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Heavy Metal Poisoning

Heavy metal poisoning is a common cause of disease in pet birds. Unfortunately, this is often because people have made toys or cages out of inappropriate materials. Its not just metals, several rubber compounds have been found to contain heavy metals.
When we talk about heavy metals, the most common ones are Zinc and Lead. Both of these may be present in metal cages if not specified not to contain them. Its not just the  metal of the cage itself, but any coating such as paint or galvanizing. When buying any toy, look at any clips, bells, chains or rubber components as potential sources for heavy metals. Some metal jewlery or ornaments can contain heavy metals, so its always vital to limit what your  bird can come into contact with.
So, how dangerous are zinc and lead, and what can they do to your parrot?
Both of these metals can cause major, life threatening problems in your birds if not diagnosed and treated promptly. 
Signs of poisoning include (but are not limited to) weight loss, feather plucking, loss of voice, loss of appetite, seizures, wobbliness, twitching or falling over.
If you are concerned your bird may have heavy metal poisoning, or may have been exposed to heavy metals, it is vital that you contact your avian vet. Blood tests can show levels of zinc and lead (though some birds such as cockatoos or eclectus can have a naturally high zinc level) and x-rays can show if there are any large fragments of metal stuck in the birds crop, gizzard or intestines. 
Treatment depends on the individual case, but usually a chelating agent (such as sodium calcium edetate) is used to bind up heavy metals which are in the body. This is often given initially as injections, followed with oral medicine. Other medicines may also be given which help push fragments out of the digestive tract. In some cases, it is necessary to operate to remove large pieces of metal.
So, how can you avoid heavy metal poisoning? The best way is by looking into heavy metal content when choosing cages, toys and accessories for your bird, and by limiting your birds contact with other metals around the house (such as jewlery or ornaments)




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