Smoking around your bird

If you choose to smoke then that is of course up to you, this post is about how smoking around your birds affects their health and well being.

Bird’s respiratory systems are much more efficient and effective than ours. Remember the Canary in the coal mine? The sensitive nature of a bird’s airways is why this trick worked for the miners to test the safety of the air they were breathing

What is second-hand smoke?Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is comes from a cigarette, from either the burning end or the filtered end. It contains thousands of different chemicals that fill the air as either gases or particulates. Following are facts about secondhand smoke by the National Cancer Institute and the EPA Secondhand smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, including 69 compounds that are known to cause cancer. Anyone who breathes secondhand smoke is breathing in formaldehyde, ammonia, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane and thousands of other chemicals. The concentration of these carcinogenic chemicals is actually higher in secondhand smoke than in the fumes directly inhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is classified as a class-A carcinogen, the same classification given to asbestos.

Your parrot’s respiratory systemYour parrot has a very sensitive and intricate respiratory system. It is unlike ours. Here are some avian respiratory facts:

  • Birds have lungs, which are not lobed like our own. They also have air sacs (either 7 or 9, depending on species) which extend into their bones, which are hollow. This fact makes them lightweight and enables flight.
  • Birds do not have a diaphragm. Air is drawn in and expelled by the contraction of muscles. Because there is no diaphragm, and the air sacs extend into the bones, respiratory infections also can extend to the abdominal cavity and the bones.
  • A bird’s respiration is slower than in mammals of similar size.
  • It actually takes two breaths to complete a single respiration cycle and move air through the entire respiratory system. The second breath pushes the first through to the end of it’s cycle.
  • The respiratory system of a bird is more efficient than ours in transferring oxygen. This means that toxins inhaled are delivered equally as well. Because of this efficiency, a parrot will succumb to the same level of toxic fumes that would be tolerated by a mammal. The other aspect of the bird’s respiratory system is it is used for cooling.

If you do smoke, please do it outside where the fumes and residue will not affect your parrots or other members of your household, and remember to wash your hands, brush your teeth, use mouth wash and change your clothing before you interact with them or their things.

Feather plucking and mutilating can result from smoking around your birds.So the math involved here is not hard – the combination of toxic particulates and gases in the air and a dynamic respiratory system are not a good match. But there’s more, as if that’s not enough… it has been found to be a source of feather destruction and plucking. Cigarette smoke rises into the air because it’s heated. When it cools, gravity brings it back down. It lands on your birds, their perches, their cage bars, toys AND food. If your hands are coated with chemicals from holding the cigarette, it is easily transferred to your bird. I know of an extreme case where an amazon, who turned out to be very sensitive to chemical exposure, began mutilating his feet before they determined the cause to be his perches that were covered with residue from cigarette smoke.

When you shower/bath a parrot that lives in the house with a smoker, the water that rinses off them is often a brownish-yellow color. Their feathers will pick up the odor and it often stays with them until all feathers have been moulted which can take up to a year. Another concern is that where there are smokers, there are nicotine products. Nicotine poisoning can occur when your parrot finds and chews a cigarette like a shredder toy. The butt of a cigarette alone contains 25% of the nicotine of the original cigarette. Signs of nicotine poisoning include: twitching, excitedness, panting, salivation, vomiting, increased heart rate, collapse, coma and cardiac arrest.

You should be aware by now of the health risks associated with smoking. You should also know that the effects of passive smoke; inhalation of smoke from someone else in the same room; can be damaging as well. It only makes sense that the more delicate respiratory of parrots will be even more at risk in a home with a smoker. Smoking around your feathered friend is extremely hazardous and there is no doubt that the life expectancy of your parrot will be decreased if they are in close proximity to smokers.

Those impurities that permeate the air will also end up as a residual film on your feathered friends feathers. If you’ve ever been in a home with a smoker, you have probably seen yellowish film that can build up on things like windows or sheer curtains. That film is left on the birds feathers so when a bird preens itself, it will ingest nicotine as well as other impurities that are in the air. This ingestion of these impurities will poison the bird and in time will cause system disorders as well as digestive malfunctions. If a smoker handles a bird with nicotine stained fingers, the chemicals on the hand get on the skin of the birds feet sometimes resulting in cases of dermatitis on the feet. For birds, it is suspected that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke in poorly ventilated areas predisposes them to pneumonia and other respiratory ailments, including lung cancer. Unfortunately, many of the harmful products in smoke are in the form of gas. Therefore, environmental tobacco smoke cannot be entirely filtered out through ventilation systems or special fans. It can take many hours for the smoke of a single cigarette to clear. Keeping a bird healthy includes avoiding smoke from burnt food, burnt Teflon, house fires, as well as tobacco.

Thus diverse materials such as scented candles or air fresheners, paint fumes, decorating dust, strong perfumes and of course over heated TEFLON fumes and olive oil fumes will adversely affect birds. The latter two particularly will cause instant death to any bird breathing in the fumes. This is probably more information than you wanted to know, but it all shows why the effects of smoking, candles, pollutants, pesticides, other toxins are revealed much faster in our birds than in humans. It also helps explain why flighted birds are so much healthier than birds that are clipped. They need this exercise to keep the respiratory system exercised.

If you do smoke, please do it outside where the fumes and residue will not affect your parrots or other members of your household, and remember to wash you hands, brush your teeth, use mouth wash and change your clothing before you interact with them or their things.