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Other Pets Eating Your Bird’s Food?

Clean up before your dog or cat licks these bird food favorites up!

Susan Chamberlain

African grey with peanut

Dogs and cats that eat or chew on shells from walnuts, pecans and other hard nuts that your bird may toss on the ground can suffer from lacerated gums, choking or obstructions. The nuts themselves may cause gastroenteritis and gas. A few peanuts do not seem to cause problems, but eating peanut shells may result in digestive tract issues.

Bedding and cage substrate always seems to end up on the floor. Dogs, cats and other household pets may suffer indigestion or blockages from eating cage tray litter, including aspen, paper, corn cob or walnut shell products. If droppings or discarded food are contained within the litter, other problems may arise.

Dried hot peppers are common ingredients in bird seed mixes. If eaten by your dog or cat, or if particles from the peppers are inhaled or come in contact with the eyes, irritation of eye, mouth, nose and digestive system may result.

Citrus fruit, especially with skin, may cause diarrhea and vomiting in cats and dogs. Citrus oil extracts, often used in cleaning or natural pest control products can be harmful to dogs and especially to cats if ingested.

Salty, sugary or greasy popcorn isn’t good for your bird, but even plain popcorn hulls can get stuck in your furry friend’s gums or throat and/or they can cause digestive upsets or obstructions.

Sunflower and other seeds can get stuck in your dog or cat’s gums or mouth or cause digestive tract problems. Millet stems can also result in gum/mouth injuries or digestive issues.

Chewed or broken-off pieces from your bird’s toys, including wood, plastic, metal parts and bits from rope toys, can cause oral lacerations and digestive tract obstructions if your dog or cat swallows a piece. Dogs are more prone to chewing on hard toy remnants, while cats more frequently chew and swallow threads from rope toys. Feathers from toys or even molted feathers from your bird may cause obstructions if eaten in quantity by cats or dogs.

Moldy or spoiled food may cause fungal infections, vomiting, diarrhea or food poisoning. Aflatoxins and mycotoxins may also be present in moldy grain or seed. These are also harmful to birds. Proper food storage and daily cage tray cleaning can help prevent spoilage and the development of mold.

Palm nuts are another keep-away item. I didn’t find specific, accredited research about palm nuts, but anecdotal reports have described dogs choking, vomiting and having diarrhea after eating or chewing on assorted varieties of palm nuts.

What about bird food pellets? Although not formulated for dogs or cats, eating a small amount of pellets won’t, in most cases, be problematic for your furry companion. Colored pellets may tint feces some alarming shades, but, barring food allergies and overeating, pellets are usually harmless. "I’ve never seen any problems from dogs eating bird pellets. They all do!” said board-certified avian veterinarian Robert Monaco of the Old Country Animal Clinic in Plainview, New York.

Want to learn more?

Why Your Other Pets Shouldn't Eat Your Bird's Food
Safety Tips To Pet-Proof Your Bird


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Posted: October 11, 2013, 3:30 p.m. PDT

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Other Pets Eating Your Bird’s Food?

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Reader Comments
Thanks! We have a Conure and a Poodle so we know this can be a problem.
Elizabeth, Penfield, NY
Posted: 10/22/2013 6:31:26 PM
sound advice
stephanie, n smithfield, RI
Posted: 10/22/2013 4:21:31 PM
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