Teflon (Polytetrafluoroethylene) Poisoning in Birds

parrot_with_toysresized“Bird proofing” your home is a great way to help keep your bird safe and healthy. After all, your bird's cage is its house and the confines of your home represent the bird's environment.

There are many dangers within these surroundings, including the use of appliances with non-stick coatings that can release poisonous PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) into the air.

"Non-stick cooking appliances and self-cleaning ovens release a colorless, odorless gaseous toxin and can cause death to a bird within 24 hours."

When certain non-stick (Teflon is the best known) cooking appliances and self-cleaning ovens become over heated, they release a colorless, odorless gaseous toxin called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). In addition to non-stick pots, pans and self-cleaning ovens, other items with potential sources of PTFE include:

  • Hair dryers (certain types)
  • Non-stick irons and ironing board covers
  • Waffle irons
  • Heat lamp covers
  • Stain repellants such as Scotchgard™)
  • Space heaters and ceramic stoves

In the case of a non-stick surface becoming over-heated and therefore releasing its toxins, a common scenario involves a non-stick pan left on the stovetop. The person gets distracted, the pan over heats or burns, and toxic gases are released into the air. This can even happen at lower temperatures.

Why are birds in danger of “Teflon poisoning”?

Birds have unique, highly efficient respiratory systems and are therefore very sensitive to inhaled toxins or poisons, such as PTFE. Your bird doesn’t even need to be NEAR the offending appliance or item for poisoning to happen. And, because birds are so sensitive to this poison, they can die within 24 hours of exposure. (PTFE does not seem to affect people, dogs, cats and other mammals.)

"Your bird doesn’t even need to be NEAR the offending appliance or item for poisoning to happen."

How do I know if my bird is suffering from PTFE poisoning?

Unfortunately, signs of illness are very subtle, as birds often do not display obvious signs until near death. There are no specific symptoms or signs with Teflon poisoning, although difficult breathing (from mild to severe), as well as weakness, looking “fluffed” not using the perch, listlessness, coma, and death may be seen.

Sadly with severe exposure, death can occur in minutes.

How can I prevent this poisoning from happening to my bird?

First, the easiest step would be to eliminate non-stick appliances from the home — anything on the list we included above.

If that’s too extreme, try to follow these rules.

  • Make sure your bird is NEVER located in or near your kitchen or others areas where the offending items are being used.
  • Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. Use your stove fan and open windows if possible when cooking.
  • Avoid over-heating or burning of food and pans! NEVER leave a stove unattended while cooking.

How does my veterinarian treat a bird with Teflon/PTFE poisoning?

If you suspect your bird has been exposed to PTFE fumes, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline* (800-213-6680) IMMEDIATELY!

Since the lungs may have been damaged, your veterinarian will need to administer oxygen and other treatment as quickly as possible.

If your bird has been severely affected, the outcome is likely to be poor.

pet_poision_helpline_logo*Pet Poison Helpline, is an animal poison control service available 24 hours, 7 days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com. Pet Poison Helpline is not directly affiliated with LifeLearn.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Rick Axelson, DVM

© Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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