Avocado is a rich and flavorful pitted fruit. However, some owners make the mistake of feeding avocado to parrots, failing to realize how harmful it is to their health.
Never feed parrots avocado! It contains persin in the flesh, stone, and skin, which is a fungicidal toxin that causes heart and liver failure in birds. The effects of avocado poisoning arise within 12 hours. Once parrots develop respiratory problems after eating avocado, death usually follows.
A vet can wash out the crop using activated charcoal, but only if the symptoms aren’t too advanced. Once the symptoms become more pronounced, no cure is available.
Can Parrots Eat Avocado?
While avocado is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids that benefit humans, it’s a deadly food source for parrots.
Avocados are native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Central and Northern America, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that parrots living in these areas feast on them.
Some parrots, particularly the Amazon parrot or macaw, ingest clay before eating toxic foods. That’s because clay is believed to protect parrots against the effects of toxins when food resources are scarce.
There are insufficient studies to suggest whether this works against avocados’ toxic effects, but captive parrots don’t have access to clay, leaving them vulnerable to poisoning.
Why Can’t You Feed Parrots Avocado?
The Guatemalan and Nabal varieties of avocado are more toxic than others, but they’re all harmful. All parts of avocado are poisonous to parrots, including the avocado’s pit, skin, and flesh.
Persin is a fungicidal toxin similar to a fatty acid that’s harmless to humans and many other animals but poisonous to parrots and other birds.
Persin is located throughout the avocado, including the rough, textured skin. According to the Northern Suburbs Veterinary Hospital, a lethal dose of avocado for the following parrots is:
- Canaries: 2 grams
- Budgies: 3.5 grams
- Cockatiels: 20 to 30 grams
As explained by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the symptoms of avocado poisoning most commonly occur within 12 hours of ingestion, followed by death within 1 to 2 days.
Much depends on the parrot’s size and how much avocado has been consumed. The first signs of avocado toxicity include:
- Weakness and depression
- Fluffed-up feathers
- Reluctance to perch
- Extreme agitation
- Feather-pulling and self-destructive behaviors
Then, parrots develop respiratory issues, at which point death follows.
In the most severe cases, avocado poisoning leads to myocardial necrosis, which essentially causes the heart muscles to die.
It causes fluid to build up around the lungs and heart, preventing these vital organs from functioning properly. Parrots having a heart attack show the following symptoms:
- Long periods of inactivity and weakness.
- Lying on the floor of their cage.
- Skin discoloration, particularly around the eyes.
- A swollen abdomen where fluid has accumulated.
- Increased heartbeat
- Labored breathing
- Tail bobbing
These symptoms won’t pass or get better on their own. The parrot will die unless an avian vet can intervene before the symptoms become too advanced.
According to VCA Hospitals, toxins such as persin are a common cause of liver damage in parrots. A healthy liver is vital because it enables parrots to digest food, store and filter blood, and perform essential metabolic functions.
Cockatiels, budgies, and Amazon parrots are most prone to liver disease. The symptoms of liver disease are similar to liver damage and include the following:
- Fluffed-up feathers
- Listless parrots
- Increased thirst
- Difficulty breathing
- A swollen or puffy abdomen
As a minimum, the persin from avocados causes digestive irritation.
Alongside vomiting, your parrot will likely experience loose, watery stools or diarrhea. You may also notice that the abdomen becomes swollen.
Fatty Liver Disease
While avocados contain healthy fats, that doesn’t mean they can’t cause weight gain. A standard avocado weighing 201 g contains 29 g of fat, which is a lot compared to other fruits.
Excess fat can lead to fatty liver disease. Also known as hepatic lipidosis, it occurs when large amounts of fat accumulate in the liver.
Does Avocado Kill Parrots?
Even small traces of avocado can be enough to cause premature death in parrots. Owners that don’t realize that it’s toxic could poison their parrot, causing an unpleasant death.
In a study reported by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, eight canaries and eight budgerigars were given two varieties of avocado through a feeding cannula.
Six budgies and one canary died within 24 to 47 hours after the first administered dose.
Avocado poisoning is among the most common reasons for sudden death in parrots. Though, it’s more likely that it’ll exhibit a range of symptoms first, including:
- Falling from perch
- Increased urination
- Staggering or lack of coordination
As mentioned with other avocado-related conditions, the severity of the symptoms depends on your parrot’s sensitivity to avocado and how much has been consumed.
Are Parrots Allergic To Avocado?
Some parrots develop allergies to food, mold, and other irritants, but they’re difficult to test for. Instead, vets diagnose allergies by the parrot’s symptoms and reactions.
Some parrots may be allergic to avocado. However, it’s hard to say because avocado affects almost all birds, whether fatally or not.
Also, allergy symptoms are similar to the ones caused by persin poisoning. Although, parrots with allergies tend to have the following:
- Reddened eyes
- Inflamed or swollen ceres
- Itchy skin
If your parrot develops these signs after eating avocado, it has an allergy and poisoning.
What Happens When You Feed Parrots Avocado?
If you’ve fed your parrot avocado, get them to an avian vet. If clinical signs of poisoning haven’t already manifested, the vet may be able to give a crop lavage (crop wash) with activated charcoal.
Vets are likely to put poisoned parrots on intravenous fluids to ease the symptoms and attempt to remove the persin from the body.
There’s no known test for avocado poisoning, but vets can diagnose it from the symptoms alone. Because avocado is so toxic, they should never be fed to parrots, even in small quantities.