Toxic Substances to Be Wary of Around Your Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians
Similar to the way that humans can eat chocolate but dogs can’t, birds, reptiles and amphibians face different everyday toxins and dangers than our furrier friends, like cats and dogs. To ensure you have the knowledge to keep ALL of your pets safe, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) complied this list of common hazardous items for these types of animal companions.
Avocados and Fireflies
What you feed your bird, reptile or amphibian is very important. There are many foods that could cause illness, injury or even death when ingested, so it’s best to know which foods to steer clear of.
Avocados are deadly for birds as they contain persin in the skin and in the fruit. When ingested, this compound may lead to heart damage or even death.
Insect-based diets are common for some reptiles, but you should never feed fireflies to any reptile. Fireflies contain a toxin called lucibufagin which causes severe nausea, is cardiotoxic—meaning it can damage and weaken the heart—and will often result in death within a few hours. Bearded Dragons are especially prone to being poisoned by fireflies due to their indiscriminate eating habits, however, all reptile and amphibian species are at risk of poisoning from this insect.
Birds and amphibians are more at risk for airborne toxins like PTFE (Teflon), which will kill a small bird within a few minutes of exposure when overheated. Some PTFE products will outgas even at normal temperatures. Inhalation of these fumes will lead to pulmonary congestion and liver failure in these types of pets. Because birds breathe via a system of air sacs, it allows for a more prolonged exposure to inhaled toxins due to the way that the air moves through their bodies.
The skin of amphibians is very permeable to toxins which means they face a larger risk from airborne toxins than mammals do. Smoke may be especially dangerous as it displaces oxygen and fills airways with toxic gases that may lead to asphyxiation. Small particles can lodge in airways of amphibians and further damage tissue. Even secondhand cigarette and cigar smoke can cause skin, eye and respiratory disease.
Many reptiles and amphibians are either partially or totally herbivorous, and because birds like to chew on plants, it’s very important to carefully research exactly which plants are safe to bring into their space.
Plants like azaleas, laurel and rhododendrons contain grayanotoxins that interfere with sodium channels in the body. Ingestion of these plants can lead to GI signs and potentially cardiac damage. Yews can also damage the heart due to the taxine that they contain. Unfortunately, there isn’t an antidote for these toxins and treatment is supportive, so it’s extremely important to keep these types of plants away from birds, reptile or amphibian friends.
Other plants to be wary of are castor beans, sago palms and some forms of ivy. Be sure to consult our full toxic plant list before putting any new plants into your pet’s space.
If you’re unsure about bringing a new food source, plant, cleaner or other item into your pet’s home, be sure to do your research for any potential hazards it may cause. A little bit of care and research will go a long way in making your home a happy and healthy environment for your beloved pet!
If you believe your pet may have ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.