Toxic Squash Syndrome !

HeatherG

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Apr 25, 2020
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Hi, I made dinner and microwaved a spaghetti squash. I gave some to my birds. I think they ate it. Then I tasted the squash and it was bitter. I am worried I have poisoned my birds!! I never heard of this toxic squash syndrome and I’m going to go see if they just threw the food. I know they at least tasted it.

I am very concerned as it sounds like it can make a person really sick. The squash was from a co op and should have been fine. I don’t know what to do. It’s not like one can make birds vomit.
 
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HeatherG

HeatherG

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Hi, I made dinner and microwaved a spaghetti squash. I have some to my birds. I think they ate it. Then I tasted the squash and it was bitter. I am worried I have poisoned my birds!! I never heard of this toxic squash syndrome and I’m going to go see if they just threw the food. I know they at least tasted it.

I am very concerned as it sounds like it can make a person really sick. The squash was from a co op and should have been fine. I don’t know what to do. It’s not like one can make birds vomit.
I can’t tell how much either bird ate. They definitely at least tasted it. Willow left most of it behind in the treat dish and started rattling the dish so I’d take it out of his food cup and he could have his pellets. I know Jasper ate some as I found a string in the outside of his beak, only a little remaining in the treat dish, and none on the cage floor.

I feel so badly that I didn’t taste the spaghetti squash first but I didn’t know that this could happen. Both birds are ok now. No vomiting or anything and I’d just changed their paper so I can monitor poops. I think they ate it an hour ago. I am going to call uw vet hospital for some information.
 
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HeatherG

HeatherG

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I called the vet clinic and they couldn’t tell me if this was a problem. I see that care for cases of bitter squash poisoning is supportive. Causes vomiting and diarrhea and cramps if you did get too much of these cucurbitacins (the bitter chemical).

Both birds seem fine 1 hr 45 min after eating this. Willow was being loud and cranky. Jasper wanted me to let him sleep.
I got out some applesauce in a jar thinking that if I could reduce theoretical levels of cucurbitacin in contact with crop or stomach mucosa that would be good. Gave applesauce to the birds in small dishes an hour after eating (?) squash. Willow ate a bunch of applesauce very eagerly. Jasper ate applesauce slowly but steadily. Nobody is vomiting or having diarrhea now. I will watch them for next 4.25 hrs at least as my reading says with humans you see effects before 6 hrs.

If I notice an issue we will call a cab and go to uw vet clinic right away. Good thing I don’t sleep well.
 
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HeatherG

HeatherG

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This site has a long list of plants that are safe or toxic for birds.

My other reading (journal articles) suggests that birds won’t eat squash containing high levels if cucurbitans. It’s used to prevent starlings from eating crops. So I am hoping that if there was a toxic level in the squash that Jasper would not have eaten it. I know he ate some. I am not sure if Willow ate any of the bitter tasting squash.

I don’t see any Jasper poops yet. Willow has plenty of normal looking poops. It’s been over two hrs since they ate the squash.

Taste your squash before you feed it to your birds or your human family and if it is bitter, throw it out!
 
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HeatherG

HeatherG

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From “Backyard Chickens” site:
“Question What makes some cucumbers taste bitter?

Answer Cucumbers, as well as squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin and zucchini, are in the Cucurbitaceae family. These plants have the ability to produce chemicals called cucurbitacins. Some wild plants are so bitter they are inedible. Some can even kill small animals. Cucurbitacins are toxic at high levels, but they are so bitter it is difficult to eat enough to get sick. The worst that usually happens is an upset stomach for a few hours. Plants we grow in the garden have been selected for low levels of these bitter compounds (a notable exception is bitter melon used in Asian cuisine where the bitterness is a prized part of the flavor).

Bitter cucurbitacin is found mainly in the vegetative parts of the plant like leaves, stems and roots. On occasion and to a lesser degree, it spreads to the fruiting structure. It doesn't accumulate evenly within each cucumber and can vary in concentration from one fruit to another.

When preparing your slicing cucumbers, keep in mind that the bitter compound is likely to be more concentrated in the stem end than in the blossom end of the cucumber. It is also more prevalent in the peel and in the light green area just beneath the peel. It is less likely to be found in the deeper interior of the fruit.”

At almost 3 hrs after eating the bitter spaghetti squash, both birds appear to be ok.
 
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Skarila

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Wow, that was quite a journey to read, luckily all in one for me but I am super glad the birds are fine!!!

This reminded me of the green part of the potato, that should always be removed, or even thrown out if the potato still has strong green hue after peeling, that can be bad even for people even after proper cooking far as I'm aware.
 
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HeatherG

HeatherG

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Yes, it’s ten in the morning and both birds are fine. Actually, Jasper somehow got out of his cage and I had to search for his morning poop (to make sure it wasn’t bloody). He was surprisingly ok with going back in his cage. Maybe he was hungry. They were quiet when I first woke up and said, “good morning, birds.” “Birds? Birds?!” And suddenly they both squawked and I saw all was ok.

If that terrible-tasting squash didn’t make them sick, the ones that do make people (and animals) sick must be so, so bitter.
 

Skarila

Supporting Member
Parrot of the Month 🏆
2021 Parrot of the Year 🏆
Apr 19, 2021
759
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84
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5
2,032
Hungary
Parrots
✻Csillam the rescued budgie
✻Pascal the Emma's (Venezuelan) Conure

Previous owned:
✻Archibald the cockatiel (fostered 6 months)
✻RIP - 28 YO Zeleni the mischievous IRN
✻RIP -Sunny the budgie
Yes, it’s ten in the morning and both birds are fine. Actually, Jasper somehow got out of his cage and I had to search for his morning poop (to make sure it wasn’t bloody). He was surprisingly ok with going back in his cage. Maybe he was hungry. They were quiet when I first woke up and said, “good morning, birds.” “Birds? Birds?!” And suddenly they both squawked and I saw all was ok.

If that terrible-tasting squash didn’t make them sick, the ones that do make people (and animals) sick must be so, so bitter.
Really glad to hear they are all well. That was surely a bullet dodged, and a good reminder to taste any food before giving it to them.
 
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HeatherG

HeatherG

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Jasper was definitely quiet that night after he ate the bad squash. No funny noises and no beak crunching which he usually does ALL THE TIME. But yesterday and today he is back to his little robot noises and whistles and clicking/chomping.
 

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