Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.




In the course of everyday living sometimes we fail to notice the hazardous situations close at hand. Following are a list of potential dangers to your bird:

1) Transparent Window Glass
When allowed to free fly in your home, your bird will not recognize window glass and very likely will attempt to fly through it. Birds have been badly hurt and killed from such accidents. Initially, keep your curtains and draperies closed and then part them gradually as your bird becomes more familiar with the room.

2) Open Windows and Doors (Without a Screen)
In the summertime any number of birds escape from homes because of open windows and doors.

3) Mirrors
Mirrors have the same intrinsic dangers as transparent glass. Once your bird has become accustomed to mirrors in the room he will enjoy them as the bird on the other side will fascinate him.

4) Cats and Dogs
Most cats believe that small birds are fair game and will seek every opportunity to eat your canary, parakeet or finch. For the people who own a cat, the best suggestion is to obtain the cockatiel or larger parrot. An extremely vicious cat might attack these birds, but the average house cat won't touch them.

Over a period of time a dog can be trained not to bother a free flying bird. It pays to be precautions, and the bird should be introduced to the dog gradually.

5) People
The informed bird owner who takes care of his bird judiciously and seeks consultation early is truly the bird's best friend. More birds die from uninformed owners than probably any other reason.

6) Open Bowls and Pans of Water
Something seems to attract birds to water-possibly because it shines and glitters. Birds have been known to fly into pans of boiling water, bathtubs, toilet bowls, indoor swimming pools, etc. If your bird scalds himself, call your veterinarian immediately. Should he just get wet in a bowl of water, pat and dry him with a towel and keep him in a warm area until he is dry.

Open fish bowls are a hazard to pet birds.

7) Loud Noises
Birds enjoy many types of sounds and will be heard to sing and chatter along with them. Noises which begin to bother the human ear could also bother the bird. One parrot would pick his feathers out whenever the owners shouted at each other.

8) Fans
The danger of an open fan speaks for itself.

9) Inactivity
Beware of subtle signs of sickness. Birds hide their problems amazingly well. They can be seriously sick and show only decreased activity. These birds need prompt veterinary service.

10) Nesting Materials Made of Thread
Any cloth or material which will fray with threadlike ends serves as a real danger to the feet and legs of birds. The loose thread wrapped around the toes and feet, acts as a tourniquet. The thread will cut through the tissues with the potential loss of toes or feet.

11) Mange
Mange can be one of the causes of an abnormally shaped beak or lesions on the toes and feet. These problems should be looked into by a veterinarian.

12) Leg Bands
Breeders need identification on their baby birds. Aluminum bands are slipped over the toes onto the leg when the birds are only a few days old.

After the birds are sold, the leg band no longer has any purpose and should be removed. The two chief dangers of leg bands on a bird are: the band may catch on some object in the cage and cause the bird to fracture its leg; scales will build up under the leg band and act as a tourniquet on the leg. If the band stays on, the bird will lose its foot; if the band is removed, there is risk that the leg can be broken or that the blood vessels will be damaged and result in necrosis (dry gangrene).

All leg bands should be removed from pet birds before problems develop.

13) Overheating
Most animals can tolerate cold much better than heat, and the bird is no exception. A bird left in the sunshine on a hot day with no chance to seek shelter will die from being overheated. Sick birds can be placed in incubators which may range anywhere from 85 to about 950 depending upon the seriousness of the problem and tolerate the heat very well. As these birds return to normal, the incubators become to warm for them and they draw their feathers very close to their bodies, holding their wings away from their bodies which helps eliminate the dead air space. At this point they will also be panting. When conditions such as these are noticed on birds, it is time to get them to a cooler area.

14) Carbon Monoxide, Paint Fumes and Smoke
Any contaminant in the air is potentially harmful to a bird. Schoolteachers enjoy informing their classes that in the olden days, miners took birds into the mine shafts with them as a safety measure. The birds were quickly affected by poisonous gases. Their critical appearances would be a warning for the miners. The same can be true in private homes. There was an instance where a woman became hysterical because of the deaths one afternoon of her five birds. She telephoned the veterinarian frantically and was immediately warned to leave the house as poisonous gases were in the atmosphere. In fact, there had been a defect in her furnace which had allowed carbon monoxide to work its way into the forced air system in sufficient quantity to kill the birds and not yet affect the owner. Had the birds not died and she had stayed in the house, she, too, would have succumbed to the poisonous gas.

15) Burnt Teflon
Teflon coated pans, that are allowed to cook dry, can emit toxic fumes, A burnt teflon pan causes no danger to people, but birds will die from exposure to these fumes.

16) Poisonous Plants
A number of common house plants and garden ornamentals are toxic to birds if ingested. Ivy, poinsettia, and a species of dieffenbachia are included in a list of potentially dangerous plants listed in Current Veterinary Therapy.

