Family Panics When Child Coats Cockatiel with Febreze™

The Details

Most pet owners know that things have a cleaner fragrance after a little spray of Febreze. Cockatiels, it turns out, should not be one of them.

Grandparents love spending time with their grandchildren but keeping an eye on them can be a challenge. Regina (Gina) Bonura of Levittown, NY was busy making dinner for her family when her 6-year-old grandson Christopher came out from the bathroom with a bottle of Febreze. They had cleaned their pet bird Tequila’s cage earlier that day, so she assumed he must simply be freshening the air.

“We thought he had just sprayed it around the area, but my son came down from upstairs and saw the bird looked like she was dunked with water,” explained Bonura. “Then we realized what happened.”  Christopher had literally soaked the bird with liquid, who was already having difficulty breathing. Bonura knew the first step was a visit to her local veterinarian, who referred her to the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island (VMCLI), and her first call was to the Pet Poison Helpline®. Once at the VMCLI, doctors immediately bathed the bird and placed her on oxygen.

“Taking Tequila to a veterinarian immediately after exposure to the spray probably saved this bird’s life,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline®. “They immediately placed the bird in an oxygen chamber and bathed Tequila in Dawn dishwashing detergent. While Dawn is not formulated as a pet shampoo, it is often used to clean up just about anything covered in oil, including birds, sea turtles and human skin. We also recommended that they check her blood glucose as there is a small amount of ethanol in Febreze and ingestion could potentially cause hypoglycemia.”

“I don’t think we’ve seen an avian Febreze poisoning before,” said Dr. Christine Stambler at Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island. “When Tequila arrived at our hospital, she was experiencing respiratory distress symptoms, and because of the unique sensitivity of birds to spray products, we knew our first priority was getting her into an oxygen cage. Once she was stabilized, we could work on removing the substance from her feathers.” Febreze is a safe product for use around pets, when used as directed. Proctor and Gamble, the manufacturer of Febreze, has veterinary professionals available to answer pet-related questions about any of their other products and can be reached by calling 1-833-224-2018. Tequila’s care included SQ fluids and nebulization treatments, and she was also started on an antibiotic to help treat a possible secondary infection.


Pet Poison Helpline® created “Toxin Tails” to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in “Toxin Tails” have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered. Tequila made a complete recovery, and the family is very happy with the treatment and care they received at VMCLI, especially Christopher, who learned a valuable lesson about chemical products and pets.