How many hazards is this pet parrot exposed to in the following scenario? (The answer appears at the end of this article.)
It’s morning, and it’s going to be another scorcher. You open the living room curtains and turn on the ceiling fan. Using the mirror above the fireplace, you check your hair and then spritz it with hairspray. As you uncover your parrot’s cage, you light up the first cigarette of the day. The bird hasn’t eaten all of yesterday’s fruit yet, but now it’s time to stretch his wings, so you let the parrot out of the cage while you prepare breakfast. On goes the stove to heat up a nonstick frying pan ready for some yummy bacon and a fried egg…
When you have a pet parrot, the home may not be as hazard-free as you’d assume. When it comes to our feathered friends, be safe and keep an eye out for the following common hazards.
1. Smoke and Nicotine
Smoking cigarettes is not a personal choice a parrot would make. Birds have incredibly sensitive respiratory systems, and second-hand smoke is bad news for them. Nicotine causes not only eye and respiratory tract inflammation but also the bird equivalent of bronchitis and lung disease.
In addition, cigarettes give off carbon monoxide. Remember how canaries were used in coal mines as carbon monoxide detectors? That’s because they keeled over and died at levels undetectable to man. Other sources of this deadly-to-birds gas include open fires (a hazard in themselves) and naked flames (such as candles), along with fuel burners and central heating boilers.
In short, parrots and flames don’t mix, so keep the two separate.
2. PTFE Fumes
While keeping feathers away from flames seems obvious, did you know about the risk from nonstick cookware? Teflon contains polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which, when vaporized during heating, is highly toxic to birds.
But also know that PTFEs are found in grill sheets, some irons and ironing boards, the black surface of heat lamps, the waterproofing on some water-resistant clothing and the paint on solid fuel burners. Some hairdryers contain PTFE, so none of these things should ever be in the same air space as a bird.
3. Scented Products
Many household products contain volatile chemicals that birds find extremely irritating. Signs can range from sneezing and breathing difficulties to feather plucking and death.
We use many of these products every day:
- Air fresheners
- Cleaning products (especially those containing bleach or ammonia)
- Even nail polish remover
Indeed, if something smells, be cautious with it around birds — and this includes new carpets. That smell of new carpet is down to a chemical known to be harmful to birds when inhaled, and that’s not including adhesive fumes used to anchor the carpet. When redecorating, keep the bird away from the action in a well-ventilated room.
4. Food and Plants
Spoiled food encourages the growth of bacteria, which can cause gut infections in birds. This includes fresh fruit and veggies that have been exposed to the air for longer than 6 hours (less in hot weather).
Also, many human foods, such as coffee beans, chocolate, onion, mushrooms, avocados and salty snacks should be avoided in birds. The parrot that pecks at common plants such as lilies, amaryllis, oleander or rhododendrons could end up with nerve, heart or kidney problems.
5. Accidents Waiting to Happen
These are things like your beloved bird flying right out of an open window or into a rotating ceiling fan, or getting squished in a shutting door. Draw the curtains to hide the glass or protect windows with mesh screens. Also, be aware of the danger to a bird of seeing a mirror, misjudging distances and flying into it at full tilt.
The bottom line: If you would consider it a risk to a young child, it’s also a problem for a bird.
6. Toxic Metals
Finally, don’t let your parrot chew on a key chain or coat hanger.
Metals containing copper, lead or zinc can cause tremors, regurgitation, diarrhea and bloody stools, so always make sure cages, bells and toys are made from stainless steel.
Did you spot all the hazards in the above scenario?
- Open window
- Ceiling fan
- Old fruit in the cage
- Hot stove
- PTFEs from a nonstick frying pan
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Oct. 11, 2018.