Last Updated on: 1st October 2023, 07:44 am
Chocolate is on the list of banned human foods for parrots, primarily due to the caffeine and theobromine (an alkaloid) found in cocoa. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it’ll contain.
Theobromine is found in other foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, cocoa, and cola.
Methylxanthines, like theobromine, are rapidly absorbed from the oral cavity and intestinal tract. This impacts the central nervous system and renal function (kidneys).
The signs of chocolate toxicity in parrots include vomiting and diarrhea, a racing heart rate, hyperactivity and restlessness, muscular weakness and tremors, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
If a parrot consumes chocolate, even white chocolate, it can still be life-threatening.
Can Parrots Eat Chocolate?
Chocolate is a toxin to most pets, including dogs and cats. The effects on birds haven’t been scientifically studied, but we should work on the assumption that a small animal will be significantly impacted.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are highly toxic to animals. Ingesting a small amount of chocolate can adversely impact a parrot’s health.
Theobromine is the leading risk, which is more elevated in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate.
According to the Encyclopedia of Analytical Science, theobromine is from a class of alkaloids (called methylated xanthines) that occurs naturally in cocoa beans, which is why it’s found in chocolate.
The taste of theobromine is bitter, which explains why there’s more in dark chocolate.
Theobromine has similar side effects to chocolate if too much is consumed, including headaches, muscular tremors, and irregular temperature moderation.
Humans quickly pass theobromine through the body, while animals process alkaline slowly.
How Much Chocolate Is Toxic To Parrots?
All chocolate consumption is potentially life-threatening for parrots.
The golden rule is the more theobromine consumed, the more danger it poses to pet birds. This means that dark chocolate poses the most significant health hazard.
100 g of chocolate is enough to kill a large parrot, with smaller birds succumbing sooner. This table outlines how much theobromine is found in 1 ounce (about 1 square) of chocolate:
|Chocolate chips||138 mg|
|Dark chocolate (45-59% cocoa)||140 mg|
|Dark chocolate (60-69% cocoa)||179 mg|
|Dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa)||228 mg|
|Milk chocolate||44 mg|
|Pure cocoa powder||142 mg|
|Unsweetened baking chocolate (90% cocoa or higher)||376 mg|
|White chocolate||0.25 mg|
No chocolate is safe for parrots, so never offer white chocolate as a treat.
What Happens If Parrots Eat Chocolate?
As per the New Zealand Veterinary Journal, the consumption of chocolate can kill parrots. It won’t immediately die after eating chocolate because the toxin will work through the body gradually.
This means you may have time to save the parrot’s life if it eats chocolate.
The impact of the toxicity depends on a range of factors, including how much chocolate the parrot ate, which type of chocolate it consumed, and the bird’s size, weight, age, and health.
If you suspect a parrot may have eaten chocolate, check for these warning signs of toxicity:
- Muscular tremors.
- High heart rate.
- Restlessness and hyperactivity.
- Seizures and loss of consciousness.
If a parrot displays these symptoms, it suggests that theobromine has adversely affected the internal organs and nervous system. Don’t wait for the parrot’s digestive tract to process the chocolate.
Unfortunately, curious parrots access foods they shouldn’t consume when we’re not watching. As intelligent as parrots are, they don’t always behave in ways that benefit their welfare.
Let’s review the different chocolate-based foodstuffs a parrot may encounter:
A parrot helping itself to a candy bar will likely be among a bird’s highest states of emergency. A parrot may consume an entire bar of chocolate before you have time to intervene.
As per the above table, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it’ll be for parrots. A piece of white candy may have a mild impact, but pure cooking chocolate can kill a parrot in under 2 hours.
Never leave candy bars anywhere so a parrot can access them, and take the same precautions with smaller chocolate-based candies, like M&Ms.
Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Brownies, And Chocolate Muffins
A chocolate cake contains cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and chocolate icing.
Cakes also contain numerous other harmful ingredients that damage the health of a parrot: sugar, salt, fat, artificial coloring, and preservatives.
Chocolate Biscuits or Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate chips contain enough theobromine to cause problems. This means that cookies and biscuits, especially if coated with an additional layer of chocolate, can cause theobromine toxicity.
Biscuits and cookies are high in sugar, which can cause parrots to gain weight.
Some cereals are safe for parrots, but chocolate-based cereals aren’t among them. Avoid Oreo Os or Cocoa Krispies if you want to offer cereal as a snack.
These cereals won’t contain as much theobromine as a pure chocolate product, but they’ll have enough to risk a parrot’s health and well-being.
Chocolate Ice Cream And Chocolate Milk
Milk and ice cream contain lactose, a form of sugar. Many birds, including parrots, can’t process this sugar effectively as they lack an enzyme known as lactase.
Parrots aren’t entirely lactose intolerant, but consuming dairy may result in digestive issues.
Naturally, chocolate-flavored dairy products will also contain some theobromine. Not as much as a pure chocolate product, but enough to cause harm.
Avoid letting a parrot drink hot chocolate, too. In addition to the usual risks of theobromine and lactose, a parrot may burn itself when drinking a hot beverage.
How Is Chocolate Toxicity Treated?
Treatment should be considered a medical emergency if a parrot has eaten chocolate. A vet must remove the theobromine from the parrot’s body before it causes irreversible damage.
A vet may induce vomiting or bind the theobromine using charcoal.
This resolves the immediate concern, although the parrot may need supportive care. Intravenous fluids or electrolytes will resolve dehydration, while oxygen will stabilize breathing issues.
If a parrot consumes chocolate, it’ll likely be kept at the surgery overnight for observation.
If the parrot shows no ill effects of the theobromine after treatment, it’ll be returned to your care. It may require prescription medication to control ongoing side effects.
Chocolate can be fatal to parrots, no matter how much they eat and what kind of chocolate is consumed. Theobromine is a stimulant, vasodilator, and diuretic, so it must be kept away from birds.