, such as Aspergillus and Klebsiella.

Nesting Material

Nesting material made of fine threads should be avoided since it has the potential to wrap around the toes or legs, acting as a tourniquet and cutting off circulation in the process. This could cause the toes to deteriorate (necrosis) and fall off as a result. It appears that canaries and finches are the species of bird that are most commonly impacted. Putting cedar chips or other fragrant woods in nesting boxes that are too tiny could be dangerous. The odor is really overpowering in such a contained space, and it contains toxins that might potentially be fatal.

Overgrown Toenails and Beaks

Be sure to check the toenails and beak on a regular basis, and keep an eye out for any signs of particularly rapid or excessive growth. A quickly overgrowing upper beak with areas of bleeding (visible as black spots) may be indicative of fatty liver disease in parakeets, for instance. This condition can be recognized as a black spot on the beak. Beak and Feather Disease is a condition that can affect cockatoos, and symptoms include deterioration and enlargement of the beak. Being a good observer is also highly important because many of the changes seen can help aid in the early diagnosis, which can lead to improved success in therapy provided the changes are identified appropriately. However, the most common issue that arises as a result of growing beak and toenails is that they make it difficult to eat and move around. If they are very lengthy, there is a risk that they will crack, which could result in a severe injury or even bleeding.

Leg Bands

They need to be eliminated if there is any chance that identification can be achieved without them. The bands provide a risk since they can become hooked, causing the bird to sustain a leg injury as a result (sprain, dislocation or fracture). Additionally, the band may become uncomfortable to the leg, which may then lead to edema as well as inflammation in the leg. If the problem is not quickly found, there is a risk that the band will become restricting on the leg and function as a tourniquet, which could result in the loss of the limb. This risk increases if the problem is not quickly identified. Although canaries and cockatiels are most commonly affected by this issue, any banded bird runs the risk of being put in danger. Always check to see that the band does not restrict movement on the leg. Perform routine checks on the legs and keep an eye out for any strange developments.

Dangers in the Household

Take necessary precautions anytime you allow birds to freely roam inside the house. There are a lot of seemingly harmless typical household furniture that might actually be harmful. It is in your best interest to enclose your bird in a cage whenever you are not present to watch over it.

Windows/Mirrors

It would appear that flying birds are unable to be stopped by glass surfaces such as windows and mirrors. They might walk smack dab into them without even realizing it, which might result in serious injuries or even loss of consciousness. If your bird is able to fly freely, you should make an effort to keep these surfaces covered. Keeping the wings trimmed is a smart move to make if you want to reduce the risk of suffering an injury of this nature.

Open Doors/Windows

It is not hard to see the danger. Because of this, the death of a bird kept as a pet is not unheard of, but it is not difficult to prevent if appropriate safeguards are taken.

Open Containers of Water

When there are open containers of water, there is always the potential for someone to drown. There have been cases of birds drowning after falling into water sources such as sinks, toilets, pots of water, etc. If you let your bird to fly around freely within your home, you should cover these containers. When your bird is in the vicinity when you are in the kitchen preparing food or standing at the sink, you need to practice extreme caution.

Ceiling Fans

Birds in flight run the risk of suffering severe injuries from them. Surprisingly, people get hurt as a result of this a great deal more frequently than either you or I would have guessed. When the ceiling fan is running, you need to exercise utmost caution if your bird is allowed to fly freely around the room.

Loud Noises

Birds do have sensitive hearing, which means that loud noises can create stress, which can lead to diminished resistance to infection or emotional disorders such as pulling at feathers.

Other Pets in the Household

A highly common factor in the occurrence of injuries in pet birds. If the bird is not properly treated, a scratch or bite from a cat has the potential to be fatal. Because the germs that are spread from these kinds of cat injuries can induce a systemic infection, even if the bird seems to be in good health, it may be developing a serious illness. If it does happen, you should get veterinary care so that you can get the appropriate treatment. Most dog bites and other dog-related injuries are the result of blunt force trauma or puncture wounds. Ferrets have been responsible for the passing away of two different pet birds, including a cockatoo in one of the incidents. Even if a bird may be rather huge, this does not necessarily mean that it is able to adequately defend itself. Birds who are envious or violent toward one another can cause serious damage to other birds in the home. Beaks are susceptible to being traumatized or even cut off entirely. Toe injuries, on the other hand, are among the most frequent types of injuries. If a bird lands on the cage of an aggressive bird or vice versa, it can cause lacerations, fractures, and even amputations to the toes of the other bird. Therefore, even though your pets appear to get along well with one another, you should always be on the lookout for potential altercations. Because your pets like the attention you give them, they may get envious of one another and resort to fighting to get it.

