Marshmallows are delicious, sugary treats. I like to enjoy them in hot chocolate, or roasted and smashed into a S’more. I was feeding my parrot some fruit last night and found myself wondering; if parrots like sweet things like fruit, then would they like other sugary treats? Can parrots eat marshmallows?
The answer is yes, parrots can eat marshmallows but they probably shouldn’t. While there aren’t any immediate health risks that could stem from your parrot eating marshmallows, your parrot could suffer from health problems down the road if they frequently consume sugary treats.
In this article we’ll look at parrots love for sweet treats, health issues that your parrot could suffer from if they’re given too much sugar, and how to feed your parrot marshmallows, should you choose to do so.
Would my parrot like marshmallows?
Parrots are one of the few bird species who are able to taste sweetness. Most birds can taste bitter foods so they can avoid things that might be toxic, but are unable to distinguish sweetness. Since parrots can taste the sweetness in their foods they are often attracted to it. A good portion of a parrot’s diet are sweet fruits, and most parrots enjoy eating fruits that are ripe, juicy, and very sweet. They also enjoy sweet potato, pumpkin, and coconut.
Since parrots often enjoy eating sweet foods, it is likely that they would probably like to eat marshmallows because they’re full of sugar. Some marshmallows are even flavored, which can add to the sweetness.
Should I feed my parrot marshmallows?
While your parrot might like the sugary taste of a marshmallow, it is not a good idea to let them eat marshmallows. Marshmallows are high in refined sugars, sugars that are extracted from beets and sugar cane and then heavily processed. Refined sugar can cause a whole host of mental and physical health issues for parrots, much like it can in humans. It’s important to remember that things that aren’t healthy for you usually aren’t healthy for your parrot either.
Weakened Immune System
Studies have shown that eating sugar can slow the body’s immune response for hours after consumption. Sugar slows down neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell that consume bacteria. If your parrot is constantly eating sugary foods their immune system will never be running as it should and it may make them more susceptible to illness and infection.
Poor oral and Gut Health
Eating sugar can cause a build up of bacteria in the mouth, often resulting in cavities in humans. Parrots don’t have teeth but consuming sugars can still cause a build up of bacteria which is not only bad for their oral health but those bacteria could also move along their digestive tract and cause issues in their stomach or intestines.
While wild parrots rarely have an issue with obesity, it is a common problem in captive parrots. Captive parrots don’t get as much exercise as their wild counterparts do, and they’re often fed sweet treats and other inappropriate foods by well-meaning owners. Obesity in parrots can cause joint problems that can then lead to arthritis, making it painful for your parrot to move around. Obesity can also cause fatty deposits in the arteries and liver that can lead to heart problems, blood clots, poor blood circulation, and liver disease.
Poor nutrition caused by eating too many sugary snacks can cause diabetes in parrots, much like in humans. While diabetes in birds is slightly different than that in humans the symptoms and health risks are similar and they’re both caused partly by diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Diabetes in parrots can lead to weakness, lethargy, depression, and an increase in infections.
Mental Health Issues
Sugar has been shown to have a negative effect on the mood, causing issues like anxiety and depression. One reason that sugar can effect your parrot’s mood is because consuming sugar lowers vitamin B levels. B vitamins are important for helping to produce chemicals in your parrot’s brain, like serotonin, that help to regulate their mood. The increase and then sudden drop in glucose caused by eating sugar can cause irritability. Over consumption of sugar can also cause anxiety because of it’s stimulating effect.
Sugar consumption can also be addictive. The initial consumption of sugar can lead to increased dopamine levels in the brain which can cause a surge of happiness, like a reward. Once the dopamine levels have returned to normal your parrot may want more sugar in order to achieve that feeling of happiness again.
Eating high-sugar foods causes temporary inflammation in your parrot’s body. The regular consumption of high sugar foods can cause chronic low-grade inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked to things like cancer and worsening of allergies. Long term low-grade inflammation can have a damaging effect on DNA and the cells in your parrots body, which can lead to the formation of cancerous cells. The symptoms of allergies are caused by inflammation triggered by exposure to an allergen. If your parrot already has chronic low-grade inflammation then exposure to allergens adds to the inflammation that’s already there and so the symptoms they experience from that allergen will be worse.
Decrease in Energy
Consuming high amounts of sugar can lead to a burst of energy. Consuming more sugar than your parrot is used to may cause their body to release more insulin in an attempt to normalize their sugar levels, which results in a decrease in blood sugar. This blood sugar decrease, called hypoglycemia, can cause symptoms like hunger, anxiety, irritability, but most of all fatigue and a decrease in energy.
Toxicity Issues With Certain Flavorings
Marshmallows can come in a variety of flavors and it’s important to remember that some things that are okay for humans to eat can be toxic for your parrot. One common flavoring or coating for marshmallows is chocolate. Chocolate is very toxic to parrots and should never be given to them, even in small amounts. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which can cause symptoms such as increased heart rate, tremors, and seizures which can be fatal to your parrot.
If I decide to give my parrot marshmallows, how should I prepare them?
While you definitely should not give your parrot marshmallows or other sugary treats often, you may be tempted to let them have some occasionally. As long as you’re not feeding them to your parrot regularly you should be able to avoid any serious damage to your parrot’s long term health, just like when humans treat themselves to something sweet on a special occasion.
An easy way to offer marshmallows to your parrot is to spear the marshmallow with a stick and then offer the stick to your parrot. Your parrot can hold the stick and nibble the marshmallow until they’ve had their fill.
You could also try breaking the marshmallow into pieces and offering them a piece at a time. As mentioned earlier in this article, if you do decide to feed your parrot a marshmallow be sure that there aren’t any toppings or flavorings on the marshmallow that may be toxic to them.
In summary, while you may find yourself wanting to share your favorite marshmallowy treat with your parrot it’s probably not the best idea. They might enjoy the sweet snack in the short term but if you give them marshmallows often enough it can cause some serious long term effects on their mental and physical health.
The most important thing you can do for your parrot is make sure that you’re feeding them a healthy diet. If you want to give them something sweet, give them something that’s high in natural sugars.
Parrots love fruits of all kinds, especially watermelon, apples, and mangoes. You could also try things like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and sweet corn. All of these options contain natural sugars and other nutrients that your parrot is sure to love!