How to Tell if Your Bird is Overweight
By Diane Burroughs
Is your bird overweight?
Obesity in pet birds is a common but sometimes fatal problem
Obese pets are at risk for a number of health issues including arthritis, fatty liver disease, heart disease and cancer. To fix this you can gradually introduce healthy foods into your bird's diet. Also, exercise your bird, either by allowing them to fly or by spending time playing, making sure that your bird has to move around! Don't rush things, it's not uncommon for birds to starve themselves if they don't like their food or if they feel stressed.
If your bird is getting a little portly, only eats seeds and refuses anything else, then maybe you're running the risk of letting your bird cross over into obesity.
In fact, malnutrition & obesity are the two most common health issues affecting pet birds today.
- Birds get bored with lack of variety in their diet and like junk food just as much as you! Do you like sitting in front of the TV and eating a bag of chips or munching into some cheese and crackers? Well, in his or her own way, so does your pet bird! Just like humans, your bird is attracted to high energy foods that are relatively scarce out there in the wild, and to exacerbate the problem, seeds made for pet birds have a higher fat content than in the wild. High fat foods are also addictive for birds, just as they are for us.
- Birds get fat too. Covered with all of those feathers, it's a lot tougher to notice when your bird is putting on weight. A good way to check is to keep and eye out for fatty masses, called lipomas, which can be found on the breast area. Check to see if you can see the keel, which is the bone that runs down the middle of your bird's chest and body. If the keel is not visible or you feel fat over it, then there's a good chance that your bird is getting overweight and its diet needs some attention.
- Beware of Fatty Liver Disease. One of the principle dangers of obesity in your bird is Avian Liver Disease, also known as Fatty Liver Disease. This is where the excess of fat that your bird is taking in starts to accumulate in the liver. As the fat accumulates, it starts to replace the liver, which compromises proper liver function. In time, if not treated your pet will sicken and die, so it's a good idea to look out for signs of being overweight as soon as possible.
What to do?
So now that you know there is a potential issue, what should you do?
First up, it's important not suddenly change your bird's diet. Birds can and will starve themselves, even to point of death if they don't like their food. Birds don't store vitamins and minerals in their body's like you and I so they need to receive nutrition daily. It's important that you have a plan, and that you take things slowly and gradually fix your birds diet by trying the following:
1. Add your bird's favorite fresh foods into its seed mix. If your bird likes corn, then throw a little bit of that into the mix. Basically any fresh or 'live' food is fine, including fruit, as at this stage we're trying to get your bird used to healthy and fresh foods. Please be sure to remove fresh, moist food after a few hours to avoid food poisoning.
2. Allow some seeds to sprout and mix in with unsprouted seeds, gradually changing the ratio. When a seed is sprouted, it changes from being a very unhealthy fatty food into a food that is very low in fat and extremely healthy for your bird! Start off gradually, just putting a small amount of sprouted seed in with the unsprouted, and over time adjust the ratio. Take your time with this, as it's difficult to recover ground if your bird decides he doesn't like something.
3. Chop up fresh healthy foods like leafy greens and colorful vegetables. Mix in with your birds usual diet, again gradually changing the ratio. A bit the same as with Organic Sprouts, the idea here is to get your bird slowly but surely used to eating fresh or 'live' foods, and gradually phase out the seeds, or make them a lot more scarce.
5. Try organic bird pellets. It is possible to buy top quality organic bird pellets, and these can be considered a whole food for birds. At first you can crush them up and add them to seeds, and after time, just break them up, until eventually your bird will accustom him or herself to them, and will eat them easily.
6. If you don't want your bird to be flighted then you have to make sure that he/she gets plenty of exercise. A bird stand is a great way to go, too. So make sure that you buy toys that stimulate interest and activity, and get in there and spend some time with your bird. You'll both have a good time, you'll get to bond with your pet, and also you'll be helping to make him or her healthier... everybody wins!
So how's your bird doing? Have you had issues with obesity with your bird, and if so, what helped? I'd love to hear of any wins that you've managed to get. :)
- Diane Burroughs, LCSW