Chocolate from the cacao tree is without a doubt the world’s irresistible treat. Everyone loves chocolate confectioneries, bars, and desserts. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans adored chocolate’s blissful flavor, long before the modern day’s invention of the chocolate bar.
The cacao tree is native to the lush tropical rainforests of South America, where priests, royalty, and warriors enjoyed its beans in golden cups.
The birds that thrive in the region’s moist, warm and shady forest gnaw open the tree’s pods for a taste of the sweet pulp within it. Wild birds that include diverse parrot species of South America do not feast on the cacao seed content as humans do.
In their raw form, the cacao seeds are bitter, so the birds and animals spit them out from the sweet pod pulp. This ingenious process, from mother nature, allows more cacao trees to sprout in the rich warm soil, renewing the forests.
Parrots should not eat any chocolate at all. While it is true, sweeter blends of chocolate have the least amount of cocoa in them, milk chocolate still has a milligram or two of the xantheose in each gram. Dark chocolate has close to 16 milligrams of the alkaloid in a gram. Just a small amount of dark chocolate can make your parrot very sick.
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Theobromine toxicity in birds
Chocolate is not only tempting to humans, but animals. Pets, for instance, will plead for a nibble of your chocolate chip cookies or chocolate bars if you eat them in their vicinity. Parrots will not only beg for a bite with their amazing beautiful eyes but will also perform antics for a taste of the dark brown or white treat.
Only pet owners with stones for hearts can resist such a show of need. However, as callous as it might feel, you cannot give in to your pet’s craving for chocolate. The sweet stuff has a substance called theobromine.
Theobromine is toxic to pets and its effects can be especially adverse amongst birds, because of their low body weight.
Why is chocolate not toxic to humans?
Your addictive chocolate treat is made up of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar in varying degrees. Dark and milk chocolate has more cocoa in it than white chocolate does.
The cocoa in chocolate comes from cocoa beans that have theobromine in them. Theobromine is an alkaloid found in other plants such as tea leaves and kola nuts.
Xantheose or theobromine as it is also referred to as is a core component of cocoa and chocolate. Dark chocolate for instance, has the highest amount of this alkaloid because it has more cocoa in it.
Milk chocolate is milder than the dark type and white chocolate has the least amount of theobromine. You can ingest chocolate safely because your liver can metabolize it in two or three hours’ tops.
Parrots and other small animals such as cats and dogs perhaps metabolize theobromine, but at a much slower rate. Research shows that minute amounts of chocolate, less than an ounce, can have deadly effects on your colorful feathered friend.
A New Zealand Veterinary Journal article, says that Kea, a parrot, died after ingesting 0.7 ounces of dark chocolate. That paltry amount of chocolate had close to 250 mg/kg of the alkaloid.
Dogs can suffer fatalities from as little as 50 grams of chocolate. Theobromine is a diuretic, stimulant, and vasodilator that accumulates in the bird’s blood since they cannot metabolize it as easily and quickly.
In your bird’s body, the alkaloid will adversely affect her or his central nervous system, heart, and kidney.
Is milk or white chocolate safe for parrots?
Parrots should not eat any chocolate at all. While it is true, sweeter blends of chocolate have the least amount of cocoa in them, milk chocolate still has a milligram or two of the xantheose in each gram.
Dark chocolate has close to 16 milligrams of the alkaloid in a gram. White chocolate has more cocoa butter than cocoa, but it still not safe for your pretty bird.
While it might not kill your bird, it still has massive amounts of sugar, oil, and milk, unhealthy food ingredients for your lightweight avian friend.
What are the signs of theobromine toxicity?
If your feathered pal pilfers some chocolate behind your back, keep a watch out for signs of theobromine toxicity such as;
- Dark loose colored droppings
- Heart arrhythmia
- A hyperactive demeanor
The symptom’s intensity will depend on the type, and amount of chocolate consumed. These signs appear 10 hours after a bird has had some chocolate. It is, therefore, best to take your beautiful pet to the vet for a checkup as fast as possible.
If you suspect your parrot or bird has eaten anything unsuitable you should seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible.
Theobromine toxicity care
Your vet will first confirm that your pet has had some chocolate. If they have, the vet will administer activated charcoal or induce vomiting. Birds in critical care will require intravenous fluids and will need a few days to get back to their old selves.
Keep all chocolate away from your pet, because birds that ingest too much of it might not survive.
Other reasons to keep chocolate away from your bird
Chocolate has a little amount of caffeine, a toxic food for birds. Caffeinated products such as soda, coffee, and tea will increase your pet’s heart rate and induce hyperactivity. In high amounts, the stimulant could cause cardiac arrest, malfunctions, or arrhythmia.
Parrots are highly prone to obesity, especially if they live in a cage rather than an outdoor aviary. White chocolate might seem a much safer bet for your pleading bird but 100 grams of it has 32 grams of fat. Keep your bird’s weight in check by keeping chocolate from them.
A calorie-dense snack will weaken your buddy’s immune system and cause digestive issues as well. One hundred grams of white chocolate for instance has over 59 grams of sugar in it.
A high-sugar diet in birds will also adversely impact its endocrine system, forcing the pancreases into increased production of insulin.
The high sugar content in chocolate will also affect your parrot’s brain biochemistry, causing it stress and nervousness.
Conclusion: Can Parrots Eat Chocolate?
All pet owners love their birds, but sharing your piece of chocolate with them is a no-no. Want to make your pretty bird happy? Give them a healthy fruit or nut snack instead.