Why Does Avocado Kill Parrots?

image of avocado fruit

Considering the nutritional benefit of avocado to our body, it can sometimes be tempting to want to share these tasty treats with our pets, including our pet parrot. 

Well, before you do, you must understand that different species have different tolerance to foods, and avocado is toxic to parrots and birds in general.

When planning our pet’s diet, we often enjoy offering them varieties. After all, variety is the spice of life, Right?

Well, maybe not. I mean, not when you have an avocado in your Parrots’ diet.

It’s just not safe to assume whatever we eat as humans are safe to give to our pets.

But how can such a tasty and nutritious food like the avocado be poisonous to parrots and pet birds in general? Let’s find out in this article.

Can parrots eat avocado?

Parrots cannot eat avocados as they are toxic to birds. Although avocado is high in vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants that are beneficial to humans, it remains a deadly source of food for parrots and birds in general.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center between January 2006 and December 2011 managed 1866 calls regarding exotic birds. Of those calls, 48 (2.6%) were related to avocado exposure.

Well, because avocados are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of North and Central America, it becomes easy to assume that wild parrots living in these regions naturally enjoy this food without experiencing any side effects.

In the wild, parrots who insist on taking in toxic foods like avocado sometimes take “safety measures” before doing so.

For example, some parrots ingest clay before consuming toxic foods like avocado.

Note however that there is barely any study to show that the ingestion of clay works against the toxic effect of avocado.

Even if there is, remember that captive parrots do not have access to clay. This, therefore, leaves them vulnerable to the poison.

Why does avocado kill parrots?

Avocados kill parrots because the leaves of the avocado plant contain persin, which is a fatty acid-like substance that kills fungus in the plant. When ingested by a parrot, this substance may cause heart damage, weakness, respiratory difficulty, and even sudden death.

Guatemalan and Nabal avocados are more toxic than others, but all are equally dangerous.

The avocado pit, skin, and flesh are all poisonous to parrots. This is due to one single reason. Persin!

What is Persin?

Persin is a fungicidal toxin that is present in avocado.

Persin is an oil-soluble compound structurally similar to fatty acid.

It is toxic to birds (including parrots), cattle, horses, and goats but is harmless to humans.

Persin is found throughout the avocado, including its rough, textured skin. It leaches into the body of the fruit from the seeds.

What happens if my parrot eats avocado?

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, avocado poisoning usually causes symptoms within 12 hours of ingestion, followed by death within 1 or 2 days.

This however depends on the size and specie of the parrot as well as the variety and amount of the avocado consumed.

Here are some of the first signs of avocado toxicity in parrots:

  • Fluffed-up feathers
  • Depression and weakness and depression
  • Feather pulling and other self-destructive behaviors
  • Extreme agitation
  • Reluctance to perch

Death follows shortly after a parrot develops respiratory issues.

Avocado seems to be especially harmful to smaller birds, but larger parrots can also be susceptible.

So, to be on the safe side, it is best to keep avocado off your bird’s menu.

Heart Failure

Avocado poisoning can cause myocardial necrosis (death of the heart muscle cells) in birds in the most severe cases.

Myocardial necrosis causes fluid to build up around the lungs and heart, preventing them from functioning properly.

Symptoms of a heart attack in parrots include:

  • Increase in heartbeat
  • Weakness and inactivity and weakness for long periods
  • Lying on the floor of their cage
  • A swollen abdomen where fluid has accumulated
  • Skin discoloration, especially around the eyes
  • Tail bobbing
  • Labored breathing

There is no way these symptoms will go away or get better on their own.

For the parrot to survive, an avian veterinarian must intervene before the symptoms become too advanced.

Digestive Irritation

Avocados contain persin, which can irritate the digestive system.

Your parrot is likely to experience vomiting, loose, watery stools, or diarrhea.

You may also notice a swollen abdomen in your bed.

Fatty Liver Disease

That avocados contain healthy fats doesn’t mean that they can’t cause weight gain, especially in birds.

A standard avocado that weighs 201 g contains 29 g of fat. When compared to other fruits, this is a lot.

Excess fat in parrots can lead to fatty liver disease which is also known as hepatic lipidosis.

This occurs when large amounts of fat accumulate in the liver.

Liver Damage

To enable your parrot to digest food, store and filter blood, and carry out essential metabolic functions it becomes necessary for it to have a healthy liver.

A common cause of liver damage in parrots is toxins such as persin. This is according to VCA Hospitals.

Parrots such as Budgies, Cockatiels, and Amazon parrots are most prone to liver disease.

Some of the symptoms which are similar to heart failure include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased thirst
  • Fluffed-up feathers
  • Listless parrots
  • A swollen or puffy abdomen
  • Regurgitation

Will Avocado Kill a Parrot?