17) Insecticides
Almost all insecticides are potentially poisonous to birds. Aerosols sprayed into the room to kill insects can also kill your bird.

PEST STRIPS - Are in the same class as insecticides.

18) Medicines
A person hardly realizes how many toxic materials are around until he starts handling birds. Medicines which seemingly are safe for people can kill birds. Be extremely careful in the administration of any drug; a bird is so tiny that overdoses of drugs are very easy-and overdoses can kill. As with yourself, handle medicines cautiously.

Antibiotics and other drugs sold in the pet shop for your bird should be used only when veterinary help is not available. Adding medicine to the drinking water can result in underdosages which will of course do your bird no good or may result in overdosages which might be toxic to your bird. Drug dosages must be calculated for the exact weight of the bird. This is the only safe way to use medicine.

19) Wood Chips
Wood chips are sometimes used in the pans of large birds to absorb the droppings and as the method of keeping the cage clean. Particularly, young birds may get into these wood chips and eat them as food. Some very valuable baby macaws and cockatiels have died as a result of impaction following the eating of wood chips.

20) Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B Complex is found mainly in the hull of the seed. If you have watched pet birds eat, they remove the hull from the seed thus leaving the part containing most of the vitamin B complex fall to the bottom of the cage. No wonder then that this is a commonly seen deficiency. Read the label on the vitamin product you are putting in the bird's drinking water to be sure that it contains the vitamin B complex vitamins.

21) Small Cages
One feels sorry for birds confined to a small cage.

22) Toys
As with children, toys can be dangerous. Any sharp projection, wire, hook, or fiber could catch on the bird's feet or legs. Stay away from junk toys, and inspect closely anything you put in the bird's cage.

23) Long Toenails
If birds could talk, overgrown nails would be one of the most common complaints.

24) Overgrown Beaks
Overgrown beaks can create a serious problem for birds by interfering with normal eating.

25) Oil or Grease on feathers
Since the chief purpose of feathers is to keep the bird warm, anything that would damage or destroy the insulating power of feathers would be deleterious to the bird. Any oil or grease on the downy feathers will mat these feathers so that they cannot insulate the bird's body. Avoid using Vaseline, a commonly used preparation for areas of inflammation or irritation on people. It is probably in the medicine chest of every home in the United States.

The bird owner observes what appears to be an itching problem, concludes that there must be a problem with the skin in that area and applies oil or grease to help the bird's problem. The oil which had been applied to the skin is not satisfied to remain in one area and much like putting oil on the corner of a blotter gradually spreads to other areas affecting the insulation over a large portion of the bird's body. The bird will react to the insult by trying to remove the grease as best he can, He will seem to be picking and itching more but actually will be fighting for his survival. If the problem is minimal, the bird may overcome it. If there is sufficient grease on the skin and feathers, the bird will chill and die in a period of time.

Even small amounts of oil, grease, or ''petroleum jelly'' applied to the toes of legs can be troublesome. At times birds raise their legs to their body. This action spreads the oil onto their feathers. Whenever a bird's feathers look wet or pasted together from oil, it is a warning that there is a severe problem.

The cardinal rule is do not apply any oil or oily substance to the skin or feathers of a bird.

26) Cage Door Unsecure
Watch those cage doors! It is not unusual that birds escape from their cages through doors that are either left ajar or whose locking mechanism has become worn. The doors on about half of the cages (especially those of the bigger birds) are defective and need additional support to their locking mechanism.

27) Placing Birds Together in a Common Cage
Mixing birds can be dangerous for several reasons. They don't always get along together and can bite and pick viciously until the death of one of them. Also, one bird may dominate the other one until finally the bird is mentally affected, deteriorates and finally dies. Finally, one bird may reign over the seed cups and deny the other bird access to the food.

These products may contain sufficient lead pigment to be toxic. Dea from all these sources happens too frequently. Be careful.

28) Air Pollution
Whenever the news media broadcasts an ozone warning, include your bird as one of those animals which might be affected. Although not lethal, you might notice that your bird becomes inactive and seems stressed.

29) Hot Air Duct
Direct heat blowing on a bird from a hot forced air furnace can be fatal in a matter of hours.

30) Cage Decorations
Ribbons or any type fabric decorations used to decorate the cage (as at Christmas) are subject to being chewed and shredded. The threads entangle the bird or his limbs and can either trap him or act as tourniquets.

31) Val Clamps
Homemade cages for large psittacine birds sometimes have val clamps to attach the doors. Parrots may remove these and get them caught on their beaks. The mandible is not solid bone and can be broken. Clamps need to be removed carefully.

32) Botulism
Particularly a danger for outside birds, any bird eating rotten food or other decomposed organic material will die from this toxin.

33) Carpet
A bird picking or tearing fibers off pieces of carpeting and swallowing them can impact their crops.


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