Avian Expert Articles

Did Avocado Fumes Cause Bird’s Death?

If you’re a bird person, there’s a good chance you already know that feeding avocado to your bird is a no-no. Simply put — pet birds have died after eating sliced avocado and avocado-based foods like guacamole. As a healthy food for people, avocado is more popular than ever, and along with that comes an abundance of avocado recipes. Unfortunately, a recent bird death brings up the question, “Could fumes from frying an avocado be dangerous to pet birds?”fried avocado

According to Karen Allen, owner of Birds-N- More in Lawndale, CA, a woman who shared her home with two caiques Allen had hand-raised called her with some heart-wrenching news. The woman
went to a cooking class and was given a recipe to try at home — fried avocado. Within minutes of frying the avocado, the caiques experienced severe respiratory distress and were rushed to Teresa E. Micco DVM, of Point Vicente Animal Hospital in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

Here is Dr. Micco’s account of what she encounter upon the caiques’ arrival.

Q. You recently had a client come to your clinic with two caiques in health distress. What were your first thoughts as to what might be wrong?

Both birds were in respiratory distress, one worse than the other. They were immediately placed on oxygen in an incubator. The one that was worse was placed in an oxygen mask to receive a higher concentration of oxygen. Initially, I thought it was Teflon toxicosis because I was told by the staff that the owner had been cooking when the birds collapsed.

Q. What was your client’s account of what led up to the birds becoming ill?

After initial treatment, I went to speak with the owner. I was expecting to hear that she was cooking with nonstick cookware. She insisted that she knew not to cook with anything with a nonstick coating. She owned these birds for four years, and she said that she cooks daily without incident.  She said that she keeps a side door open for ventilation. The birds were in the living room, adjacent to the kitchen. This particular day, she was cooking from a Blue Apron recipe of Barramundi and avocado tempura, both in oil.
She had been cooking for an hour and had just finished the fish. She changed the oil and started the avocado tempura. Within 15 minutes, she realized it was very quiet in the living room. She went out to check on the birds, and one was collapsed and the other was inside its little house. 

Within an hour of arrival to the hospital, one bird passed away. The other bird improved overnight and was able to go home the next day. The deceased bird was submitted to the UC Davis/California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino. 

Q. What did test results reveal?

The bird had pulmonary edema, bilateral and severe, with respiratory epithelium hypertrophy (increase in size of the cells). There was also cerebral congestion with perivascular (occurring around the blood vessel) hemorrhages. These changes are compatible with fume toxicosis (inhaled). All other lab tests performed were negative.

Q. Why is it hard to definitively find the cause?

According to the pathologist, the changes in the lungs are suggestive (although not specific) of fume toxicosis. Although the foremost documented reports of fume toxicosis in parrot species are those caused by gases produced when Teflon/nonstick products are overheated, there are many other airborne toxins, including aerosol sprays, cooking gas, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, candles, and fumes from burned foods and cooking oils.

The diagnosis in these cases remains presumptive as there are no tests available to test for the presence of any of these products. The results are essentially the same. Furthermore, as toxicity is dose-dependent, I have had and have avian patients that have been exposed to low levels of inhaled toxins over time and have chronic lower airway disease, which seems to predispose them to recurrent infections and respiratory disease.

Q. What steps can bird stewards take to protect their flock from cooking fumes … what are some lessons learned?

I advise my clients to move their birds to another room in the house away from the kitchen, especially when cooking and cleaning. Make sure the room is well-ventilated. In addition to cooking dangers, I recommend to keep the birds away from any sprays, powders, dusts, and smoke of any kind. Chronic lower airway disease is one of the leading causes of death in humans; perhaps we should heed our own advice for ourselves as well as our birds.

Resources on Avocado Consumption In Birds

Disclaimer: The consumption of avocados has been shown to be highly toxic to budgerigars and less toxic to canaries. The greater the amount consumed, the greater hazard, and the greater potential for death. To our knowledge, no studies have been conducted to assess the risk of frying avocados to nearby birds from cooking odors. The Lafeber Company shares this report on the chance that frying avocados may pose a risk to birds.

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1989 Jan 1;194(1):64-6.

Avocado (Persea americana) intoxication in caged birds. Hargis AM1, Stauber E, Casteel S, Eitner D.

Author information

Abstract

Avocados of 2 varieties were mashed and administered via feeding cannula to 8 canaries and 8 budgerigars. Two control budgerigars were given water via feeding cannula. Six budgerigars and 1 canary died within 24 to 47 hours after the first administration of avocado. Deaths were associated with administration of both varieties of avocado. Higher dose was associated with greater mortality. The 2 budgerigars given water were normal throughout the observation period. Results indicated that avocados are highly toxic to budgerigars and less toxic to canaries. Postmortem findings observed in some birds included subcutaneous edema in the pectoral area and hydropericardium.


Before You Reach For That Oil …
Karen Allen expressed concern over the increasing popularity in avocado-based products —
especially avocado oil, which is touted as a healthier alternative to other cooking oils. She urges
those who share their homes with birds to stay away from cooking avocado. “Don’t take any
chances.”

 

7 thoughts on “Did Avocado Fumes Cause Bird’s Death?

  1. Thank you for this article. I’ll put a link to it from my article by Dr. Muscato and also from my index page and bird tips page. I’ve been seeing recipes for cooked avocados, so this will hopefully prevent further losses. http://plannedparrothood.com/

  2. Thank you again, Lefeber for stepping up to help bird guardians keep their flocks safe and healthy! YOU ROCK!!!

  3. we maybe going to have problems in the future with farmers spraying their crops and using altered seeds, no longer know what is in our foods let alone what is in pet foods, many many products are using the bones, skin,ofal of animals and telling us different, then we rush our animals off to the vets. asking what is wrong ,we ask our vets to be scientists many new products out there give off fumes that we need to be aware of as well, perfumes, air fresheners, candles.fumes from kitchen products, in the wild many of our pets can move away from danger ,but in our homes there are stuck ,so do the work for the and keep it safe

  4. Avocado is a very fatty food, altho it contains some healthy ingredients. It can also have some molds I think it is (unusual looking grey/black/green stuff) around the seed, similar to apples and pears, When I feed apple to my Amazon, I always am sure to cut away from the seed area. He takes the peel off himself. I don’t feed much pear as it is high glycemic. Definitely no avocado.

    All the oils we cook with and eat in the “over-developed” world are highly processed and earting a lot of processed oils likely contributes to human diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I eat and share a whole foods plant based diet with my bird and friends, avoiding frying foods in oil for health reasons – stir fry with pan searing in a bit of water, apple juice and maybe a “drop” of canola or olive oil makes a delicious side or main dish. My amazon likes steamed broccoli stems and knows I like the tops – so we feed each other for fun.

    Airing out the house is pretty essential I think – I do 2 times a day unless it’s down to 0 degrees outdoors for at least 3-10 minutes even. And we use hot steam humidifiers (cheap at Walgreens – $20.00) in the bedrooms for 2 hours or so at night in winter (or if any sneezing occurs). And light wet rag wood floor and cage cleaning 2 times a day to rid of dust and old feathers. So far so good.

  5. I must be a true bird lady as I just cannot stomach taste of avocado. I gag if I have to eat guacamole. So my birds never had this ever.

    Has studies been done on this. Omg

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