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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Zinc is a common element and zinc poisoning is not uncommon in birds

The metal trace element zinc is present in many forms in our environment, and so it isn't surprising that cases of poisoning are seen from time to time. Common sources of zinc include :

  • Metal that has been galvanised - wire cages, wire mesh, nails, staples
  • Cosmetics/healthcare products - skin lotions and creams,  shampoos, zinc oxide, eye washes
  • Household products -  fertilizers, paints
  • Agricultural products - fungicide
  • Chemicals for industrial use - zinc acetate, zinc chlorate, zinc sulphate
  • Currency - some coins contain zinc

Zinc poisoning is regarded as being rare in most species - but it is the second most common type of heavy metal poisoning in birds.

Clinical signs associated with zinc poisoning are not specific, and so they may be confused for other diseases. Common signs include :

  • Regurgitation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sudden death
  • Fits (seizures)
  • Paralysis or weakness of the legs
  • Staggering, inability to walk/fly
  • Wing-tenting in waterfowl.
  • Anaemia may occur in psittacines
  • Abdominal pain may be present especially if the bird has developed inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

These signs are similar to those caused by other heavy metals such as lead. Zinc poisoning should be suspected if birds showing these signs have had contact with a possible source of the metal. The diagnosis is confirmed by analysis of a blood sample. Very high concentrations of zinc (over 10 parts per million (ppm) in serum) must be present before the diagnosis can be confirmed, as normal wild birds may have up to 4 ppm zinc present without showing signs. 

Removal of the source of zinc usually resolves the problem once the bird has excreted the excess amounts of zinc, as zinc is not stored in the body in large amounts. 


Updated October 2013