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Why Caffeine is Toxic to Birds:
By: Dr. Lisa Paul DVM
Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine. Caffeine &
theobromine belong to a chemical class of alkaloids called
methylated xanthines. These are found in coals, coffee, tea & in
chocolate. As a class of drugs, Methylated xanthines cause
central nervous system (CNS) stimulation, diuresis (flushing of
fluids through the body), cardiac (heart) muscle stimulation, &
smooth muscle stimulation.
Methylxanthines are absorbed very quickly & easily from the oral
cavity & intestinal tract. The liver is needed to metabolize
these chemicals, & the waste products are excreted in the urine.
These chemicals primarily affect the CNS & kidneys. These
chemicals cause increased motor activity & also result in
tachycardia (too fast a heart beat.) Because of the increased
motor activity, seizures may occur. The kidneys may be affected
causing diuresis & very high urine output. This may lead to
dehydration. Respirations may become too rapid, & hyperthermia
(too high a body temperature) may occur, resulting in death.
There is NO antidote for these drugs. We may only treat symptoms
with supportive care & drugs to decrease their severity.
Toxic dosages for birds are not well established. In dogs the
toxic dose is approximately 200 mg/kg of body weight. In cats the
lethal dosage is only 80 to 150 mg/kg of body weight. (higher
metabolism means that less is needed to cause toxic effects.) A
cup of coffee may contain 35 to 85 mg. A 12 ounce bottle of cola
contains approx 50 mg. Now these levels would mean that a 1 kg
(2.2kg) cat would need to drink1 1/2 to 3 colas for death to
occur. However, since a bird has a much higher metabolism than a
cat, & a much smaller body size than a cat, we can safely say
that it would take a much smaller dose for toxic effects &
possibly death to occur.
Since we are unsure of the toxic dosages in birds, one definitely
should avoid ALL caffeine & chocolate consumption for pet birds.
(theobromine & caffeine are both found in chocolate-- this means
that chocolate packs a double whammy!) I recommend that these
substances be avoided in ALL pet species.
I feel that my birds have enough energy as it is. Why rev their
systems up even more???
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