The simple act of cooking can severely injure and potentially kill your pet bird. Yet many people do not even know these dangers exist. This article will show the cooking dangers that can harm your bird and how you can avoid them.
What is Teflon Poisoning?
Teflon poisoning is the generic term used to describe polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) intoxication. PTFE is the non-stick coating used on many brands of cookware. When overheated, the coating enters a gaseous state which is not harmful to humans but is extremely dangerous to birds. Darrel K. Styles, DVM from Texas A&M University describes it as “a rapid and lethal gaseous intoxication of all species of birds.”
Though the gas emissions are the most well-known form of PTFE poisoning, the physical characteristics of the cookware can adversely affect both you and your birds. As the cookware ages and chips, toxic particles are entering the food chain. While probably not the best thing for you to ingest, these chips can be deadly if you use this type of cookware to prepare food for your avian friends.
Signs of Teflon Poisoning and Actions to Take
In the Merck Veterinary Manual, Sharman M. Hoppes, DVM talks about the signs of PTFE poisoning. Smaller birds are more readily affected and often present no symptoms until their sudden death. Larger birds can also die suddenly when exposed to high levels of PTFEs but when experiencing non-fatal exposure may show other signs of distress and illness. These can include wheezing, weakness and experiencing seizures.
Unfortunately, all experts agree that there is little that can be done for a bird that has suffered this type of poisoning. You need to immediately remove the bird from the home and get it as much fresh air as possible. This should be followed by a trip to your vet where the bird may be treated with oxygen, antibiotics, and diuretics. Prognosis is poor for a satisfactory outcome.
Where Else Can PTFE be Found?
Before we look at alternative cookware, let’s look at other places you may inadvertently introduce PTFEs into your home and possibly cause PTFE poisoning.
Beauty of Birds website points out some other products that can be dangerous to use around birds. For example:
- Self-cleaning ovens are lined with PTFEs and will emit gasses during the cleaning cycle.
- Some aluminum foil contains non-stick coating and should be avoided.
- Shatter resistant and safety coated light bulbs also contain PTFEs and have been linked to large-scale bird poisoning in chicken coops.
What Cookware is Safe for Birds?
So now that you have scavenged your kitchen and identified the potentially dangerous cookware lurking in your cabinets, what to do? Most of your favorite pots and pans are now labeled as a danger to your conures or African Grey.
You basically have three major choices when looking for cookware that is safe to use around pet birds. They are ceramic, cast iron and stainless steel. All three will serve you well although there are some issues with ceramic cookware.
Ceramic cookware, like the one linked to above, poses no problem regarding poisonous gasses being emitted and is perfectly safe to use if you are only cooking for the humans in the home. The potential danger with ceramics is the chipping that may occur over time. As with the Teflon coating, these chips will probably not cause any harm to the you. However, these chips can pose a serious health risk for your birds and you should avoid using ceramics to cook for them.
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron pots and pans (which you find here) are another alternative and they do not produce toxic emissions, no matter how hot they get. In fact cast iron skillets have become increasingly popular due to their super long life. The main issue with cast iron is it may develop rust if not properly dried after use. This can easily be fixed though by using steel wool.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel pots (like these ones) are also bird safe and have a long life, plus they have the advantage of not rusting. The main issue with these pans is that food sticks to them easily but if you leave them to soak after use, the food normally comes off fairly easily.
The elimination of non-stick cookware from your kitchen is necessary when looking after a pet bird.
Yes, you may have to spend a few dollars replacing a skillet or frying pan. Plus you may need to modify your cooking techniques slightly and use some vegetable sprays or oils to help eliminate food sticking to your stainless steel. But these are all worth it to ensure the health of your bird.
Most of all – make sure your bird is not kept near the kitchen or near any cooking appliances – especially when you are cooking.
For a detailed list of what you can (and cannot) feed your pet bird, check out our guide here.