Cooking Food

Cooking with hot cookware, food, or surfaces on your range can be hazardous. Keep in mind that even after turning off a burner, the surface temperature may still be high enough to cause a bird’s feet to blister for some time. A good rule of thumb is to move the bird away from the stove or oven while it is being cooked.

Potentially Poisonous Compounds for Pet Birds

A listing of some poisonous compounds. Birds are particularly sensitive to many of these due to their small size and very efficient metabolism.

  • -agricultural/gardening chemical
  • -insecticide/herbicidal sprays
  • -rodenticides
  • -mothballs (napthalenes)
  • -drugs in excessive quantities/improper usage
  • -denture cleansing solution
  • -salt (in large amounts)
  • -cigarette butts
  • -disinfectants

(phenols and cresols used in higher concentrations than recommended by the manufacturer) When it comes to disinfectants, many people have the mentality that if a little is good, then a lot is better. The disinfectants can be left to pool on the bases of the aviaries, and they can be allowed to dry on the perches. When disinfectants are applied, it is imperative to thoroughly rinse the affected areas.

Lead Poisoning

One of the most typical types of poisonings encountered in avian practice. Birds are naturally curious creatures and will investigate their surroundings by picking up objects, chewing on them, and even occasionally swallowing little pieces. The digestive system is the site from which lead is absorbed into the bloodstream. After that, it is transported to the brain, and at the same time, it becomes a part of the bone. It can result in abnormalities of the nervous system, which can ultimately result in death.

Because of their naturally inquisitive nature, pet birds have a good chance of stumbling onto lead in the home, therefore it is important for you to be aware of all of the potential sources of lead in your environment. Many types of weights, including fishing sinkers, cuckoo clock weights, and curtain weights, include lead. Some toys also contain lead (usually within). The most obvious sources are shotgun pellets and bullets. Lead can also be found in less obvious places, such as solder, putty, linoleum, mirror backing, costume jewelry, and some types of zippers. Ceramics that have not been glazed to make them suitable for food preparation may contain lead. In our experience, the foil that covers wine bottles has on more than one occasion been the source of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can be caused by a number of different things, but the two most frequent are lead-based paints and leaded glass. Why does it still happen when the majority of paints used now do not contain lead? When birds live in older homes, they frequently nibble through the top layers of paint, which are considered harmless, revealing the lead-based paints that lie beneath. These paints are hazardous. If you have birds and reside in an older home, you should be on the lookout for any signs that the birds have chewed on the paint. In addition, if you have any leaded or stained glass in your home, you need to make sure that your birds are kept away from the lead surfaces. Even a single chip has the potential to be harmful. Lead poisoning can only be diagnosed by observing the presence of lead in the digestive tract of the patient. Seek quick veterinary treatment if there is any reason to suspect lead poisoning; an x-ray will be able to confirm the diagnosis. On the other hand, the fact that an x-ray does not reveal any metal concentrations in the digestive tract does not always rule out heavy metal toxicity. Paint chips and leaded gas fumes are two examples of potential sources of lead poisoning that do not show up very clearly on x-rays but can still cause lead poisoning. Sometimes by the time clinical indications are noticed, the lead may have already passed through the digestive tract, or there may be a gradual release from the bone months after initial exposure to the metal. Clinical symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, excess urination, and diarrhea are also helpful in making a diagnosis. In addition, symptoms of the nervous system such as ataxia, head tilt, blindness, circling, paresis, paralysis, head tremors, convulsions, and death are also diagnostic indicators. Some birds pass away with no outward indications of illness. Hemoglobinuria, often known as blood in the urine, is a clinical symptom that is particularly common in Amazons and a few other species of birds, but it is not always present. It is a secondary complication that results from the rupture of red blood cells inside of the blood vessels and can be confused with bloody diarrhea. A lead analysis of the blood will verify the diagnosis, although getting the findings could take several days.

Lead poisoning is treatable if the condition is recognized and treated promptly. In order to prevent lead from reaching the brain, a medication known as calcium EDTA is injected directly into the muscle. Once there, it binds to the lead that is already present in the bloodstream. It is administered until there are no traces of lead in the GI system or until the clinical symptoms disappear, whichever comes first. Mineral oil or peanut butter may be administered to the patient in order to facilitate the movement of the lead through the gastrointestinal tract. It is possible that surgical removal of the lead will be necessary if it is present in large fragments.

