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Signs Of Lead And Zinc Poisoning In Parrots

Know how to recognize signs of lead and zinc poisoning in your bird before it’s too late

By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP, Avian Practice
First Published in the April 2005 issue of BIRD TALK magazine

Any of these conditions can be signs of poisoning
Photo Courtesy Molly Martinez, California
Take steps to remove items that could potentially contain lead and zinc from your bird's area.

Clinical signs of lead and/or zinc poisoning in birds may include:

  • lethargy
  • depression
  • decreased appetite
  • chronic weight loss
  • weakness (as evidenced by droopy wings)
  • diarrhea 
  • regurgitation
  • increased urination
  • ataxia
  • anemia
  • blindness
  • circling
  • head tremors
  • head tilt
  • seizures or death

In some cases, especially in Amazon parrots and African grey parrots, there may be reddish urine, possibly due to plant pigments, called porphyrins, or perhaps hemoglobin. Zinc tends to cause problems targeting the kidneys primarily.

Common clinical signs include:

  • increased urination
  • increased water consumption
  • GI problems (difficulty swallowing)
  • depression
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • high blood sugar
  • bluish mucous membranes
  • seizures
  • lack of coordination and death

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Signs Of Lead And Zinc Poisoning In Parrots

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Reader Comments
Dot in Rochester, dietary zinc isn't the same as elemental zinc (which is metal). I nearly lost my African grey when she was two years old, after discovering she ate a small piece of her bell clapper. It showed up on x-ray and she was started on chelation and kept in intensive care for several days. Her symptoms were exactly what's described in this article: lethargy, decreased appetite, dramatic weight loss, drooping wings, and the most telling of all, Holly kept saying, "gotta go potty". Our vet figured out that Holly must have been trying to tell us of her tummy ache. Good luck with your bird!
Zen, St. Paul, MN
Posted: 8/8/2011 5:22:54 PM
I can't find anything on how much zinc there is in foods; nor if the little bird band on the leg of birds born 20+ years ago has zinc in it; nor if chelation should be repeated if bird has improved in some aspects.
Dot, Rochester, NY
Posted: 8/30/2010 12:15:20 PM
thanks for the info
Dee, Sandy Valley, NV
Posted: 8/5/2010 8:36:26 PM
Good to know.
Dan, Sandy Valley, NV
Posted: 5/12/2010 7:22:24 AM
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