Chocolate is one of the most famous snacks in the world today. But despite the richness and flavor, it is not a healthy snack for most pets.
Parrots are one particular example of pets that cannot eat chocolate. The sugar and caffeine content of chocolate will create unhealthy levels in a bird’s body. Even in small amounts, chocolates can be lethal for birds.
The Natural Diet Of Parrots
Like most animals, Parrots have evolved in terms of their diet. They can now eat a wide array of food like seeds, fruits, and even vegetables. There are different nutrients that each Parrot needs. It varies in size and type. Bigger species of Parrots, for example, will need more protein intake compared to smaller ones.
Parrots are omnivores. It means they can survive on both meat and plant-based food.
Parrots found in the wild would usually feed on acorns and berries. They use their beaks to open up shells and nuts. This way, they also exercise the strength of their beaks.
Parrots As Omnivores
Parrots living in the wild adapt to whatever food is available in their surroundings. Researchers find that birds on a constant seed diet often have more robust and bigger beaks compared to those who eat softer food items daily. (Source)
This ability of birds to switch their diet depending on food availability makes them omnivores. Despite being omnivores, there are still food items that a Parrot should not be allowed to eat. Chocolate and anything that contains caffeine are on the top list of these food items.
Chocolates contain caffeine and theobromine. Both of these chemicals are harmful to Parrots. Their digestive system cannot process these substances, which makes them lethal for them.
Is Chocolate Really Bad For Parrots?
Birds may have plenty of food choices in their diet, but there are still certain things that they cannot eat. Chocolate is one food item that is bad for Parrots.
Although delicious and hard to resist, chocolate can be bad for birds, even in small amounts. Chocolate has both caffeine and theobromine, which has harmful effects on a bird.
These two chemicals found in chocolates cause complications like diarrhea and vomiting in birds. A Parrot that has eaten chocolate can also have heart palpitations, hyperactivity, and even seizures.
The caffeine component of chocolates significantly affects the tiny heart that Parrots have. Parrots are birds that need a proper diet to support and maintain the healthy balance their body needs.
Food like chocolate introduced to their system messes up their body chemicals. You must maintain caution when sharing food with your pet Parrots. Please familiarize yourself with what can be harmful to their bodies.
How Much Chocolate Is Toxic To Parrots?
Theobromine is the main ingredient of chocolate. This substance is a stimulant that can stay long in the bloodstream of a parrot. However, parrots cannot digest theobromine as fast as humans can.
History has recorded a Parrot that ingested only 0.7 ounces of dark chocolate. The said Parrot passed away soon after the incident. It shows that even less than an ounce of chocolate is toxic to Parrots.
Research in 2016 found a dead body of a male parrot in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. What puzzled the researchers was that the bird had a healthy physique, which means it did not die due to any long-term disease.
The research later found that the bird ingested dark chocolate. It contained methylxanthines, theobromine, caffeine, and theophylline. These chemicals damaged the bird’s renal tubules, hepatocytes, and neurons. (source)
Once parrots ingest theobromine, it immediately harms multiple parts of a bird’s body. The heart, kidneys, and central nervous system usually take the harmful effects of theobromine.
Can A Parrot Eat A Chocolate Chip Cookie?
As previously mentioned, even less than an ounce of chocolate is lethal for Parrots. It means that Parrots cannot eat chocolate chip cookies.
Theobromine, the main component of chocolate, is a chemical that interferes with the normal body functions of a bird. It hinders the production of energy and blood flow to a bird.
Chocolates’ most common side effects on Parrots are heart failure, kidney diseases, and death. Despite being from seeds, a parrot’s digestive system cannot process the chemical. It is the same for caffeine which is a secondary component of chocolates. Cookies are also high in sugar. And if you’re keeping a Parrot as a pet, too much sugar intake can lead to your pet’s obesity.
How Long May Chocolate Take Effect On Parrots?
Some birds may not immediately die after eating chocolate, but there is a high chance they would. A bird will develop health complications if it does not die after eating chocolate.
The more pure and darker level of chocolate your Parrot eats, the higher chances of risks there are for your bird.
It is also best if you don’t feed your Birds with other processed food than the pellets designed for their system.
Processed food usually has a lot of sugar or salt content that can mess up the chemical balance in a bird’s body. They get the necessary nutrients through the naturally produced food you can buy in local markets.
