Keeping Your Pet Bird Healthy

Dear Parrot Lover,

Just as with human beings, parrots rely on their livers to help detoxify their bodies by breaking down harmful fat. But when their livers become unhealthy, they develop a condition known as Hepatic Lipidosis Ė otherwise referred to as Fatty Liver Disease.

Fatty Liver Disease occurs when the normal cells of a parrotís liver begin to fill up with fat. These healthy cells slowly start to be become abnormal and discontinue their ability to perform at their optimal level. Over time, these once healthy liver cells are destroyed. Once these liver cells die off, scar tissue will replace them.

There are quite a few causes of Fatty Liver Disease in Parrots. But the most common cause is obesity due to a diet that is mostly seed based. This is because seed-only diets have a rather high fat content, whilst simultaneously being low in important nutrients such as methionine, choline, and biotin. The more seeds a parrot eats, the less active he will become, and the higher his chances are of having a fatty liver. Eating too much can also wreak havoc on a parrotís liver.

Other causes of Fatty Liver Disease include long-term exposure to certain types of toxins. These include mycotoxins that are found in some seeds, including peanuts in shells, plant toxins, aflatoxins, and chemical toxins such as those found in common household cleaners, deodorizers, pesticides, aerosols, and insecticides.

Diabetes Mellitus and Thyroid Dysfunction, as well as other types of metabolic disorders, can also lead to Fatty Liver Disease in parrots.

Obviously, one of the most common signs of Fatty Liver Disease in a parrot is obesity. Parrots that are truly overweight will actually have fatty or lumpy deposits that you can feel on their chest and abdomen.

Physical symptoms also include a beak that grows abnormally rapid; and black areas that are found on their toenails and beaks. These black areas are actually tiny hemorrhages, or bruises. Also, a parrotís primary feathers may change to a different colored hue.

A physical examination by a board certified Avian Vet will also determine whether the bird has an enlarged fatty liver; although sometimes this can be visible seen as a distended abdomen, with the liver discernable right below the parrotís keel.

The parrot may also have breathing difficulties as the liver begins to take up more room. Yellowish diarrhea is also a sign of Fatty Liver Disease.

The best prevention, and cure, is to change your parrotís diet to one that is more organic, wholesome, and complete. A perfect parrot diet is one that is low in fat, rich in fiber, and that has reduced protein content. It is important to feed organic, as it is best not to overload the
liver with any pesticides used on food that is conventionally grown.

Finally, make sure that a parrot with Fatty Liver Disease gets plenty of quiet sleep as this will help restore their liver.

The staple diet should consist mainly of fruits and vegetables with a good quality dry food mix (that doesn’t contain any chemicals, artificial flavors or colors). Foods to focus on are those that will help the liver detoxify.

Foods and nutrients that aid in the detoxification process include: Magnesium, Vitamin C, foods rich in Vitamin B2, B5, B6, B12, walnuts, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, citrus peel, egg yolks, garlic, red peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, animal protein, whole unprocessed grains, some legumes, and turmeric.

Fiber is important for cleansing the intestines of toxins. Encouraging the consumption of fresh fruits and unlimited amounts of fresh vegetables adds fiber and nutrients.

Sprouted seeds are an excellent option. Sprouted seeds are lower in fat, as the process of sprouting utilizes the fat stored in the seed to start the growing process – thus reducing the fat stored in the seeds. Also, the texture is more vegetable-like, which may encourage a bird to begin eating veggies. Sprouted or germinated seeds are usually more easily accepted by “seed addicts” than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Do not feed peanuts or food items that could contain mycotoxins, which could further damage the liver.

Keeping Your Pet Bird Healthy

Taking care of a bird can be tricky

Click here to read what you should be feeding
your bird for optimal health

Birds arenít like cats and dogs. There isnít a vet on every street corner, and the information written about them is more limited. Itís hard to know exactly how to care for a bird or how to keep him healthy.

Stress is one of the most important parts of the bird health equation, but itís often easily overlooked. If a bird is under constant stress he will be more susceptible to disease, parasites, behavioral issues, and potentially a shortened lifespan.

Understanding what stress looks like in your bird can help you quickly change the situation to help your bird. Loss of appetite, changes in behavior including fear or aggression, as well as destructive behavior can all be symptoms of stress.

Click here to learn more stress in birds and how it affects their health

Understanding disease

Even trickier than understanding stress in birds is knowing some of the more common and potentially life-threatening health problems that occur in birds. For example, do you know what Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) is? Itís a highly contagious virus that doesnít have a current treatment or cure. Knowing the signs of the disease, and many others, is essential to preventing disease in your bird and others around it.

There are many other common health problems that every bird owner needs to be informed about, but how can you know it all?

Click here to read more about health problems in parrots

Professional know-how for your birdís health

Dr. Joel Murphy is a bird professional and avian veterinarian with 21 years of clinical experience with The Animal & Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor. He knows how frustrating it can be for a parrot owner to have all the information one needs. His experience with birds and their owners has helped him to create a reference guide for good health care.

How to Care for Your Pet Bird has 22 chapters that share key information with more information than you can imagine! This is a book youíll want to have on hand. Inside youíll find information about:

Choosing the right bird

Pet bird nutrition

Pet bird misconceptions

Selecting a veterinarian

Bird care

Bird illness


Beak issues

Feather plucking

Infectious diseases, fungal problems, and viruses from minor to severe


Baby birds

Aviary management

Click here to read more about How to Care for Your Pet Bird

Nathalie Roberts

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