Yes, avocado intake will likely kill a parrot as even small traces of this fruit can be enough to cause premature death in parrots.

Most pet bird owners don’t realize that this fruit is toxic enough to cause quick and unpleasant death in their parrots.

In a study, 8 budgerigars and 8 canaries were given two varieties of avocado through a feeding cannula. 6 budgies and 1 canary died within 24 to 47 hours after the first administered dose.

One of the most common reasons for sudden death in parrots is avocado poisoning.

What’s more likely though is that it will first exhibit a range of symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Depression 
  • Vomiting 
  • Blindness 
  • Tremors 
  • Falling from perch 
  • Coma
  • Excitability 
  • Staggering or lack of coordination 
  • Convulsions 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Increased urination 
  • Lethargy 

As mentioned earlier, the severity of the symptoms depends on your parrot’s sensitivity to avocado and how much it has consumed.

How much avocado kills a parrot?

Below are some lethal doses of fresh avocado in various birds:

  • Median lethal dose (LD50) in budgerigars: 2 g
  • 100% lethal dose (LD100) in budgerigars: 3.5 g in an average 35-g bird
  • LD100 in cockatiels: 20- 30 g
  • Minimum lethal dose in canaries: 2 g

The adverse effects of avocado in birds have been seen as quickly as 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion, but the effects may be delayed up to 30 hours.

A wide range of clinical signs has been seen in birds. The first signs that owners usually see are weakness and depression.

Affected birds may show disordered plumage and a reluctance to perch (e.g., sitting on the bottom of the cage). Affected birds may also develop dyspnea.

Once respiratory signs start, death usually follows quickly; birds with respiratory signs should be kept warm, comfortable, and calm.

If the exposure is discovered quickly (within 2 hours of ingestion), the bird should be taken to a local veterinarian for crop lavage and administration of activated charcoal.

What part of avocado Is toxic to parrots?

All parts of Avocado are considered toxic to parrots as Persin is found in all parts of avocado like the fruit, leaves, bark, stems, and the seed of the tree.

The skin and pit of the fruit are the most toxic portions but the flesh is also highly dangerous, acting as poison in the bird’s digestive system

Ingestion of any of these parts has been associated with toxicosis in birds as well as mammals.

Is Avocado Oil Toxic to Parrots?

The avocado oil is toxic to parrots just like the other parts of the fruit. The avocado’s pit contains oil that leaches a toxin called persin into the fruit.

Signs of avocado toxicity include anorexia, lethargy, breathing difficulty, and sudden death.

What Food Is Poisonous to Parrots?

Some common foods that are poisonous to parrots include:

  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Caffeine
  • Cassava (Tapioca)
  • Chocolate or cocoa
  • Dairy products
  • Food intended for humans
  • Fruit pits and apple seeds
  • kale
  • Meat
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions, garlic, and scallions
  • Peanuts
  • Rhubarb
  • Uncooked beans
  • Xylitol

Remember to avoid foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar. Also, avoid foods that contain dyes or preservatives.

In the wild, parrots know instinctively what to eat and not eat. In captivity, they have to rely on what they’re given, so research is necessary.

Treatment of Avocado Toxicity in Parrots

Unfortunately, there is no test to confirm avocado poisoning. Diagnosis is simply made based on clinical signs and a history of exposure to avocados.

Although there is no available antidote for the persin, treatment for congestive heart failure may be beneficial.

So, if you suspect your parrot has eaten avocado, get her to an avian vet immediately for assistance.

Do not don’t wait for symptoms to appear or try to administer home remedies.

The sooner your vet begins treatment, the better the chances of your bird surviving.

Conducting specific tests that will confirm an avocado toxicosis is quite difficult as drawing blood from birds is difficult due to their blood volume and small size not to mention the trauma from the procedure.

Your vet is expected to diagnose the problem based on your bird’s symptoms and the information provided by you.

Although there is no antidote for persin poisoning, there are steps your vet can take to minimize toxicity if you get treatment for your bird early.

If the avocado is yet to be digested, your veterinarian will likely perform a crop lavage. Crop lavage is the procedure of clearing out a bird’s crop (the area where the bird stores food) before it goes into his stomach.

To prevent the toxin from any undigested avocado from entering the bloodstream your vet may also administer activated charcoal.

Supportive care can also be provided by your Vet to help manage symptoms of poisoning to increase your bird’s chances of recovery.

This may include cardiac medications to support the heart as well as diuretics to help clear fluid accumulation.

As a pet owner, it is very important to realize that avocado toxicity can result in death by rapid cardiac arrest, so avocado consumption of avocado should always be treated as a medical emergency.

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