One of the biggest medical problems a pet bird can have is heavy metal poisoning. Of course, this intoxication is dangerous for any animal and any person, but birds have a special sensitivity to heavy metals. Birds can easily intoxicate themselves with heavy metals found in their environment. Each type of heavy metal causes distinct symptoms and affects pet birds differently. The three heavy metals that usually cause heavy metal poisoning in birds are lead, zinc, and iron.
The smallest amount of lead or zinc consumed by a bird can send it directly to the veterinarian or can even be fatal. You probably think that there is no place for the bird to ingest such heavy metals in your home. Where could they find them to ingest them? Plus, you take care of the pet and keep it from ingesting such things, right?
Well, things are not that simple. No one can watch a bird 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And yes, the bird finds places where it can ingest heavy metals. For example, it can chew the cage bars, cage toys, or other items it finds in the cage. Most of these can contain zinc and lead. Therefore, it is recommended that when buying a cage, you make sure it doesn’t have elements containing lead, zinc, or other heavy metals.
Also, the bird can pinch galvanized wires, glued parts with various adhesives, plastic parts, batteries, pieces of linoleum, pieces of glass, jewelry made of non-precious metals, and many more with its beak. All of these can contain heavy metals. This is how easy it is for your bird to get intoxicated!
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Early diagnosis of such poisoning in birds is the key to successful treatment. The symptoms that send you to the emergency veterinarian are:
Zinc and iron are present in food and are needed in small amounts for a healthy bird. But when abnormal amounts are present in the body of the bird, the same heavy metals can lead to poisoning or intoxication.
Lead poisoning is no longer as common as it used to be. Humans have become more aware of the potential danger and are taking precautions not to happen to their birds too.
Poisoning with a heavy metal such as iron can lead to iron storage disease, siderosis, or hemochromatosis, which causes the deposition of nutrients in the internal organs of the body. This can lead to liver problems and affect other organs.
Parrots are more exposed to heavy metal poisoning due to their strong beak and curiosity. The most common type of poisoning is zinc poisoning because it is contained in the galvanized mesh used to make volitions, bird cages, adapters, and feeders.
Heavy metal poisoning first affects the central nervous system and kidneys, presenting as clinical signs: Strain, depression, and ataxia.
However, due to neurological dysfunction of the upper digestive tract, birds will vomit. Mucus can accumulate in the mouth. In an attempt to remove it, the bird will also cover the feathers on its head. Other clinical signs include polyuria, polydipsia, color change, anorexia, and sudden death.
If you suspect heavy metal poisoning in your bird, take it to the vet immediately for an examination. Usually, the doctor will perform X-rays, which can identify the type of heavy metal. Blood tests can also determine the presence of heavy metals.
The veterinarian will immediately begin treatment for detoxification without even waiting for laboratory tests. Quick action is essential to save the life of the bird intoxicated with heavy metals.
After the bird recovers from its intoxication, the veterinarian will continue with treatment and animal support food, so that the little patient can fully recover. Fortunately, properly treated intoxication leads to complete healing without leaving any trace. The bird will be out of danger if you take it to the vet early. Cases, where the organs remain damaged and cause the death of the bird, are quite rare.
Treatment consists of:
Chelation is an organic compound used to detoxify toxic metal agents and treat this condition. Chelating agents are repeatedly injected into the muscles of the poisoned bird until the blood levels of the bird return to normal. When the condition of the bird stabilizes, the chelating agent can be administered orally at home.
The recovery of the poisoned bird is generally faster in case of mild to moderate poisoning with heavy metals.
You can easily avoid heavy metal poisoning by removing any heavy metals that can be ingested from your bird’s environment. That is the cage and the materials used for the restraint. Instead, buy cages and accessories from non-toxic materials such as stainless steel and welded wires.
If your bird is outside the cage, make sure there are no sources of heavy metals available for consumption. Lead can be found in old paint, stained glass, lead curtains, fishing utensils and solders/pastes, and toys. Copper is present in electrical wires.
Therefore, prevention of further exposure should be carried out both at the gastrointestinal level and in the animal environment. Internally, lubricants such as paraffin will be used to remove metals from the ventricle. For the decontamination of the habitat, external, will be identified and removed the source of intoxication.
However, it is necessary to pay close attention to your bird. They are very talented in hiding their symptoms. Therefore, pay attention to any signs and changes, no matter how small. Do not ignore any signals, as the condition of birds with metal intoxication can degrade very quickly.