Remember that birds are originally wild animals. It means they need to eat fresh produce and other food the ground produces.
What To Do When Your Parrot Eats Chocolate?
One cannot possibly keep an eye on the lookout for their pet parrot all 24 hours a day. If somehow your Parrot has eaten chocolate, you must bring them immediately to a veterinarian.
Remember that even less than an ounce of chocolate can kill your bird pet.
One of the most common side effects of chocolate on a Parrot’s body is that they start to vomit minutes after contact with the chocolate. It applies to any snack that has chocolate in it.
An antidote is available for other animals that have ingested chocolate accidentally. But for Parrots, there isn’t any antidote available for these situations.
If a Parrot has eaten chocolate, a veterinarian specializing in avian care must closely monitor them.
It will also be best if you make it a habit to check in with your veterinarian if you’re introducing new food to your Parrot’s diet.
Regular clinic visits are essential so your Parrot gets the critical care it needs regarding nutrition and food intake.
Your veterinarian might also have your bird take exams to further determine digestive and cardiac issues. At this point, it is best to take the advice of medical professionals than self-medicate your Parrot.
Signs That Your Parrot Has Eaten A Chocolate
The most common sign that Parrots have eaten chocolate is when they start to show disinterest in their usual daily activities.
Parrots are social creatures. It means they like to interact with whoever and whatever is in their environment. If your pet shows constant signs of passivity, it may tell they are not feeling well despite their appearance.
Also, check for breathing behavior. When birds ingest chocolate or anything with caffeine, they have trouble breathing. The caffeine kick will make breathing difficult for them and may cause irregular heartbeat.
Another sign that you should look out for is feather plucking. If a bird resorted to self-mutilating tendencies, it means they are experiencing severe distress.
Birds easily pick up emotional stress in their surroundings; think about how much stress it puts them when they are physically in pain.
A decrease in appetite is also a sign of something wrong with your Parrot. Usual digestive problems include vomiting your bird despite being unable to eat almost anything.
It is a crucial symptom that you cannot miss.
A perfectly healthy bird can immediately show these symptoms after eating a small amount of chocolate. A combination of ataxia, tremors, and hyperactivity can happen on a Parrot that ate a cake containing chocolate. (Source)
Increased thirst is also a sign that there is an imbalance happening in your Parrot’s body. Birds have such tiny bodies that even a slight change in their body chemicals can affect them negatively.
If your bird experiences increased thirst, it would most likely urinate more frequently. It shows their body’s inability to process new liquid in reasonable amounts of time. Frequent urination signifies your pet’s body is over-functioning and is in distress.
Lastly, observe if your Parrot is showing minor signs of muscle tremors, loss of balance, and seizures. Any of the abovementioned signs would mean that the chocolate ingested has significantly harmed their body.
Chocolates Are Not For Parrots
Having a pet parrot in your home is a great responsibility for taking care of them. It would be best if you were wary of the food items you keep with you.
It’s like caring for a child of your own; you must make sure to keep all dangerous items away from them. Birds do not comprehend what is good and bad for them.
Your pet Parrot will likely eat whatever you give it. So anything that contains chocolate and caffeine must be crossed off your list.
There are many other things that you can feed your Parrot. They lean towards eating seeds, fruits, and a wide variety of vegetables. Introducing them to a wide array of food at a young age will allow them not to grow picky in terms of food choice.
- Masello, Juan F., Pagnossin, Maria Lujan, Sommer, Christina & Quillfeldt, Petra “Population Size, Provisioning Frequency, Flock Size And Foraging Range At The Largest Known Colony of Psittaciformes: The Burrowing Parrots of The North-Eastern Patagonian Coastal Cliffs” Accessed June 2022
- Luescher, Andrew U. DVM, Ph.D. “Manual of Parrot Behavior” Accessed June 2022
- Chapman, C. A., Chapman, L. J. & Lefebvre, L. “Variability in Parrot Flock Size: Possible Functions of Communal Roosts” Accessed June 2022
- Gartrell, BD & Reid, C “Death By Chocolate: A Fatal Problem For An Inquisitive Wild Parrot” Accessed June 2022
- Varol, Kemal “Chocolate Intoxication in A Budgerigar” Accessed June 2022