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Airborne Toxin Exposure

Teflon Poisoning

A duck's respiratory system is particularly sensitive to exposure to airborne toxins. This is because the avian respiratory system is very unique to that of other species, for it's design had to be able to allow for birds to breath effectively while flying at higher altitudes; thus birds need to be able to absorb oxygen more efficiently than other species such as mammals. Therefore, the cross-current airflow and blood allows for the potential for the duck's blood oxygen levels to be higher than their oxygen levels when they expire a breath. The negative consequence of this is that with this ability comes the risk of absorbing higher amounts of toxins from the air, thus causing them to reach toxic levels quicker than other animal species, such as mammals. Clinical signs may be delayed several hours after the initial exposure.


Increased respiratory effort
Open-mouth breathing
Exercise intolerance
Nasal discharge
Tail bobbing
Nasal discharge
Matted feathers
Weight loss
Sudden death


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiography - Useful to rule out other causes of respiratory disease and evaluation of heart and lungs for secondary complications. May not be apparent until advancement of the disease.
  • Hemogram
  • Endoscopy
  • Lung biopsy
  • Necropsy


MethodMethod Summary
Removal from the source
Supportive careOxygen therapy, fluid therapy



Risk Factors

  • Secondary exposure to humans smoking regular or electronic cigarettes.
  • Exposure to high amounts of dander and dust
  • Exposure to products containing Teflon.
  • Exposure to burning fumes from a fire, whether intentional or accidental.
  • Exposure to scented commercial items such as air freshers, scented candles, aerosol sprays, nail polish, hair grooming products, etc.
  • Exposure to gasoline fumes, glues, propellants, methane, paint fumes, etc.
  • Exposure to cleaning or disinfectant products such as bleach, self-cleaning ovens, ammonia, and solvents.