Lead Poisoning in Birds: Indications, Treatment and Preventative Measures

Of all the reported poisonings of birds, lead is the most common, affecting captive and wild birds alike. Lead poisoning of your bird can cost him his life, or at the very least, serious illness. Many people don’t realize that, if they let their bird fly around the house, they could be exposing the pet to lead poisoning.

Signs of lead poisoning include loss of appetite, listlessness, weakness, loose droppings that can be of different color than normal, bloody stool, vomiting, increased thirst, and even more serious implications like blindness, lack of coordination, lameness or seizures. These conditions can vary in extremity depending upon how much lead is ingested.

A diagnosis of lead poisoning is made by taking a blood sample and measuring the blood lead concentration. Radiographs are also helpful in diagnosing since the radiograph can reveal lead particles in the gastrointestinal tract.

If the pet bird is diagnosed with lead poisoning treatments will likely begin right away. The treatment involves a series of injections that last approximately 5 days. The test results take a couple of days so the total amount of time, from thinking there might be lead poisoning, to the end of the treatment, is about a week. If the discovery of the lead poisoning is early enough, treatment is generally successful.

It’s important to take preventative measures to keep your bird safe. Some antique bird cages can contain lead – make sure this is not the case for the cage in which you keep your bird. If you allow the bird to fly free around the house make sure it’s under supervision, since many items in your home can harm the bird and cause lead poisoning.

Birds should not be allowed to peck or bite on old paint, plaster, galvanized wire, putty, solder or batteries. Likewise, the bird should avoid drapery weights, ceramic dishware and costume jewelry. Some furnishings can cause problems for the bird as well, including Tiffany lamps, stained glass, mirrors or wrought iron welding. Also make sure the bird avoids things like fishing weights, lures and shotgun pellets.

Making sure your pet bird is safe is a major concern, since the bird is naturally curious and will peck at just about any object. It’s best if you allow the bird to fly in one specific room, that has been examined and is found to be lead-free.

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