Lead poisoning in exotic birds becoming more common

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METAIRIE, La. (WGNO) - Many owners of exotic birds will allow them to leave their cages from time to time and roam freely around the house.  But for some curiosity can get the best of them.

At West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic and Bird Hospital in Metairie, Dr. Gregory Rich is treating a white cockatoo that came to the clinic with stomach problems, and the first x-ray confirmed Dr. Rich’s suspicions.   The cockatoo, named Topper, had eaten several objects that contained lead, and lead is toxic in birds, just as it is in humans.

Dr. Rich says most bird owners know about the lead danger in peeling paint, but some common household objects can be just as dangerous.  A stained glass ornament, a picture frame, a lead fishing sinker, even the metallic top on a bottle of wine, can contain enough lead to make a bird sick.

The first course of treatment is an anti-toxin injection to treat the poisoning, plus peanut butter mixed with Matamucil to help the bird pass the objects naturally.  In Topper’s case, the Metamucil mixture helped the bird pass one of the objects, but not all.

The next step would be surgery.

Dr. Rich has treated six exotic birds with lead poisoning so far this year, and he hopes owners will be vigilant whenever their birds are out of their cages.

“A bird is like a 3-year old child,” he says, “except that they stay 3 years old forever.”