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June- Toxic Substances
Posted:6/1/2008 12:00:00 AM

When the weather gets warm and summer approaches, we always get calls asking about the toxicity of plants, leaves and wood. I thought this would be an appropriate topic for this month's 'tip.' Some substances found in certain plants can cause skin irritation, nasal and eye irritation, redness, pain, swelling and blistering just by touching them.

Wild birds may eat certain plant parts and experience no toxic effects because they have developed special enzymes that let their bodies break down toxic compounds into harmless ones. This is not the case for our domestically bred pet birds. Most of the compounds that are toxic to humans are toxic to our household pets too.

Sometimes, the toxins are concentrated in only one part of the are in the for this reason, we cannot assume that because the leaves or fruit is safe, the whole plant is safe. Also, it is equally important to realize that because something is identified as 'natural and/or organic' it is safe. Dirt is natural and organic, but I certainly don't want to eat it!

Some symptoms of toxicosis are: vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, nervous system, immune system and circulatory system disorders, liver and kidney damage as well as other symptoms. Skin reactions, allergic reactions, respiratory distress and mouth and throat irritation are also symptoms when your pet has physical contact with certain toxic compounds.

To Prevent Plant Poisoning make sure plants and branches are non toxic before placing them in close proximity to your pet. Pesticides and herbicides used on household or garden plants can make otherwise harmless plants toxic. Some molds and mildews can also be harmful. Make sure all fruits and veggies are thoroughly washed and that seeds and nuts are free from fungi, bacteria and mold. Store nuts and seeds in dry, cool places and they should remain safe for your pet's consumption.

Remember that birds have an insatiable curiosity, so his area needs to be free from tempting plants and other items.

I am going to list some plants and flowers known to be harmful to birds to make it easier for you to become more knowledgeable in this confusing area:
Amaryllis, aster, lily, buttercup and nightshade families...plum, apricot, cherry, peach, nectarine, apple and pear leaves, pits and bark only. The fruit is harmless. Certain varieties of lima beans when ingested raw....boiling the lima beans render them harmless. Aloe leaves and rhubarb leaves and rhubarb stalks are toxic as well as oleander, foxglove, rhododendron and beet greens. Dieffenbachais, calla lilies, caladium, philodendrons have compounds that may cause skin and eye irritations. Acorns and acorn leaves are also toxic as well as hemlock, black locust, pokeweed, bracken fern and horsetail. Crown-of-thorns, poinsettia, azaleas, iris,and junipers need to be kept away from your pet also.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned there are several things to do:

  1. Identify the plant in question
  2. Call your vet immediately or go to an emergency facility
  3. Keep your bird warm, comfortable and stress free
  4. Take plant to vet or emergency facility for further identification and inspection
  5. If your birds vomits or has diarrhea, save a sample and take it to your vet for examination.

This article is not meant to alarm or frighten, but to help us all become better informed and responsible pet owners. If you have additional questions, please contact your vet and he will be able to answer your other questions.

Talk to you next month,


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