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by Diane Burroughs February 09, 2021 6 min read

Revised 1/20/2022

You love your bird, but lately, he's been looking less perky than normal. Research shows that a Vitamin D deficiency may be the culprit. Ensuring that your bird gets enough Vitamin D is an essential part of parrot care. Learn more about how to keep your bird healthy here.

Sunshine and feather plucking birds

 

Can birds get vitamin D deficiency?

Birds cannot create vitamin D in their own bodies, so they must acquire it through their diet. Their bones won’t be able to grow and develop properly without enough vitamin D. Birds can also experience muscle weakness, scaly skin, and seizures if they don’t get enough of it in their diets.

Plus, there is evidence that vitamin D deficiency plays a big role in mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Since your bird can’t create any vitamin D on their own, it needs extra help getting vitamin D into its system. One of the easiest ways is by adding it directly into their food.

What does vitamin D do for birds?

Vitamin D has several very important functions in the body. Perhaps one of its most important functions is to aid in the synthesis of Calcium - the most abundant nutrient in the body. Literally, the body cannot synthesize or use Calcium without assistance from Vitamin D and magnesium. Calcium is important for strong bones, but did you know that it also plays a significant role in how the nervous system functions and mood management.

If a deficiency in Calcium and Vitamin D exists in birds, it can be deadly. It may cause deformities of either internal organs or bones. In extreme cases, it can result in death. Many people believe that vitamin deficiencies may contribute to some illnesses - such as autoimmune diseases - and ailments, like osteoporosis. Therefore, you should make sure that your bird has adequate amounts of both Calcium and Vitamin D in their diets.

Fortunately, you can correct a vitamin deficiency by adding proper amounts of these vitamins to your bird’s diet. This can be done through a variety of foods that naturally contain Calcium and Vitamin D. Some of these foods include fresh fruits, kale, and collard greens, as well as fatty fish like salmon. If you need more help deciding which specific ingredients are best for your bird, you should ask your vet.

Does vitamin D deficiency contribute to depression?

One of the most prevalent symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is mood disorders. Mood disorders is one contributing factor to feather plucking in birds.

Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that is common in the Northern hemisphere and in locations with lots of rain? Simply put, a living being isn’t exposed to UVA UVB light, isn’t receiving enough vitamin D! Our birds are no exception.  They can suffer from SAD, too.

There’s a lot of research on the link between depression and vitamin D deficiency. 

One thing that is certain is that a balanced diet of proper amounts of Vitamin D and Calcium does not cause anxiety or mood disorders. These conditions have been linked with low levels of Vitamin D in humans, but what about birds?

Is there any evidence that it may play a role in depression or other mood disorders in birds? There are reports from people who believe their bird’s behavior has improved after being administered appropriate doses of these vitamins - even in extreme cases.

However, we don’t know enough about how these vitamins work in birds for us to make definitive claims about their effects on behavior and mood management. Furthermore, animals metabolize food differently than humans do; therefore, even if deficient levels are present in your bird’s body, they might affect them differently than they would you or I.

Sunshine and feather plucking birds

Where do birds get vitamin D from?

Birds naturally obtain vitamin D by eating bugs and insects. Vitamin D is also in liver, salmon, and eggs. But, because your pet bird is not in an outdoor environment and it tends to be a vegetarian, it isn’t as easy for them to obtain vitamin D through natural means. As a result, it’s important that you supplement their diet with vitamin D.

Even if you feed a premium pellet diet, your bird may be deficient in vitamin D. It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to find that birds have deficiencies in vitamin D even when they are fed an appropriate diet. Birds can also have trouble absorbing vitamins from their food without enough dietary fats. The good news is that supplementing with Vitamin D3 and/or adding more fat to your bird’s diet will help it absorb nutrients better.

Sunshine is another important source of vitamin D. Or, should I say, UVA and UVB light? When your bird sits outside in sunlight for extended periods of time, it can increase their body’s vitamin D levels. This doesn’t mean you should lock your bird outside all day. Rather, you can provide a bird light for them that mimics natural sunlight for just a few hours a day if they need it – which many pet birds do!

Do pet birds like direct sunlight?: Yes! And it’s an easy way for them to obtain vitamin D. A little sunlight won’t hurt your bird, but don’t just set them outside unsupervised. A predator might be lurking. Instead, you can use a screened-in porch, a. bird-safe aviary, or set up a sunroom where they can get some natural light all day long if they need extra vitamin D. Bird lights are also a great way to supply the benefits of natural sunlight. "African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) have been reported to have a greater dependence on UVB light to maintain adequate serum calcium levels than Amazona sp." (Merck Veterinary Manual)

And, like always, make sure that your bird gets plenty of exercise!

It’s important that you supplement your bird’s diet with vitamin D. While it’s possible for your pet bird to get enough of these nutrients from sunlight, many don’t. Supplementing with vitamin D and essential fatty acids like flax seed oil, red palm oil, and coconut oil can give your bird additional help absorbing nutrients from their food, and reduce their risk of health problems in general. Check out our affordable pet supplements today!
 

Which vitamin D supplement for birds is best?

UnRuffledRx Bird Calcium, Magnesium +D3 Supplement for Birds is an excellent option for birds in need of supplemental vitamin D. It is available on Amazon and comes highly recommended by veterinarians. This easy-to-use chewable vitamin supplement can help provide your bird with enough nutrients to keep them in great health! More importantly, it gives your bird all of these amazing benefits.

This particular supplement is essential for keeping your bird strong and healthy! Not only does it contain calcium, but there’s also added vitamin D that helps maintain healthy bones. And those are just two of its many benefits!

Keep in mind that vitamin D toxicosis is a very real thing, though, so be sure you’re following the directions on the bottle to the letter. Too much is just as bad as too little as it can cause kidney damage.
 

BIRD CALCIUM testimonal

How quickly do vitamin D levels rise?

While some birds develop vitamin D levels relatively quickly, others will take longer. This can be due to genetics, lifestyle and diet – so it’s impossible to say exactly how long it will take for your bird’s levels to rise, but he/she should at least start to feel better after a few weeks. The good news is that your bird’s body will adjust its natural cycle of producing vitamin D with time.

In conclusion, vitamins are an essential part of our day-to-day lives, but how many of us really think about our vitamin intake when it comes to our pets?

More often than not, we consider our pet as family and want nothing but what’s best for them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to provide them with their daily needs in order to maintain their health throughout life.

References:

Merk Veterinary Manual

Pet MD

The Importance of UVA UVB Lighting for Birds

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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

TAGS: #BirdStress #BirdSelfMutilation

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