Archive for October 12th, 2011

Safety of Cuttlebone Use

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Wow! I am totally over­due for an update! So today’s topic is going to be…

Mer­cury in cut­tle­bone. A breeder/client/friend of my recently told me that peo­ple are dis­cussing a con­cern of mer­cury lev­els in cut­tle­bone. Cut­tle­bone is the bone from the cut­tle­fish that is often sold in pet stores for use as a cal­cium sup­ple­ment. There has been dis­cus­sion of excess mer­cury lev­els in birds and this was traced back to the cut­tle bone sup­ple­ment. As I had not heard of this con­cern before, I posted this ques­tion to the vet­eri­nary experts avail­able through a vet­eri­nary net­work­ing sys­tem that I belong to. Mul­ti­ple experts in the field of avian med­i­cine replied, which I was very appre­cia­tive of. In the opin­ion of all whom responded to my ques­tion, the answer was no…mercury lev­els in the cut­tle­bone are not high enough to be a con­cern. A cou­ple of inter­est­ing points were brought up in the conversation.

1) Cut­tle­fish may eat mer­cury con­tain­ing prey, how­ever the major­ity of the mer­cury is located in the GI tract, and then pos­si­bly the mus­cle. The least amount avail­able is in the bone.

2) Cut­tle­fish do not live long enough to accu­mu­late enough mer­cury to be a concern.

I also found a good arti­cle online that has an com­plete analy­sis of cuttlebone:

http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-magazines/bird-talk/archives/articles/bird-nutrition-2004–02-27–1237.aspx

I did a quick inter­net search just to see what the gen­eral pub­lic thought on this topic and it does seem to be a topic of inter­est. In two dif­fer­ent online con­ver­sa­tions, the thread was started by some­one who has gone to a pet­store and some­one at the pet­store sug­gested there was mer­cury in the cuttlebone. 

 After doing my research, I decided to find out if my  lab­o­ra­tory tests for mer­cury. In the past, I have had need of lead and zinc test­ing, two com­mon heavy metal tox­i­c­i­ties seen in birds. But never mer­cury. The response was that they can test for it and they require 1 ml of whole blood for the test. That is a large amount of blood for most birds. I would not even be able to test a budgie or par­rot­let for it as they only have approx­i­mately 3 ml of blood in their entire body. But it is good to know this is an option for larger birds if I ever think I am being pre­sented with a mer­cury toxicity.