It helps to be aware of possible hazards in order to avoid them and help prevent a tragedy
Each season brings with it different situations which affect our beloved pets and this includes our feathered companions too! Winter brings a number of problems, so it helps to be aware of the possible hazards in order to avoid them and help prevent a tragedy.
Fires in the Fireplace - Enjoy the warm glow of a winter fire. Just be sure to keep the yule logs and fire color additives away from your birds. They contain heavy metals such as such as arsenic, barium, lead and selenium. If ingested, they could cause heavy metal poisoning. Particles may also be included in the smoke. Even better, keep birds out of the room when you have a fire. Smoke is an irritant to us and definitely to our feathered friends.
Bathing - Turning on our furnaces often leads to dry air. Dry air can mean dry skin and dry breathing passages for our pet birds. Try to keep the humidity up in the areas near your birds, and be sure they can bathe frequently. This will help keep their skins moist.
Drafts - It's cold outside, so be sure to check windows and doors for leaks and drafts. This is especially important in locales that experience high winter winds and excesses of snowfall. Birds can handle lower temperatures, but a cold draft can make your bird ill.
Teflon Heaters and Appliances - More and more manufacturers are using teflon in their appliances. These include heaters, lamps, teflon coated bulbs, irons, stove top burners, griddles, hair dryers, etc. When teflon is heated it gives off poisonous fumes which can quickly kill. Recent reports indicate that teflon fumes are generated at temperatures as low as 285 degrees. There have also been reports that using multiple appliances at the same time may increase the amount of teflon fumes in the air. These fumes are toxic to birds.
Space Heaters - Many of us use space heaters to warm those extra cold areas in our homes. In winter we also use more lamps and bulbs. And of course the windows are closed, reducing ventilation. Teflon fumes are carried on air currents, so a bird does not have to be in the room to be affected. Before you buy appliances, read the labels and purchase the non-teflon brands if possible. Check the electrical appliances you already own. DO NOT use teflon near your birds.
Halogen Lamps - Halogen lamps can get dangerously hot, even to humans. An unsuspecting bird landing on one, can be burned badly. If you do use halogen lamps, be sure to supervise your birds when they are out and teach them to avoid areas where these types of bulbs are being used.
Power Outages - For some of us, winter storms can bring power outages. Plan for emergencies. How will you keep your birds warm, feed them and provide light if you lose power? In dire emergencies how will you evacuate your home including her pet bird? Inexpensive backup power supplies are available in most hardware stores. Keep carriers, heating pads, prepared food packets and bottled water available for quick access.
This is the time of year for parties and for creating a special holiday atmosphere in our homes. Let's all celebrate, but remember a few safety precautions:
Incense and Candles - Scented candles, incense, carpet fresheners and air fresheners contain volatile oils which are poisonous to birds. You can enjoy your candlelight, but use unscented candles and supervise your birds when they are out. To give your home that holiday aroma, try boiling herbs such as cloves, mint or cinnamon instead of commercial chemical-filled immitations.
Kitchen Cookware and Appliances - Check all the seldom used appliances you are going to use for teflon - the electric frying pan, wok, the bread maker, cake pans, hot food servers and warmers. If you must use them, BE CAREFUL! Don't let any of them overheat, be sure there is ventilation and keep your birds in a different room. Also be aware that fumes from self cleaning ovens have killed birds. Hand clean your ovens with a safe product instead.
Holiday Cooking - is a time for lots of sauces, gravies and goodies - many cooking and being mixed at the same time. They will smell as good to your birds as they do to you. Watch out for inquisitive birds who will fly or jump into a pot or bowl of hot food or a container filled with liquid. Smaller birds can get trapped in a container of liquid and drown. Cover your pots while cooking, even if you're going to be in the same room; a bird can swoop quickly! Be careful when using electrical mixers and beaters. And keep the drawers closed. A small bird can be trapped when an open drawer or cabinet door is shut. Better yet, this is not the best time to bring your pet bird into the kitchen with you.
Holiday Plants - Poinsettia plants, Christmas cactus, Holly berries and Mistletoe berries are dangerous to birds. Poinsettia stems have a milky sap which irritates eyes and the digestive tract. Holly tree berries also irritiate the gastrointestinal tract. Mistletoe berries are extremely toxic. Pine and fir trees are not toxic. However, the needles from pine trees and artificial trees are sharp and can cause trauma, if ingested. Cedar contains irritants and should not be used.
Decorations Can be Dangerous - made of plastic, some spray snow and ornaments are non-toxic; however, injesting pieces of them can cause blockage of the intestinal tract in a bird. If you use a spray-on decoration, keep your birds away while you spray. Some of the propellants contain freon which is toxic.
Glass and Metallic Lights - hung on mantels and used to decorate a room or party area can be broken and pose a threat to your pet bird. The sharp edges can cause cuts, both externally and internally. Bubbling light fluid contains a toxic solvent which irritates eyes. Consider using wooden or paper decorations and edible garlands made of things like popcorn, cranberries or even colored paper.
Electrical Cords are another source of danger.
Visitors - Holidays also mean extra visitors, more activity, late nights and additional noise. Visitors may unknowingly feed your bird something toxic such as alcohol, coffee, avocado and chocolate. Watch for your birds reactions to individuals. Some may be frightening to them. If you think your birds may become stressed, then move their cages or playgyms to a quieter area of the home until the holiday or party activities are over. Take them out, when things have quieted down and there are less people around.
Be prepared and both you and your pet birds will have a wonderful holiday season and a safe winter!
Pet Assure is the largest veterinary network in the U.S. with over 5,600 veterinarians.