Some foods that we humans think are nutritious and enjoyable to eat are actually poisonous to animals. Deer and rabbits require large amounts of cellulose and other fibrous plants for their fuel. Starches and sugars are literally poisons to animals such as these that eat~ grass, stems, leaves and/or bark.
Onions and garlic can be damaging or even fatal when fed to animals such as wolves, wild cats, oxen, sheep, and apes. An unknown toxin in avocado has a negative effect on cattle, horses, goats, rabbits and birds (and pets). Birds that ingest avocado fruits and seeds experience respiratory distress.
Methylxanthine toxicosis meaning “death by chocolate” has killed many dogs, cats, and birds, and also adversely affected rodents and reptiles. Overdoses of chocolate have an amphetamine-like affect that causes vomiting, diarrhea, hypertension, weakness, tremors, seizures, coma and sometimes death. Macadamia nuts are also toxic to many dogs.
The leaves of parsley, parsnip, carrot and celery are quite nutritious in moderate amounts but they contain phototoxins that are activated by sunlight and cause harmful biochemical reactions in the body. Therefore the secret when feeding these is in small amounts.
Soy is a common human food that is also in pet foods. Animals would not naturally consume soy. Raw soy is so toxic that it has anti-nutritive properties for animals. Diets high in soy fed to birds may result in decreased fertility, deformity, stunted or stillborn hatchlings and premature deaths. Necropsies on passerines, hummingbirds and doves that had a diet of soy show lumps of undigested food in their crops and guts, and poor muscle mass and abnormal feathering.
Although legumes such as alfalfa are a natural source of food, feeding only alfalfa or large amounts of it to wildlife can be harmful or unhealthy. Most animals need a variety of whole, natural foods.
What we think is healthy or tolerable to humans to ingest, could mean illness or death to an animal. To a small creature, caffeine can be fatal. Animals in the wild instinctively know what they should eat, but when they are in captivity, they are at the mercy of the keeper.
The rule of thumb when feeding an animal or bird before being able to bring it to a wildlife centre like NIWRA is to find out what they eat in the wild. Deer do not drink cow’s milk and a robin does not eat seeds. If you have found an injured bird or animal, please curb your temptation to feed it. Call the experts at NIWRA first. Our animal care experts will assess the animal's needs upon admittance to the centre.
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