Poisonous Plants

Birds have a habit of chewing on flora, which can be an issue for homeowners who have indoor plants; nevertheless, genuine plant poisoning in captive birds is quite uncommon. There have only been a few documented cases of birds becoming poisoned by plants, and it is considered that the quick GI transit time may be to blame for this low prevalence of toxicity. It is difficult to determine how much food a bird consumes because it appears like they enjoy shredding the leaves more than really consuming them. The majority of the information regarding hazardous plants in birds kept as pets is drawn from research conducted on mammals. I will not go into depth naming the hazardous plants because previous editions of Bird Talk have contained several good pieces on this subject. The excellent avian medical text prepared by Harrison and Harrison contains a listing of both poisonous and safe plants that can be used in aviaries. This provides an additional reliable source. Call your neighborhood poison control department if you have any questions about whether or not the houseplants in your home are toxic. Seek emergency veterinary attention if you have any reason to believe that your bird has been poisoned.

Toxic Fumes

The respiratory tracts of birds are the most developed and effective of any other animal’s. They are able to successfully extract oxygen from the surrounding air and transport it into the bloodstream. However, because of their high efficiency and their diminutive size, they are more susceptible to the harmful components that are present in the air. It is important to keep in mind that canaries were historically utilized in mines to detect the presence of gases that would otherwise go undetected.

The following is a list of various components that studies have found to be harmful to the health of birds kept as pets. Due to the fact that many of these have no effect on humans, extreme caution needs to be exercised anytime they are used in environments with birds.

-aerosol sprays (the propellant in the spray is toxic)
-polymer fumes in spray starch
-fumes from self-cleaning oven
-paint fumes
-smoke from burning food
-burning/overheated cooking oil/butter
-non-stick plastic sprays used to coat cooking utensils
-cigarette smoke
-cooking gas
-carbon monoxide (car exhaust/water heater)
-any material that emits fumes

Pet birds are more susceptible to developing chronic diseases of the respiratory system, skin, and eyes if they passively inhale smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Due to the persistent irritation of the respiratory system, birds who share their homes with smokers frequently exhibit clinical indicators such as coughing, sneezing, sinusitis, and conjunctivitis. These symptoms can be traced back to the birds’ exposure to secondhand smoke. The lining of the respiratory system, which has been injured by the smoke, might frequently be subject to a secondary invasion by bacterial organisms. If the source of smoke is removed and there are no secondary illnesses present, the clinical indications may go away on their own without the need for treatment.

In the event that you detect a peculiar odor or fumes, relocate your bird to a location that has adequate ventilation and is free of fumes. The preceding list demonstrates that the kitchen is the source of a significant number of these dangers. It is generally recommended to avoid keeping the bird in the kitchen at any time. There is an excessive number of potential for unfavorable outcomes there. Because of all the action that takes on there, the kitchen is where many people choose to keep their birds as pets. If you choose to keep your bird in the kitchen for this reason, you should take utmost caution while you are preparing food or cleaning the kitchen. Nevertheless, it is best to keep the birds out of the kitchen as much as possible.

“Toxic Effects of Teflon” The author has been focusing on resolving this issue for a number of years, during which time he has published a great number of papers and delivered a great number of seminars on the subject of its peril. Dr. Roger Wells was the one who carried out the preliminary studies on the toxicity of PTFE, and the results of his work were critical to the understanding that avian practitioners had of the illness.

Polytetrafluoroethylene, sometimes known as PTFE, is a man-made polymer that gives non-stick surfaces their properties. Teflon, Silverstone, and Supra are the brand names that are most commonly associated with cookware that has a PTFE coating. On the other hand, you can purchase different PTFE-coated products under their respective brand names.

PTFE-coated cookware is stable and safe to use under usual conditions of use in the kitchen. When PTFE is heated to temperatures higher than 530 degrees Fahrenheit, the material begins to degrade and gives off acidic odors. However, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, eggs fry at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and deep-frying takes place at 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The majority of foods cook at lower temperatures. On the other hand, PTFE-coated cookware can achieve temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit or more if it is left unused on a burner whose high setting has been selected. Therefore, PTFE can degrade if water boils out of a pot or if a skillet is left to warm on a burner without being attended to, both of which are common occurrences. Because of this, PTFE-coated cookware must be “misused” in order to release poisonous vapors. It has been reported that there have been rare occurrences of toxicity at lower temperatures.

