A recent Reddit post has dog owners and bird enthusiasts alike worried about the hazards of dogs ingesting birdseed. Many dogs love to scavenge under the bird feeder. Can bird seed harm them--or even kill them? Or is what happened to this unfortunate dog owner just an isolated event?
"Bird food isn't toxic, per se," says Dr. Jerry Klein, a supervising emergency veterinarian at the Chicago Emergency Veterinary & Speciality Center. "Eating very large amounts of the bird seed could cause stomach upset or potentially even an obstruction. Another related concern could be the dog eating bird droppings along with the seeds, which could potentially expose the dogs to parasites."
According to Banfield Pet Hospital, "Most of the time this should not cause any issues. Occasionally, if fecal material contacts the food it can cause disease in your dog...if your dog show any signs of sickness, such as not eating, lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea she needs to see her veterinarian immediately."
Dr. Daisy from Ask the Pet's Vets says, "In general, wild bird seed is safe for most dogs. However, those who overindulge often experience stomach and intestinal upset. Dogs prone to pancreatitis shouldn't feast on sunflower seeds because of their high fat content."
So it sounds like small amounts of clean bird seed (that is, free of fecal matter) should not cause issues in a healthy dog. So what about this poor dog that died from eating bird seed?
The problem lies not with bird seed itself, but with the mold that can grow on it.
Dr. Daisy goes on to explain: "Moldy seeds pose a danger, because mycotoxins in the mold can cause tremors and other neurologic problems in dogs."
It seems that's exactly what happened to the poor woman who authored the Reddit post. Let's all learn from this tragedy and keep our pets safe when they are outside.
What's a dog owner to do? Simply, keep the area around the bird feeder clean, and don't let your dog eat bird seed off of the ground. It doesn't take much to cause a toxic reaction.
But no need to stop feeding the birds. The Human Society of the United States calls it "one of the best ways to enjoy wildlife in the comfort of your home," saying "Feeding certainly can help individual birds in your neighborhood. The general rule for feeding of any wild animal is: do not feed when it might cause harm. With birds there are few situations in which we can imagine harm being caused, so we say, go ahead!"
Just be sure to clean up afterward!