Three Things Bird Owners Need To Know About Zinc Toxicosis

Posted on: 27 June 2016


Zinc is an essential mineral, but if your bird is exposed to too much of it, they could become very ill with zinc toxicosis. Here are three things bird owners need to know about zinc toxicosis.

How are birds exposed to zinc?

Some foods that your bird likes to eat contain a lot of zinc. For example, pumpkin seeds are a major source of zinc, and they're a favorite food for some birds. However, letting your bird overeat these tasty seeds can lead to zinc toxicosis. To keep your pet safe, feed them a diet that's mostly composed of formulated bird food and vegetables, and save the pumpkin seeds for an occasional treat.

Your bird can encounter zinc in other ways, too. The bars of your pet's cage many contain zinc, and if your bird likes to chew on the bars, they could ingest zinc. Jewelry can also contain zinc, so if your bird likes to nibble on your necklaces during play time, they could ingest zinc. Zinc is also used to make other materials like plastic and rubber, so to be safe, stick to wooden toys and decor items for their cage.

What are the signs of zinc toxicosis?

Birds with zinc toxocosis may stop eating and become weak. If they do eat, you may notice that they're regurgitating their food. Polydipsia—the medical term for abnormal thirst—is another warning sign of zinc toxicosis. If you need to refill your pet's water bottle more often than normal, consider the possibility that they're excessively thirsty. Of course, drinking excessive amounts of water leads to the production of lots of urine, so you'll also notice that the paper in the bottom of their cage is wet and that you need to clean the cage more often.

Can zinc toxicosis be treated?

Zinc toxicosis can be treated with dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). This compound works by binding to heavy metals that are trapped within body tissues and then helping them be excreted through the urine. Unlike other heavy metals such as lead, zinc doesn't get stored in the bones, so it's able to leave the body more quickly.

To keep your bird comfortable while the DMSA works, your vet may give your pet supportive care. Supportive care includes giving medications to address symptoms such as excessive thirst; it may also include giving intravenous fluids.

If you think your pet bird has zinc toxicosis, take them to a vet--such as one from Center-Sinai Animal Hospital--immediately.