The symptoms of PTFE poisoning are not specific to any one condition. Birds are typically discovered either already dead in the cage or gasping for air before passing away. The acidic effects of the toxic gases have a significant corrosive effect on the lung tissue, causing it to become seriously damaged. During the postmortem examination, only the lungs were found to have undergone any changes, and the airways were found to have congestion and bleeding.

The symptoms of breathing difficulties and mortality, in conjunction with the association with a non-stick surface that may have been overheated, allowed for the diagnosis to be made. It is necessary to rule out the possibility of other sources of harmful gases. Because the alterations that occur in the lungs as a result of PTFE toxicity are not unique for this toxin, there is no SPECIFIC way that this can be positively detected.

When used in close proximity to birds, drip pans or burner pans coated with PTFE pose a significant health risk. Under a burner that is turned up to its highest setting, a pan can attain temperatures of over 650 degrees Fahrenheit in just five minutes, and after ten minutes, temperatures of over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the pans are subjected to the direct heat of the burners. It is important to note that while PTFE-coated cookware is only hazardous when it is used improperly, PTFE-coated drip pans are hazardous even when used properly and should be avoided in homes with birds.

Drip pans that are coated with PTFE are still being sold in the marketplace and distributed by mail order companies, which presents a significant risk. According to the information that was acquired and the conversation that took place with a representative of one of the companies, he said that “hundreds of thousands” have been sold. The fact that these can cause mortality in pet birds under normal usage (with unknown effects on people), as well as the fact that there are not warning labels on all of these goods, as well as no composition label (so the consumer knows if PTFE is there or not), is completely unacceptable.

In the late 1980s, the author commissioned a survey of bird owners all around the country who had suffered the loss of their pets due to the toxicity of PTFE. In an article that was sent in to Bird Talk, the author emphasized the toxicity of PTFE and the rising danger posed by the newly available PTFE coated drip pans. In that piece, the author asked for information to be supplied. There was an overwhelming amount of correspondence and phone calls coming in from all parts of the country. They were all investigated to ensure that the death of the bird (or birds) was caused by overheated PTFE and not another source (such as burning food or smoke), and it was determined that the PTFE was the cause of death.

During the time period of one year that the data was gathered, there were 105 incidents of PTFE poisoning that were responsible for 520 bird deaths. These bird deaths ranged from finches all the way up to macaws. Indicative of the magnitude of the issue is the fact that it is not difficult to speculate that there were untold numbers of other incidents that were either not reported or were not acknowledged. Twenty percent of the incidents that were recorded involved the use of drip pans that were covered with PTFE, although the majority of the incidents were caused by a PTFE surface that became overheated as a result of inappropriate use. The most common causes of pyrolysis were accidents in which a PTFE-coated pan was left on a burner while it was empty or a pot was left on a burner for an extended period of time, which resulted in the water on the surface of the pot reaching a temperature high enough to cause pyrolysis.

Owners of birds do not need to get rid of all of their PTFE cookware; rather, they should exercise greater caution when using it in the presence of their pets. On the other hand, PTFE-coated drip pans must never be used in the presence of birds.

In spite of the efforts of a large number of concerned parties who are trying to warn bird owners to these dangers, deaths are still occurring as a result of the toxicities of PTFE. As concerned consumers, we need to address this issue. The dangers of using PTFE-coated objects around birds kept as pets should be made clear to customers by the manufacturers, who should affix warning labels to these products. Another one of the prerequisites ought to be a label specifying the components that make up the non-stick coating that is applied to the surface. Because there is no indication of the sort of non-stick agent that is used on these surfaces, knowledgeable bird owners who wish to avoid the use of PTFE are left feeling dissatisfied. For instance, some surfaces contain silicon, which would be acceptable to use near birds; however, this knowledge is not readily available to the public. Two things that will unquestionably be required in the not-too-distant future are warning labels and the composition of the non-stick surface.

Conclusion

As you can see, threats lurking within the home can be found in a variety of seemingly harmless locations. This article’s goal was to make you aware of some of these potential threats, all of which may be avoided if good husbandry practices are followed and precautions are taken. My perspective has always been that even one loss of life or injury as a result of any of these conditions is one too many. As owners of birds, it is also our responsibility to disseminate this knowledge to other owners of birds so that we can forestall the unintentional killing and injury of any more of these extraordinary companion animals.

Call the National Animal Poison Control Center at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, Illinois 61801 for information about products and chemicals, as well as assistance with poisonings. This center is located at the same address. 1-800-548-2423: thirty dollars each case; 1-900-680-0000: twenty dollars for the first five minutes and two dollars and ninety-five cents for each extra minute

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