Budgies love to share food with their owners, and they have a sweet tooth. So, if you’re snacking on chocolate, a budgie will undoubtedly show interest in what you’re eating.
Unfortunately, chocolate is poisonous to budgies because it contains methylxanthines, notably theobromine, caffeine, and theophylline. Budgies can’t metabolize these compounds.
Methylxanthines can cause damage to the kidneys, brain, liver, and central nervous system. Therefore, chocolate poisoning in budgies should be considered a medical emergency.
Dark chocolate and milk chocolate should be strictly avoided.
White chocolate isn’t poisonous to budgies, but it’s unhealthy due to the unhealthy ingredients, which include sugar, butter, cocoa butter, artificial colorings, and preservatives.
Is Chocolate Poisonous To Budgies?
As discussed, chocolate is toxic to budgies because it contains methylxanthines, which are dangerous compounds for all species of birds, regardless of their size.
Each of the three methylxanthines found in chocolate has adverse effects, and when all three are combined, the results can be deadly.
The New Zealand Veterinary Journal looked at the death of an adult male kea where the parrot had ingested at least 20 grams of dark chocolate, causing severe damage to its liver, lungs, and brain.
This was a large adult parrot believed to be in good health. Unfortunately, 20 grams of dark chocolate was enough to kill it, illustrating how dangerous chocolate is for smaller birds.
Can You Give Budgies Chocolate?
Even a small piece can have dire health repercussions, whether milk chocolate or dark chocolate. Unless a vet intervenes right away, the damage may be irreversible.
Also, ensure that your budgie doesn’t eat foods that contain chocolates, such as:
- Chocolate cake
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Chocolate brownies
- Chocolate mousse
- Chocolate pudding
- Chocolate cereal (cocoa crispies, Special K Chocolatey Delight, etc.)
- Chocolate-coated peanuts
So, check the list of ingredients before offering any sweet food to budgerigars.
Let’s explore the risk factors of giving chocolate to budgies (parakeets):
Methylxanthines can be found in foods and drinks that we consume every day. Examples include coffee, cocoa, cola, and teas.
In humans, they’re beneficial in the following ways:
- Stimulating the nervous system
- Relaxing the airways
- Boosting metabolisms
- Stimulating kidney function
- Improving the secretion of gastric acid
Unfortunately, methylxanthines react more intensely in birds, especially small varieties like budgerigars. Methylxanthines will cause the organs to overwork, stimulated to the point of failure.
The most popular methylxanthine, caffeine, is known for its stimulating effects.
This stimulant is found in tea, coffee, and cacao plants. Coffee’s usage as a stimulant can be traced back to ancient times. According to the Journal of Food Science, it goes as far back as 2737 B.C.
Caffeine’s most significant effect is on the brain. Here, it blocks the neurotransmitter adenosine, which is responsible for feelings of relaxation and tiredness.
Caffeine does this by connecting to the neurotransmitter, which stops it from connecting to other neurotransmitters in the brain. By doing so, adenosine thinks it’s sending out signals of tiredness. However, caffeine is preventing these signals from leaving.
Also, caffeine increases the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine. This can increase blood adrenaline levels, so caffeine puts the body in a state of alertness.
When ingested, caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream, affecting the body quickly.
The above study determined that it could take just 20 minutes for caffeine to reach the bloodstream and 1 hour to reach its full potency in human studies.
Theobromine is the compound found in the highest amount.
Formerly known as xantheose, theobromine is an alkaloid in chocolate and tea leaves. In smaller amounts, it can also be found in the kola nut, yerba mate, and guarana berry.
However, theobromine is mostly found in chocolate. The higher the amount of cocoa solids, the more theobromine it contains. So, dark chocolate contains more theobromine than milk chocolate.
By itself, this compound doesn’t stimulate the nervous system, working to relax the airways. When ingested in too-high amounts, it can lead to headaches, nausea, and weight loss.
In budgies, theobromine has a more severe effect, causing the following symptoms:
Like other methylxanthines, theophylline has important uses for humans.
It was a common drug for treating asthma in the medical field, and it was also used to treat other lung diseases, like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
That’s because theophylline is a bronchodilator, which relaxes the muscles in the lungs and widens the airways. However, theophylline has harmful effects on budgies.
Much like theobromine, it may cause the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pains
Even if chocolate didn’t contain methylxanthines, it would be unhealthy for budgies. All types of chocolate contain sugar, sugar substitutes, cocoa butter, milk, lecithin, flavorings, and preservatives.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Budgies
If you suspect that your budgie has chocolate poisoning, look for these symptoms:
- Abnormal behavior, such as aggression
- Cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rate)
- Heart attacks
According to MSD Vet Manual, the signs of chocolate toxicity arise 6-12 hours after digestion.
Contact your vet if these symptoms arise or if you suspect the budgie has eaten chocolate. Only the immediate attention of a vet can avert the negative consequences of chocolate consumption.
Can Budgies Eat White Chocolate?
Unlike dark chocolate or milk chocolate, white chocolate doesn’t contain caffeine or methylxanthines.
White chocolate is made from sugar, milk, cocoa butter, and sometimes vanilla. Cocoa butter, unlike cocoa, doesn’t have any caffeine content.
Nonetheless, almost all ingredients found in white chocolate are unhealthy for budgies.
Sugar increases the chances of a yeast infection. Sugar and cocoa butter increase a budgie’s chances of gaining weight and developing diabetes.
Your budgie won’t realize that it shouldn’t eat chocolate. Some may dislike the taste or smell or avoid eating foods they’ve never seen before. However, others will be curious.
Unfortunately, chocolate is toxic to birds, so it should never be fed to budgies. If you want to give your budgie some sweet food as a special treat, offer them a few slices of fresh banana.